A strong catalog replete with sire power, successful sale graduates, and a reputation of producing winners are prerequisite for sale companies to draw shoppers in an ever-increasing and competitive global Thoroughbred marketplace.
Judging by the large number of potential buyers braving temperatures in the 90s on the eve of the select session of the Ocala Breeders' Sale Co. August sale of yearlings Aug. 20-22, OBS appears to be ticking all the boxes.
Driven by the central motivating factor of acquiring quality horses with untapped potential, prospective yearling buyers, most clad in short-sleeve shirts and shorts, traversed the sales grounds Aug. 19 in advance of the sale's select session.
"I've never seen as much enthusiasm in the August heat at OBS as I have seen over the last couple of days," said Richard Kent of Kaizen Sales. "Everyone is optimistic. Traffic at the barn has been great. Most of the regulars are here but I have seen a host of new faces as well, and that's always a positive sign.
"It seems that there is a wide variety of buyers here–both end-users and pinhookers. I expect the trends of the recent sales to continue. I think it will be a good sale."
A total of 841 yearlings have been cataloged for the three-day sale, which kicks off Aug. 20 with 178 horses offered in the select session. The sale continues with two open sessions Aug. 21-22. Both open sessions are slated to begin at 10:30 a.m. EDT.
"We intentionally moved the sale's start date to Tuesday to allow for travel time from a big race weekend," OBS president Tom Ventura said. "We wanted buyers to have ample time to travel. We expected only moderate traffic in the barns on Sunday (the first day of shows) but we were actually very busy. I'm encouraged by the traffic we're seeing.
"We had a strong 2-year-old sales season, and the yearling sales have gotten off to a good start. I expect the momentum to continue here this week."
Tod Wojciechowski, OBS director of sales, is pleased with the development of the yearlings he has viewed on the grounds and believes the quality of the horses in the catalog will fulfill the needs of buyers.
"Development is always a big question," Wojciechowski said. "We're extremely pleased with how the horses have progressed. We're tickled, really. The consignors have done a fantastic job whittling down the types of horses that belong in this sale. We're very pleased with the strength of the entire catalog, not just the select portion. There's depth in the select and open sessions."
Some of the industry's leading sires are represented in the sale, including Kitten's Joy , the No. 1-ranked stallion on the general sire list after vaulting to the top spot following Real Solution 's victory in the Arlington Million (gr. IT) and Admiral Kitten's tally in the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park, and Big Blue Kitten's win in the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes (gr .IT) Aug. 17 at Saratoga Race Course.
Leroidesanimaux, who topped the general sire list for much of the year after Animal Kingdom 's Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) score in March; Malibu Moon ; and Giant's Causeway bolster a strong OBS August sire roster that also features prominent Florida stallions Wildcat Heir , High Cotton , Put It Back, With Distinction, and Graeme Hall.
Fashionable first-crop sires Pioneerof the Nile (five winners to date) and Colonel John (four winners to date) have yearlings in the sale, as do Discreet Cat , Hard Spun , Majestic Warrior , Midnight Lute , and Scat Daddy , as well as Florida's Two Step Salsa .
"We have sire power," Ventura said. "There are name-brand stallions throughout the catalog."
Last year's OBS August sale registered gains in both the select and open sessions.
In the 2012 select session, 132 yearlings brought $5,782,000, a 35.2% increase compared with the previous year's total gross of $4,278,000. The $43,803 select session average rose 16.7% from $37,526 the prior year, and median price increased 7.7% to $35,000.
All told over the sale's three days, 537 horses sold for $10,874,500, resulting in an average price of $20,250. The median price came in at $13,000, and a total of 149 head failed to change hands.
Last year's August sale graduates are making their presence felt on the racetrack. According to OBS, 24 graduates from last year's sale have already notched wins.
The highlight is a sweep of the top three spots by August graduates in Del Mar's recent Best Pal Stakes (gr. II), won by Alberts Hope. A Run Away and Hide gelding, Alberts Hope was consigned to last year's sale by Pelican State Thoroughbreds. Celtic Moon, by Denis of Cork, and Guns Loaded, a D'wildcat colt, rounded out the OBS sweep.
Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck's Summerfield Sales led all consignors at OBS August last year, selling 62 head for $1,557,000.
"Traffic in our barn is as strong as I've ever seen it here," Francis Vanlangendonck said. "And they are real buyers, not just people kicking tires. We're also seeing a lot of end-users. We had horses we showed up to 80 times on Sunday alone.
"It's a better group of horses being presented in the catalog. It has been that way this year, not just here but Fasig-Tipton as well."
Beth Bayer was the second-leading consignor at last year's sale. She sold 31 head--including the $220,000 sale-topping Colonel John colt–for gross receipts of $894,500. She believes all signs point to another strong offering this year.
"By the rate we're showing, the sale should be strong," Bayer said. "Of course, the results will tell the true story, but I feel good about the sale based on the traffic we've experienced."
Consignor Janie Roper echoed Bayer's thoughts.
"We've been very busy in the barn," she said. "It's nice to see so many out-of-town buyers. We have really been slammed. I'm very optimistic. With the success of the 2-year-old sales, I hope the pinhookers have decided to spend some of that money here."
Woodford Thoroughbreds, fresh off a successful sojourn to Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga sale of selected yearlings earlier in August, has five horses slated to go through the ring in the select session at OBS.
"We've had a lot of traffic," said Matt Lyons, Woodford's general manager. "We showed all day on Sunday without a break. It seems there are a lot of people here looking to buy. We had a very good sale at Saratoga, and we'll try to keep it going."
Brent Fernung of Journeyman Stud has noticed a shift in the marketplace.
"Historically, recoveries in the industry were evident in the yearling market," Fernung said. "The yearling market was always the first segment to see the uptick. This year the recovery was felt in Ocala's 2-year-old market. As a result, I expect that this sale is going to be good.
"As an industry we've turned the corner and the business is coming back. Along those lines, the yearling market should be up this year."
Buyers attending the sale will notice a new addition on the grounds at OBS. The sale company has unveiled a tiki hut near the back ring.
"The tiki hut is something a little different to help make the buyers more comfortable," Ventura said. "They can relax in the shade near the back ring and still be part of the action. If we could import the beach and the water it would be even better, but I think buyers will appreciate the new addition."
The OBS August sale can be viewed live at www.bloodhorse.com/OBS.