04/22/2004 11:00PM

Juvenile auction beat goes on at Ocala

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Incredible and unbelievable were only two of the exclamations heard during and after the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's spring sale of 2-year-olds in training, held this past Monday through Thursday. A look at the record numbers tells you why. This year's auction had 774 go through the ring, 70 more than a year ago. The gross of $23,183,000 was up from last year's $14,923,000 and considerably higher than the previous record of $18,058,600, established in 2001. The average price per horse jumped from $21,197 last year to $29,952 this year, a 41 percent increase. The median price of $18,000 rose 39 percent over last year's $13,000.

"We had good feelings about this sale going in," said Tom Ventura, the sales director and general manager of the OBS. "The earlier 2-year-old auctions had done well, and we thought that this momentum would continue. We also expected foreign money to have an impact, and it did."

The foreign money that Ventura referred to included two buying groups from Korea. The Korean Racing Association, with Thomas Clark Bloodstock LLC acting as agent, bought 58 horses for $616,500. Triple Crown Bloodstock acted as agent for individual Korean buyers, spending $303,000 for eight 2-year-olds.

Oil money was prominent at the sale. John Ferguson, on the phone with Jimmy Bell, bought three juveniles, totaling $1,825,000, for the Darley account of Sheik Mohammed. The Darley purchases were $975,000 for the sale-topper, Hip No. 828, a colt by the stallion Distorted Humor. Part of the John Franks estate dispersal, Hip No. 828 had zipped a furlong in 10 seconds, equaling the OBS record for the distance. The other Darley purchases were Hip No. 1187, a colt by Smoke Glacken who had worked in 21.20 and sold for $500,000, and Hip No. 249, a colt by A. P Jet who sold for $350,000.

Niall Brennan Stables, agent, led the consignor list, selling 55 lots for $2,376,200. Most of the horses Brennan sold were from the Franks estate. Mike Sherman's Farnsworth Farms was the sale's second-leading consignor, selling 50 lots for $2,341,500.

"My sale was a microcosmic reflection of the entire sale," said Sherman. "I sold four out of five through the ring, and we sold the second-highest priced horse of the sale, Hip No. 963, a colt by Double Honor, for $675,000. I did as well at this sale as I could have done at any of the earlier sales."

The overall strength of this sale is evidenced by two significant statistics: 30 2-year-olds sold for $100,000 or more, compared with 13 in '03, and the buy-back rate was a very low 20 percent.

Thirteen of the top 20 sold were sired by resident Florida stallions whose stud fees ranged from $2,000 to $20,000. These 13 had a median stud fee of $6,500 and sold for an average of $240,385.

The 58 2-year-olds bought by the Korean Racing Association will go into a Florida quarantine and then be air-freighted next month to South Korea, where they will be initially raced under exhibition conditions in order to establish form. They will then be resold at public auction next November in time for the opening of a new track near Seoul.

The April auction is not the final chapter in Florida's annual 2-year-olds in training sales schedule. The end chapter comes in a sale June 15 and 16, when an estimated 400 2-year-olds will be cataloged.