08/25/2005 11:00PM

Beat goes on at OBS yearling sale

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Monday's opening-day session of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's five-day yearling auction, which ran through Friday, confirmed what many predicted: The market for young racehorses is two-tiered. At the upscale end, there is no shortage of money in pursuit of a well-made, athletic horse. At the tail end, the bidding dollars can be scarce.

"We're coming off record sales in '04," said Tom Ventura, general manager and director of sales for the OBS,"and what happened here this week is the trend we noted in the 2-year-old sales last winter and spring. That is the market is still strong, but not as overall strong as the previous year."

Ventura's overview is supported by the data. Last year there were 16 yearlings sold for $100,000 or more in the selected session, and this year the number rose to 20. The average dipped less than 4 percent from last year for this one-day session, from $52,271 to $50,393. In 2003, the average was $44,213. The median this year declined to $40,000 from $45,000. The buy-back rate moved up from 21 percent to 30 percent.

These first-session numbers do not include the 39 horses that were part of the Farnsworth Farms dispersal. "We can't compare the two sales," said Ventura. "It's like comparing apples and oranges. The Farnsworth Farms consignment was the consignor's choice, whereas all the OBS selected session horses had to meet certain criteria in order to be selected for the sale. Mixing the two sales numbers distorts the picture."

Mike Mulligan's Leprechaun Racing, a pin-hooking syndicate, was most active on day one. Team Mulligan purchased 15 out of the selected sale for an average of $55,666. Mulligan also shopped at the Farnsworth Farms dispersal and bid $27,000 for Hip No. 292 and $32,000 for Hip No. 295. Both are daughters of the Farnsworth Farms stallion Double Honor.

Nick de Meric, the leading buyer at the '04 OBS auction, was second in dollar volume on day one. De Meric bought seven for an average of $66,000 for his pin-hooking partnerships. Murray Smith, another well known pin-hooker, bought eight for an average of $80,000. Four of the top five buyers are pin-hookers looking forward to the 2-year-old sales market.

Halo's Image topped the Florida resident stallion averages. The 14-year-old Bridlewood Farm sire sent six to the sales and they averaged $85,833. Red Bullet, who stands at Adena Springs South, had four from his first yearling crop sell for an average of $74,500. Three Wonders, a graded-stakes-winning son of Storm Cat, had five from his first crop average $49,000.

Songandaprayer, Successful Appeal, and Yes It's True all began their stud careers in Florida and all three have moved up the pike to Kentucky. Songandaprayer, the nation's leading freshman sire, had six average $80,000. Successful Appeal had seven sell for an average of $98,142. Yes It's True's yearling average at this sale was $55,444 for nine sold.

The selected sale-topper was Hip No. 177, consigned by Summerfield Sales. A daughter of Songandaprayer and half-sister to four winners, including Grade 3 winner Badge, the bay filly was bought by agent Barry Berkelhammer on behalf of New Yorker Wanda Polisseni for $190,000. Polisseni is the owner of My Purple Haze Stable, whose 2-year-old filly Capozzene won the Junior Champion Stakes at Monmouth last week. Polisseni also races standardbred horses at New York meets.

Berkelhammer was unequivocal in his praise for the sales-topper, saying that he thought she was the best horse in the sale. He followed up his assessment by saying that the filly will go to his Abracadabra Farm to prepare for racing.

The final numbers for the four open sessions of the 2005 yearling sales were not yet available. The trend, however, indicates the 2005 OBS sale should average more than it did in 2003 but less than 2004.