02/27/2015 12:16PM

Juvenile sales calendar sets up for change


The 2-year-olds in training portion of the North American auction calendar stands to look quite different in 2016 than it did in 2014.

In between will be the 2015 juvenile sale season, in which all four of the major North American auction companies – Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co., and Barretts – will undergo a significant change. Some will find new homes, some are expanding, and others will take a step back in the coming months.

In the midst of it all is a 2-year-old market in which the air continues to be thin at the top as the distance grows from the period of stagnation that rang in the current decade, bringing with it a potential drift away from the regular calendar structure of select sales followed by open sales.

“I think the continuing results of 2-year-old graduates in major racing across the country hopefully will keep people coming back to the well,” said consignor Nick de Meric of de Meric Sales. “The kind of trend we’re seeing in the marketplace in recent years is a slight polarizing of the market, where there’s tremendous interest in top offerings, and it can be a little spotty after that.”

The bulk of the 2-year-old commerce will take place at the three OBS sales in March, April, and June. The auction house is in the midst of an unprecedented run, posting all-time high marks in gross, average, and median at its March and spring (April) sales last year, while its June sale of 2-year-olds and horses of racing age saw a record gross and tied the record median with its largest catalog yet. All three sales consistently have set new high-water marks in recent renewals.

The OBS March sale will stretch back out to two days after inclement weather during the presale under-tack show moved the auction company to condense it to a single session last year to allow time for inspection.

De Meric, a member of the OBS board of directors, said the auction company has removed the “select” modifier from its March sale, embracing its spot as the only multiple-day sale in the first part of the juvenile season, a territory previously reserved for high-end boutique affairs.

The positive returns of hosting a broader sale early in the season are apparent in the horses that change hands. While the select sales have seen shrinking catalog sizes and even fewer sell, the OBS March sale was the only one of the four select auctions last year to post a buyback rate below 30 percent.

“One of the biggest reasons that OBS has moved the March sale to an open sale is we as a board have recognized that there is a trend away from these boutique sales,” de Meric said. “All of us who do this for a living have had some great years with these boutique sales, and they’ve been very good to us over the long haul, but you have to shift with the times, and I think there definitely is a trend toward these open sales.

“What we’re experiencing at these open sales – like OBS April and now OBS March – is a greater depth in the market. I think what that’s doing is reflecting buyers’ preference in forming their own conclusions on what is select quality and what isn’t and not really wanting to be told going into a sale that the sale averages $275,000, and if you don’t have that much to spend on a horse, you can’t play. I think people would rather say, ‘We like this one for $40,000, and we like this one for $175,000,’ and form their own conclusions.”

The staff of Fasig-Tipton will once again log the most miles to sell horses, with juvenile sales in Florida, Maryland, and Texas. The company’s marquee Florida select 2-year-olds in training sale will be held at its fourth venue since 2010 but one that figures to be a long-term outpost in Gulfstream Park.

Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock and consignor Thomas & Casse said it’s important to bring the big-event sales directly to the end-users in settings like an active meet in order to attract a different kind of buyer than those who may venture to central Florida.

“I am a huge supporter of not having just one sale format because we will eliminate the format for the end-user who has a great day at the races who is going to walk over to look at the sale horses and feels really good,” Thomas said. “Whether it’s a destination location or just a venue that is held at a racetrack where there is an active meet going on, I think those need to be kept on our sales calendar. Those are the buyers who get enthused. Maybe they were part of a partnership, their horse runs good, they enjoyed the experience of going to the racetrack, and their trainer says, ‘Let’s go look at a few 2-year-olds.’ ”

The Fasig-Tipton Florida sale will be the only juvenile sale by one of the four major sales companies to be held on the grounds of an active race meet after Keeneland announced it would suspend its 2-year-olds in training sale for 2015.

Kentucky’s lone juvenile sale was canceled in January, with its future viability to be reviewed, nearly a year removed from cataloging 125 horses and selling 38 for the second-lowest gross in the sale’s 22-year history. Average and median prices, however, hit record highs.

“I don’t think it’s going to have a huge effect on the market as a whole,” de Meric said about the sale’s hiatus. “The one thing that I think is true is that a little competition is a healthy thing, and as consignors, it’s nice to have different venues to offer horses so you aren’t competing with yourself all the time.

“For example, if you go into a sale and you’ve got six nice Uncle Mos on the farm, you don’t want to sell them all under the same roof. Maybe one’s got a half-sibling running well in the Midwest and would fit in the Kentucky market, where another one looks really precocious and might do better in south Florida. It’s nice to have alternative venues. On the other hand, you can’t really change what the market’s telling you, and I think the select sales are going out of vogue.”

On the West Coast, Barretts hosted its final sale at Fairplex Park in Pomona, Calif., on Feb. 23, its select sale of 2-year-olds in training. The California-based auction company will host its open juvenile sale in May and all following sales at Del Mar.

Andrew Havens, of leading California consignor Havens Bloodstock Agency, said he will miss the confines of the Hinds Pavilion and the five-eighths Fairplex oval but recognized the prospects a venue like Del Mar could bring about.

“I’m probably the only person that’s sold at every Barretts sale of any kind in its existence, going back to the first one 26 years ago,” Havens said about his emotional ties to Fairplex. “I think it’s really too bad. [Fairplex is] a great facility. Over the years, it’s developed a really consistent market, especially for the local stock. On the other hand, Del Mar is a fantastic place. They’ve got that fall race meet now, which was very successful, and they’ve got a new racing surface. I think it could turn out to be a really good move. It’s a place that people like to go, so from that standpoint, it could be a really good opportunity.”

Barretts kicked off the 2015 juvenile season with across-the-board declines, selling 44 horses for total receipts of $5,848,000, down 45 percent from the 2014 renewal. The average sale price fell 25 percent to $132,909, the median dropped 11 percent to $97,500, and the buyback rate finished at 32 percent.

The sale was topped by a Twirling Candy colt who sold to Conquest Stables for $400,000. He was consigned as agent by Eddie Woods.

Major 2015 juvenile sales in North America and Europe
Barretts selected 2-year-olds in training sale

When: Feb. 23
Where: Hinds Pavilion, Fairplex Park, Pomona, Calif.
Phone: (909) 629-3099
Website: www.barretts.com
Results: The 2015 sale posted across-the-board declines while selling 44 horses for a gross of $5,848,000 (down 45 percent), an average price of $132,909 (down 25 percent), and a median of $97,500 (down 11 percent). Conquest Stables purchased a Twirling Candy colt out of Dama, consigned by Eddie Woods, agent, for $400,000 to top the sale.
Fasig-Tipton Florida selected 2-year-olds in training sale
When: March 4, 4 p.m. Eastern
Where: Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Under-tack show: March 2, 10 a.m.
Phone: (859) 255-1555
Website: www.fasigtipton.com
Evangeline Downs Stars of Tomorrow 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age sale
When: March 16
Where: Evangeline Downs, Opelousas, La.
Under-tack show: March 14
Phone: (800) 544-6773
Website: www.evangelinedowns.com
OBS March 2-year-olds in training sale
When: March 17-18, 11 a.m. Eastern
Where: Ocala Breeders’ Sales complex, Ocala, Fla.
Under-tack show: March 11-13, 8 a.m.
Phone: (352) 237-2154
Website: www.obssales.com
Fasig-Tipton Texas 2-year-olds in training sale
When: March 31, 12 p.m. Central
Where: Lone Star Park, Grand Prairie, Texas
Under-tack show: March 29, 11 a.m.
Phone: (972) 262-0000
Website: www.fasigtipton.com
Tattersalls Craven breeze-up sale
When: April 14-16
Where: Tattersalls Park Paddocks, Newmarket, England
Phone: +44 (0) 1638 665931
Website: www.tattersalls.com
OBS spring 2-year-olds in training sale
When: April 21-24
Where: Ocala Breeders’ Sales complex, Ocala, Fla.
Under-tack show: April 13-18, 8 a.m. Eastern
Phone: (352) 237-2154
Website: www.obssales.com
Equine Sales Co. 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age sale
When: April 27
Where: Equine Sales Company, Opelousas, La.
Under-tack show: April 25
Phone: (337) 678-3024
Website: www.equinesalesofla.com
Tattersalls Guineas breeze-up and horses in training sale
When: April 30-May 1
Where: Tattersalls Park Paddocks, Newmarket, England
Phone: +44 (0) 1638 665931
Website: www.tattersalls.com
Arqana breeze-up sale
When: May 9
Where: Saint-Cloud, France
Under-tack show: May 8
Phone: +33 (0) 2 31 81 81 00
Website: www.arqana.com
Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale
When: May 18-19
Where: Maryland State Fairgrounds, Timonium, Md.
Under-tack show: May 13-14
Phone: (410) 392-5555
Website: www.fasigtipton.com
Barretts May 2-year-olds in training sale
When: May 27
Where: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Del Mar, Calif.
Under-tack show: May 25
Phone: (909) 629-3099
Website: www.barretts.com
OBS June 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age sale
When: June 16-19
Where: Ocala Breeders’ Sales complex, Ocala, Fla.
Under-tack show: June 8-13, 7:30 a.m. Eastern
Phone: (352) 237-2154
Website: www.obssales.com