02/07/2006 12:00AM

Colt by Forest Camp tops auction at $650K

Bill Straus
John Ferguson bought the Forest Camp colt for Sheikh Mohammed.

The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s select juvenile sale launched the select 2-year-old auction season Tuesday at Calder Race Course in Miami with prices that suggest the market for young racehorses could maintain its strength this year.

The single-session auction drew bids from major international buyers such as Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's agent John Ferguson, who purchased the sale-topping $650,000 Forest Camp colt, and Coolmore interests represented by Demi O'Byrne.

The sale cataloged slightly fewer horses this year and saw its gross decline from last year's figures, but average inched upward. The auction sold 93 juveniles this year for $12,967,000, down 13 percent from last season's $14,921,000 for 109 lots. Average climbed 2 percent from last year's $136,890 to $139,430. Median and final buyback rates were not immediately available.

Ferguson and O'Byrne made only one purchase each, but domestic buyers were very active all day. Trainer John Kimmel, agent Buzz Chace, owner James McIngvale, West Point Thoroughbreds, Jay Em Ess Stable, Hal Earnhardt, and Little Red Feather Stable were among the American-based purchasers on the buyers' list.

The session topper, Hip No. 98, is out of the unraced Holy Bull mare Holy Love. Ciaran Dunne's Waver-tree agency sold the colt.

Misfortune struck early in the day for another Forest Camp juvenile and one of the sale's presumed stars, a filly out of Daggett. The filly, cataloged as Hip No. 56 and the daughter of a half-sister to Smarty Jones's dam, had to be euthanized after flipping over and striking her head on the ground while being led into the walking ring.

Hip No. 56 was owned by Don R. Graham, who was pinhooking her after purchasing her at the OBS August yearling sale for $42,000. She had worked an eighth of a mile in 10 seconds at the first under-tack show for the auction, posting the fastest time for that distance.

"She worked in 10 and galloped out faster than anybody in the sale," Graham said shortly before another of his lots, Hip No. 108, went under the gavel and sold for $200,000 to O'Byrne. "A lot of people thought she could be the sales topper. I guess we'll never know."

Graham said he did not see the accident, but by the time he arrived on the scene he realized his filly had suffered a fatal injury.

"I guess she reared up and her feet just slipped out from under her and she struck her head," said Graham. "She was the most easy-going horse and had the best disposition. You never would have expected that kind of thing from her. I've been in this business 35 years and never had anything like this happen before. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing this kind of thing at any sales.

"The one thing I tried to stress is that this was nobody's fault," Graham added. "It was just an accident. You just have to put it in perspective. A horse you can replace. Fortunately, no humans were hurt."

Despite that dark event, the auction itself seemed to generate confidence among sellers that the rest of the juvenile sale season might continue a good market trend.

"There seemed to be plenty of buyers for horses, and there was plenty of action on the better individuals," said consignor Nick De Meric. "But it also seemed that even the horses who were maybe a notch below the top tier had homes to go to if they were priced correctly. That's the definition of a healthy 2-year-old sale, to me.

"We've all learned to live with RNA [reserve not attained] numbers a lot higher than the 32 percent or so that we've seen here today," he added. "So there were no big surprises, but a healthy, solid market. No complaints from this consignor."

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch