02/16/2007 12:00AM

Buyers had no trouble finding new site


The Ocala Breeders' Sales selected sale of 2-year-olds in training, conducted Feb. 12, registered solid numbers across the board. Summing up: 96 were sold compared with 93 in '06; the gross came in at $12.8 million versus $12.9 million last year. The average and the median dipped a few percentage points, and the rate of unsold also dipped, from 33 to 30 percent. The sale heretofore had been held at Calder Race Course, but was moved to Ocala to avoid complications from the Super Bowl, which was played near Calder in Miami.

The decline in the average from $139,430 to $133,656, to use baseball language, was a result of more extra-base hits but fewer home runs. Last year there were seven horses who brought bids of $400,000 or more. This year there were three. Last year there were 17 horses who brought bids of $200,000 or more; this year there were 21.

In retrospect, the slight declines were not because the buyers failed to show up. A cursory review of the list of buyers for '06 shows that most of them were active at this year's sale. Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stable, third-leading buyer in '06 purchasing six head, was the leading buyer at this sale, buying seven for $960,000.

"Love it up here," said Campbell prior to the sale. "You can see what you want when you want. I hope they keep this sale in Ocala."

A sales rarity occurred when the sale-topper, Hip No. 42, did not break the sound barrier. A gray or roan son of Smoke Glacken out of Cherokeefrolicflash, by Green Dancer, the sale-topper is a full brother to the Grade 2 winner and million-dollar earner Smok'n Frolic. The consignor, Becky Boyd, agent for Peacock Farm, elected to show the colt's action rather than his speed. His went a quarter in 22.20, which placed him 24th among those who breezed that distance, but he galloped out impressively. It was enough to generate the auction's highest bid - $550,000 on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable.

The numbers for leading consignor, buyer, and leading stallions did not vary much from the '06 sale at Calder Race Course. Nick de Meric led the '06 consignors with nine lots selling for $1.36 million. This year, de Meric sold eight for $1.5 million to lead all consignors.

There were some changes on the leading sire list. Ocala's Stud's Montbrook was the leading stallion in '06 with four sold for an average of $263,750. This year, Montbrook just made the top 10 list with three selling for an average of $112,333. Ocala Stud's Trippi, however, went from five averaging $84,400 in '06 to an average of $155,000 for two sold this year.

They came, they saw, they partied

If records were kept, there would be little doubt that an attendance mark was broken at the Feb. 4 first round of breezes. And if anyone still had any reservations about buyers showing up, the second and final round of the tack show, Feb. 11, was the convincer. The upstairs viewing room was packed with onlookers. An estimated 600 or more attended a party on Feb. 12 for consignors and buyers, which followed the Ocala Festival of Racing.

While there is no official word, pending a review of the OBS board of directors, the talk is that there is no need to return to south Florida to sell 2-year-olds. This sale proved that if you have the merchandise the buyers will come.

Synthetic surfaces and sales

With synthetic surfaces at Keeneland and, soon, all California tracks, talk at the sale turned to the impact of such surfaces on 2-year-old sales and the future of racing. Trainers Bob Holthus and Linda Rice, along with agents Sy Cohen and Aaron Cohen, said while watching the Feb. 11 under-tack show that they were uncertain how synthetic surfaces will affect breeding and racing. Under-tack trials in Florida and most other Eastern states are conducted over conventional dirt surfaces.

Said Bill Mott on the subject: "There is a difference. But, I think going from dirt to Poly is easier than going from Poly to dirt."

Bob Baffert, when asked if the change to synthetic surfaces in California is changing his criteria about buying big-money 2-year-olds who show ability on the dirt, commented that he is taking a wait-and-see attitude.

* Roy Lerman said the Japanese Group 2 winner Agnes Gold has arrived at his Lambholm South farm. The Sunday Silence stallion made the journey from Japan and will resume his stud duties soon, he said.