04/15/2016 11:10AM

OBS hopes to match last year's spring sale


How does an auction house follow up on a record-setting renewal of one of its signature sales? For officials of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co., the answer, they hope, is with an encore performance.

The OBS spring sale of 2-year-olds in training saw record average and median sale prices in 2015, highlighted by the most expensive horse to change hands in the company’s history, a $1.9 million Tapit filly.

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It was the fourth straight year that both the average and median were at record highs, and the interest displayed at the very top of the market helped the auction fully realize its status as an industry measuring stick for the 2-year-old market.

“Over the last 10 years, it’s made tremendous strides in terms of depth of quality,” said OBS president Tom Ventura. “The consignors are completely confident at this point to put a horse here that is ready. They’re not thinking about whether it’s a select sale or a sale that has a thousand horses. They’re thinking more along the lines of, ‘Let me put the horse in the place where he is most ready to show his or her ability.’

“As the sale progressed and moved forward, the consignors felt more confident that the money would be there at the upper end, and the sale has always had depth of buyers at the next tiers.”

The spring sale will take place Tuesday through Friday, beginning each day at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. The near-capacity 1,214 horses cataloged over the sale’s four days is nearly even with the 1,202 entries in last year’s edition.

“It’s the 2-year-old version of Keeneland September,” said consignor Niall Brennan, comparing the OBS spring auction with the yearling market’s bellwether sale. “We just pack so many horses into one auction so everybody can come. It’s a smorgasbord of horses, and, accordingly, you get more horses moving.”

This month’s smorgasbord includes horses born in North America, France, Germany, and Ireland, along with an Australian-sired juvenile born in Kentucky.

Brennan said he expects this spring’s sale to play out similarly to the 2015 auction, following a well attended March sale. He said that maintaining a diverse catalog from year to year and replenishing the pool of buyers would be necessary to keep the pace going forward.

“Whether it can be better statistically ultimately comes down to the quality of the horses that are there because that’s where the market is now,” he said. “Everybody’s doing their homework on the better horses.

“The buyers decide what’s select anymore, so we’re not going to put a moniker on a sale saying it’s a select sale. You can have a horse in June, and it’s fine anymore. People are just giving the horses a little more time, very nice horses that didn’t go to [Fasig-Tipton Florida] or OBS March because they were still maturing, or you felt like the horse would get better with time.”

Last year’s OBS spring sale finished with 676 horses sold for $53,711,400, down 6 percent in gross from the 2014 edition. The average sale price rose 7 percent to a record $79,455, while the median remained unchanged at a record $45,000. The buyback rate closed at 22 percent, up from 18 percent in 2014.

The record-setting Tapit filly, later named Inheritance, was purchased by Solis/Litt as agent for owner LNJ Foxwoods. She eclipsed the previous OBS record-holders, Garfin and Pacific, who each brought $1.8 million, and she was the most expensive 2-year-old to change hands at public auction since the Distorted Humor colt Brock sold for $2.3 million in 2010.

Now in the stable of trainer Steve Asmussen, Inheritance debuted with a runner-up effort in a Saratoga maiden race in September, then won a maiden race at Belmont by 16 lengths on Oct. 14. She was scheduled to make her first start of 2016 on Saturday in a Keeneland allowance.

“When you put a horse like Inheritance in the sale, she was an expensive pinhook but could use that extra month between March and April,” Ventura said. “There certainly was every dollar here for that horse.”

Other notable alumni from last spring’s sale include Canadian champion Riker, Grade 2 winners Airoforce and Land Over Sea, and Grade 3 winners Pricedtoperfection and Forever Darling.