08/22/2003 12:00AM

Heat fails to stop buyers in OBS yearling sale


August afternoons in north central Florida are not for the heat sensitive. Nevertheless, the Ocala Breeders' Sales barns had heavy traffic on the day before its annual yearling auction, which began Monday with the selected session and ended Thursday. "I can tell you this," said Steve Silver, director of operations for Sez Who Thoroughbreds, which had a consignment of 17 to the selected session, "I've had more lookers at our horses since I can remember. Usually, it tails off by late in the afternoon, but they just keep on coming."

"Me too," said Brent Fernung, general manager of Cloverleaf Farms. "We've been real busy. I think we're going to have a hell of a sale."

Indeed, it was. Every statistic was favorable. The average of $44,215 for the selected session was up better than 13 percent from last year and just a tick below the all-time record of $44,900, set in 1999. The median was up nearly 10 percent. The buy-back rate tumbled 20 percent to 24.7 percent. Sez Who Thoroughbreds' consignment of 13 averaged $39,615. Cloverleaf Farms' three yearling averaged $72,333. The leading consignors were Summerfield Sales, with 19 averaging $58,315, and Beth Bayer, with 22 sold for an average of $34,772.

There was a general consensus among both consignors and buyers that new stallions were largely responsible for the positive results.

Freshmen stallions with three or more sold included Greenwood Lake (fee $6,000), who had four yearlings sell in the selected session for an average of $75,500. Yes It's True ($10,000) had 11 sell for an average of $58,090. Straight Man ($6,000) had seven sell for an average of $51,285, and Tiger Ridge ($6,500) had six sell for an average of $36,500.

End users - that is, those that buy yearlings to race rather than resell - led the buyers. Nick de Meric, who buys for clients and pinhooks as well, was the leading buyer, signing the tab for six yearlings for a total of $334,000.

Included among the de Meric purchases was the a daughter of Yes It's True for $170,000, tied for the highest price in the sale for a filly. The filly was bought for the account of Klarvich Stable and is expected to race in New York. Amy Tarant, who races her stable at Monmouth and has been a frequent buyer at the Florida sales, also went to $170,000 for a filly by Tour d'Or.

"She is a beautiful filly," Tarant said. "I did not come here with the intention of buying her, but once I saw her she just sold me on herself, and I had to go."

Jose Cruz, agent for Abelardo Dauhajre, bought 10 yearlings for $315,000, all of whom will go to Puerto Rico. Among the top 10 buyers, only Leprechaun Racing is regular a pin-hooker.

Belinda Kitos, owner and operator of Southern Cross Farm, had two yearlings by Montbrook, a colt and a filly, in the selected sale. The Montbrook colt brought $87,000. The Montbrook filly, the first foal of a winning daughter of the dam of the colt, was bought in at $87,000.

"I thought the filly had a more oomph than the colt," Kitos said. "You never know, do you? I'll most likely take her to the 2-year-old sales."

The momentum established in the selected session carried right through the three days of open sessions. The average rose from $8,806 with a median of $8,250 in 2002 to a $9,535 average and a $6,000 median for this year's sale. Buy-back rates for all sessions were down to roughly 25 percent. Narvick-Ital-Cal agency was the leading buyer of the opening session.

The Narvick-Ital-Cal buying team, led by Miami dermatologist Dr. Paul Romanelli, bought 10 yearlings for $143,700.

"They will go to Italy," said Romanelli, who has been a regular buyer at these sales for the past decade. "Our Italian clients have done very well with the horses we have bought in Ocala."

OBS director of sales Tom Ventura said he was generally pleased with the sale.

"It was a very good sale considering the economic times we are in," Ventura said. "It was highly selective, though. It did not make any difference if you were buying to race or pin-hook, if the yearling had appeal, you were going to have to pay for that appeal. The sale held up well. Of the last 72 horses through the ring, the buy-back rate was only 17 percent."