The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s auction at Calder Race Course is the leadoff hitter for the select juvenile selling season. Heading into Tuesday's sale in South Florida, consignors weren't predicting it would smack a home run, but they were looking for the business equivalent of a solid double -- or maybe a triple -- to get the year started.
"I don't know if there's really, from what I'm hearing, any superstars in the sale," said pinhooker Niall Brennan. "But I'm hearing there are a lot of nice useful horses. And I think that's great. I hope the sale goes that way. In other words, there doesn't have to be a horse that brings $800,000 or $1 million. If a lot of horses bring $250,000 or $300,000, that will be great for everybody. Those are very fair prices for nice, useful 2-year-olds that perform."
Another seller, Mike Mulligan of Leprachaun Racing, also was optimistic, but he wasn't anticipating any seven-figure fireworks.
"I think it will be solid," he said. "It seems upbeat and positive around the sale grounds. I don't think, today, there is any million dollar horse standing here that I've seen. But I think it's sort of similar to last year, where there is a very solid bunch of horses and the top horse will make between half a million and a million dollars."
Irish agent Demi O'Byrne, John Moynihan --whose clients include wine mogul Jess Jackson-- and New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace all have been among the buyers checking out the horses at Calder. Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, hadn't been seen as of early Monday afternoon, but another Darley representative, Jimmy Bell, had been spotted.
There also may be some new money. There is talk that celebrity chef Bobby Flay is considering buying. And pinhooker Carl Bowling says he is working with Doug Branum, who is building a farm in Kentucky and may be active as a shopper. Branum is in the insurance adjusting business.
"I think it's going to be a good sale," Bowling said. "I think the solid horses are going to bring solid prices like we've had in the last two or three years here. And there's going to be a slew of horses that are nice horses, but because of their breezes, because maybe they weren't ready, because they are two turn horses and don't have as much speed as some of the others, they'll be falling through the cracks."
Following is what some other people had to say about the auction, which starts at noon (EST) Tuesday:
Terry Oliver, O&H Bloodstock: "I think it's a little bit of the same story. There's a lot of the familiar faces that we see here all the time, and they've keyed in on the same horses. My big concern is that there are a lot of scratches. But this sale has produced a lot of nice horses, and I hope we can keep people coming here. We need to support his sale as consignors, and we need the buyers to support it."
Paul Sharp, pinhooker: "The top of the market is going to take care of itself, and we're just hoping that the middle will thicken up. There are a lot of good horses that have come out of this sale that were bought at bargain prices. People can shop here with confidence in the middle market and feel that they can really buy a good horse."
Nick de Meric, pinhooker: "I think it has every reason to be a solid sale. A lot of good horses come out of this catalogue, and there's not a lot of horses you have to look at. So, from the buyers' standpoint, it's an easy sale to work."