03/18/2009 11:00PM

High end can't erase Ocala declines


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March select 2-year-old auction, which enjoyed double-digit gains and record returns last year, ended Wednesday with double-digit losses that were roughly in line with the rest of the 2009 select juvenile market.

As at the opener on Tuesday, Wednesday's session was marred by 97 outs and 40-percent buy-backs but also showed some strength at the top end.

The auction sold 215 juveniles over its two days for a total of $20,681,000. That was down 38 percent from last year's record gross of $33,380,000 for 233 horses. The 2009 average of $96,191 was down 33 percent from last year's figure of $143,262, also a record. And the median fell 30 percent to $70,000 from the record 2008 figure. This year's cumulative buy-back rate was 40 percent, compared with 32 percent in 2008.

A $450,000 El Prado-Rabiadella colt sold Wednesday topped the two-day auction. Eddie Plesa signed the ticket on behalf of south Florida-based owner Steve Weicholz. Weicholz and his wife, Helene, campaigned the winners Justin Rules, a record $525,000 Fasig-Tipton Maryland 2-year-old purchase in 2006, and Princess Nikki.

The sale-topping gray or roan colt sold as Hip No. 383. Consigned by Eisaman Equine, agent, he is out of a Grade 3-winning Dynaformer mare and is a half-brother to Canadian Grade 2 winner and course record-setter Diadella.

The sale-topping filly - and highest-priced lot on Monday - was a $425,000 Indian Charlie filly out of Hollywood and Wine. Jess Jackson's wife, Barbara Banke, bought her for her own Grace Stables.

"It's still very competitive for the correct horses, the ones that perform well on the track and pass the vet," said trainer Todd Pletcher.

Wednesday's highest-priced juveniles were knocked down to a number of different buyers. Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables purchased Hip No. 401, a $410,000 Tiznow-Reverence colt consigned by the Hartley/De Renzo agency. Hip No. 381, a $375,000 Unbridled's Song half-brother to Grade 1 winner Last Song, sold to Silverton Hills from Eddie Woods's consignment. Silverton Hills also bought a $260,000 Southern Image-Sweet Trip colt from Halcyon Hammock, agent. Gary Young purchased a $300,000 Ghostzapper half-brother to Joey Franco from Vision Sales (Stephens Thoroughbreds, agent).

Trainer Patrick Biancone also was active as a buying agent, spending $320,000 for a City Zip-Senita Lane colt from All in Sales, agent; a $250,000 Include-Spring colt from Jerry Bailey, agent; and a $200,000 Holy Bull-Petite d'Accord colt consigned by Off the Hook, agent.

The Sanan family's Padua Stables signed for Hip No. 361, a $250,000 Malibu Moon-Persimmon Hill colt offered by agent Nick de Meric.

Sasha Sanan of Padua called the market "fair." The family's OBS March purchases totaled $775,000 for five horses.

"We're looking for eight to 10," Sanan said of the stable's 2-year-old buying plan for the season. "We're getting back to where we were in the early 2000 period, buying a few more horses as yearlings and 2-year-olds in training to supplement our breeding program.

"Good horses are bringing good money. We got outrun on a couple. The good horses, they're not giving them away."

Padua Stables also was a seller at the auction, presenting two colts by Proud Accolade. Colt out of Rare Elegance brought $50,000 from Anstu Stables on Wednesday, while a son of Clandestine was a $70,000 buyback on Tuesday. Padua sold both in partnership with Bridlewood Farm.

Unbridled Belle to mate, then race

Team Valor's Grade 1 winner Unbridled Belle will visit A.P. Indy in the breeding shed this spring and then return to training, according to Team Valor president Barry Irwin.

The racing syndicate plans to keep the 6-year-old Broken Vow mare in training after the mating, with the ultimate goal of selling her in foal at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's November mixed sale in November. Team Valor offered her as a racing or broodmare prospect at the 2008 auction but bought her back for $1.2 million.

Irwin said Unbridled Belle will continue to point for the May 1 Louisville Distaff, a Grade 2 event. Team Valor's long-term plan is to attempt a second Delaware Handicap victory on July 19 before ending Unbridled Belle's career in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga.

"We want to maximize the amount of money we can make," Irwin said of the decision. "She's sound. If there wasn't such a prejudice against older mares, we'd run her two more years. The older she gets, the better she figures to be."

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he doesn't expect to change Unbridled Belle's handling because of a pregnancy.

"We've had pretty limited experience with this, but we try to treat them as we would any other horse," he said. "It's interesting to have a quality mare like that in foal."

Mulligan improving

Two-year-old seller Mike Mulligan of Leprechaun Racing, who fractured his skull in a fall after the Fasig-Tipton Calder sale on March 3, is making good progress.

Fasig-Tipton's Terence Collier said that Mulligan remains in the hospital in Miami but had his first conversation by telephone with his wife, Britt, on Wednesday. Britt Mulligan was in Ocala for the OBS March auction, where Kentucky-based consignor Meg Levy was helping her sell the Leprechaun consignment.

"The progress is very good," Collier said, adding that Mulligan also had been sitting up in his hospital bed and watching television.