08/22/2002 11:00PM

Mattress Mac grabs the topper

Email

The results of the four-day Ocala Breeders' Sales yearling sales did not produce any surprises. Offering an overview of the numbers, OBS general manager and sales director Tom Ventura said: "Overall, I think we held our own considering the conditions. The upper end of the premier markets has shown weakness, but the regional sales have pretty much held their own when you compare last year's numbers. The uncertainty of the general economy doesn't help, either."

The Florida sale began with the selected session on Monday. For this session, 135 yearlings were sold, for an average of $38,872 and a median of $32,000. Last year 131 were sold and the average was $44,076 and the median $32,000. The buy-back rate a year ago was 34 percent as compared with 30 percent this year.

Louis Gurino made no secret that he expected his yearling colt by Halo's Image to be a potential sales topper.

"He's the best-looking colt in the sale," Gurino repeatedly said, "and he is the big fish in a small market."

Consigned by Celebrity Farm, agent, the bidding on the bay colt took off like a rocket. The McKathan brothers, who usually represent the clientele of trainer Bob Baffert, made the winning bid of $200,000 for the half-brother to the graded stakes winners Hesabull and Big E E. The colt was purchased on behalf of the Texas furniture magnate James McIngvale, known as Mattress Mac.

Said Kevin McKathan after the Halo's Image colt, Hip No. 44, was in his charge: "He's the one out of the sale that is the kind of runner we look for. He'll be going to our training center and shipped to California sometime next year."

Padua Stables was busy at the sale, and its general manager, Nadia Sanan, signed the ticket for the sale's top-priced filly. Consigned by Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association president Harold Plumley, and sold by Kaizen Sales Agency, Hip No. 22 is a daughter of the freshman stallion Grand Slam and is out of a young stakes-placed daughter of Polish Numbers. She sold for $175,000.

Padua Stables' three other purchases - Hip No. 19, a filly by Quaker Ridge ($85,000); Hip No. 21, a colt by Clever Trick ($27,000); and Hip No. 145, a colt by Reprized ($27,000) - made Team Padua the selected session's leading buyer at $314,000.

"We have a budget," said Sanan, "and we stick to it."

Padua Stables, once the exclusive clients of trainer D. Wayne Lukas, now has a dozen trainers for its increasing number of racehorses.

Pin-hooker Murray Smith, who sold 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos as a 2-year-old, said she "got the two that I wanted, and the prices were right."

Smith signed the tickets for Hip No. 34, a colt by Sultry Song ($25,000), and for Hip No. 109, a filly by Pentelicus ($45,000).

Of the Pentelicus filly, Smith said: "She's one of the prettiest fillies I have ever bought."

But Smith did not buy any horses from the Franks Farms reduction sale, which followed the selected sale Monday.

"Experience has taught me that it's hard to evaluate horses in this kind of a sale," she said. "You have to be careful. I am thinking about the Mangurian sales of recent years. These sales very often cause a pin-hooker to overbid, and you can't make money overbidding."

Eighty-one were sold in the Franks Farms reduction, for an average of $10,393. The Franks Farms resident stallion Kissin Kris was the star of the consignment, as two of the top three prices were by the millionaire son of Kris S.

Mark Casse, agent, went to $95,000 for a colt by Kissin Kris out of a multiple stakes winner Littlebitapleasure, who is the dam of two graded stakes winners, including millionaire Littlebitlively. Harvey Swartz bid $75,000 for a colt by the Franks Farms' stallion Lost Soldier, and Padua Stables bid $50,000 for a daughter of Kissin Kris.

There is little question but that the pin-hookers supported the Ocala sales, as they have done for more than a decade. A rundown of buyers shows that 90 percent or more of the horses sold for $25,000-plus went to pin-hookers, who have the 2003 2-year-olds in training sales in mind.

Leading buyers at the open sessions, which ran Tuesday through Thursday, were the pin-hooking team of Bowling and Dodd, which bought 13 yearlings for $362,000.