03/12/2010 12:00AM

OBS hopes for wider range of buyers

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Barbara D. Livingston
Vinery Australia has purchased "a significant shareholding" in 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company will host the season's largest boutique juvenile sale Tuesday and Wednesday in Ocala, Fla., giving sellers and sales officials their first broad look at the select 2-year-old market.

OBS sales director Tom Ventura hopes that the 340-horse March catalog will help reverse declines the company saw at its season-opening February select sale. Scratches and buybacks winnowed February's 160-horse catalog down to just 66 sales, and average and median fell 8 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Fasig-Tipton's Calder sale in Miami fared better, with average and median climbing 9 percent and 33 percent, but it, too, was a small sample. After scratches and buybacks, its 237-horse catalog resulted in just 91 horses sold. Consignors say small catalogs can encourage such polarization by attracting fewer middle-market buyers.

"The guys that buy in the $100,000 to $300,000 range really don't feel like they can go to Calder and buy a horse," Wavertree Stables owner Ciaran Dunne said. "They feel two or three of the big entities are going to pick up everything worth buying. I don't necessarily agree with that sentiment, but it's pretty prevalent."

The question is whether OBS March's larger catalog will attract a wider range of buyers who will compete for more horses. Ventura thinks that's likely, and so do many yearling-to-juvenile resellers.

"It's become the working man's select sale, for buyers who are looking to upgrade their stables without paying dizzying prices except at the very top level," said consignor Nick de Meric. "As a result, it attracts a broad base of buyers. But the top is still strong, and I'd expect the bigger buying outfits present in Miami to be here, too."

"If we see polarization at OBS March, then I think we'll be in real trouble," Dunne said. "But I don't think we will."

Ventura also points out that West Coast and foreign buyers are more inclined to travel to Florida for a larger auction, and he points to the March sale's record in producing runners at a range of purchase prices as another draw. Recent Grade 1-winning graduates include champions Stardom Bound ($375,000) and Forever Together ($240,000) as well as Homeboykris ($11,000) and Game Face ($280,000), all featured on this year's catalog cover.

Ventura said there were plenty of potential buyers at both the OBS February and Fasig-Tipton Calder sales.

"The buyers were selective in the first two sales, but both were well attended, and the fact that they were there and shopping is promising, even if they didn't come away with a horse," he said.

"The March sale's numbers are down from last year, so even if the demand isn't quite as strong, the fewer horses on offer I think will help overall numbers as far as average and median. You hope buyers will actually pull the trigger and not just shop."

Last year, OBS March cataloged 523 horses. Coming off of a record year in 2008, the 2009 sale sold 206 horses for $19,971,000 for a $96,946 average, down 32 percent, and $67,000 median, 33 percent lower.

"Anyone who has the capital and wants to restock or add a few horses, it's probably the best time in the last decade to buy," said consignor Barry Eisaman, a proponent of combining the two OBS auctions. "They're going to get so much more quality per dollar. But I do think this sale will have some polarization to it, because that's the theme of the whole marketplace."

OBS adjusts show, sale schedules

OBS postponed its under-tack show last week due to severe thunderstorms, and now it has changed the start time both for the rescheduled weekend under-tack previews and for the auction's opening session on Tuesday.

Under the revised timetable, the under-tack shows were to take place Saturday and Sunday starting at 8 a.m., rather than 8:30 a.m. The auction's first session Tuesday will now start at 2 p.m. rather than the originally scheduled 11 a.m. The second session on Wednesday remains set for 11 a.m.

Vinery Australia buys share of Big Brown

Tom Simon's Vinery Australia has purchased what it called "a significant shareholding" in 2008 Kentucky Derby winner and champion 3-year-old Big Brown and will shuttle the 5-year-old Boundary horse from Three Chimneys Farm to Australia's Hunter Valley for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season. The shuttle season is contingent on approval by the stallion's other shareholders, according to Vinery Australia's announcement.

Big Brown won both the Derby and the Preakness before pulling up in the Belmont. He returned to capture the Haskell Invitational and Monmouth Stakes, earning more than $3.6 million from 7 wins in 8 lifetime starts.

Big Brown entered stud in 2009 and has a $55,000 advertised fee.

Three Chimneys president Case Clay would not disclose the percentage Vinery intends to buy or which shareholder or shareholders intended to sell interests in the stallion. Clay reiterated that the deal is contingent on syndicate approval, which he said would "most likely be wrapped up in the next 10 days."

International Equine Acquisitions Holdings purchased a 75 percent interest in Big Brown as a juvenile and raced him in partnership with Paul Pompa and several others.

* Two-time champion Indian Blessing is in foal to Hill 'n' Dale Farms stallion Zensational, the farm announced Friday.

* The Kentucky Horse Park will unveil its memorial statue of champion and 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba at 10:15 a.m. April 16. The public is invited. The bronze statue by Shelley Hunter was commissioned by Clarence Scharbauer II, whose family campaigned Alysheba. Alysheba died last year at 25 and in buried at the park's Hall of Champions.