02/10/2006 12:00AM

Breeders must upgrade quality to compete with pinhookers

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"It's a different ball game," said Mike O'Farrell, president and general manager of Ocala Stud.

O'Farrell was referring to the fact that he, along with other Florida breeders, have to be highly selective when it comes to patronizing the selected 2-year-old sales - especially, he points out, the auctions at Calder.

Ocala Stud had five 2-year-olds cataloged in last Tuesday's Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's sale at Calder Race Course; it's the smallest number consigned by Ocala Stud since O'Farrell's father co-founded this sale back in the early 1960's.

Ocala Stud had three of its homebreds sell for an average of $353,333 while its two other sales designates had to be scratched. No other breeder came close to these numbers, and one reason is that Ocala Stud still sells the produce of its 35 broodmares only at the 2-year-old auctions.

The south Florida sales, initially at Hialeah Park and for the last two decades at Calder, used to be the exclusive marketing venue for Florida breeders. Gradually, the exclusivity of the Florida homebreds gave way to pinhookers. Pinhookers began by buying Florida-bred yearlings, but as the demand for high-class pedigrees to go with athleticism grew, the Florida-bred restrictions were loosened and eventually eliminated. Tuesday's sale had 91 Kentucky-breds and only 61 Florida-breds cataloged.

"Pinhookers are tough to compete with," O'Farrell said. "They have all kinds of partnership and syndicate money to go to the yearling markets and buy the kind of horse that will be sales leaders. Years ago they spent tens of thousands. Now they spend hundreds of thousands."

O'Farrell gives credit to the pinhookers for expanding the market. He says that they provide a service by pinhooking the caliber horse that will attract those willing to pay for upscale pedigreed 2-year-olds who display concomitant speed and agility in the under-tack shows. He says he also feels their pressure in other ways.

"I just can't sit back and get pushed out of the market," he said.

The way he competes is by constantly upgrading his breeding stock.

Pinhookers invested $100,000 or more for 35 of the 192 cataloged for Tuesday's auction. Three of these were pinhooked for $200,000 or more. The highest priced of these pinhooks, Hip No. 46, a colt by El Corredor, consigned by Wavertree Stables Inc., had been bought as a yearling for $225,000. The colt had to be withdrawn on Tuesday. Hip No. 55, a $200,000 yearling pinhooked colt by Snow Ridge and consigned by Murray Smith, agent, brought a disappointing $90,000. Wavertree Stables Inc. pinhooked Hip No. 74 for $205,000 and the chestnut filly by Include went home as a buy-back at $350,000.

Montbrook offspring sell well

Ocala Stud's syndicated stallion Montbrook, always popular at the 2-year-olds sales, had eight cataloged for the sales. One was withdrawn, two failed to make their reserves, and the remaining five sold for an average of $224,000 or roughly 10 times the stallion's stud fee. Three Wonders, a Storm Cat stallion who stands at Hidden Point Farm for $5,000, had his first representatives at the 2-year-old sales. Six were cataloged, two were withdrawn, one failed to make the reserve ($95,000 RNA), but the other three averaged $101,666.

Exchange Rate (by Danzig) stands at Padua Stables for $10,000. He had four cataloged. One was withdrawn. The other three sold for an average of $100,000.