03/09/2018 1:30PM

OBS March kicks off juvenile sale season


Little has changed on the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. calendar for the 2018 juvenile season, but the shuffling of schedules by other companies has put its March sale of 2-year-olds in training in the national leadoff spot for the first time in its history.

The auction will be held in Ocala, Fla., next Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning each day at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. It takes over the first position on the calendar from the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream select 2-year-olds in training sale, which was moved back later in the month for its 2018 renewal.

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Though OBS March holds a new spot on the juvenile season roadmap, OBS president Tom Ventura said he was not concerned about the possibility of buyers holding back to save their bullets for a long season.

“I don’t think the fact that we’re kicking off the season is meaningful, because we have so many horses,” Ventura said. “I think it would be a little different if there were 150 or 200 horses in the sale, but I think we have a large enough catalog with a large enough variety where we will motivate anyone interested in buying 2-year-olds to come to the sale.”

This year’s catalog comprises 571 entries, down 15 percent from last year’s 674 horses.

Ciaran Dunne of consignor Wavertree Stables echoed Ventura’s sentiment, noting that the auction’s consistency regarding its spot on the calendar, the quality of its catalogs, and the prices commanded by its offerings could work to its favor in the midst of the schedule turbulence elsewhere.

“I don’t think you’ll see much change,” he said. “Their dates have remained the same, so you’re not asking people to come earlier. They’re used to showing up there in the middle of March, so I don’t think you’ll see any less. We might even get a few more. We might get some guys who want to get their shopping in early. Guys that are champing at the bit to get something might show up at OBS, whereas in years past they might have decided not to.”

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The 2017 edition of the OBS March sale finished with 301 horses sold for a record gross of $56,510,000, up 10 percent from the previous renewal. The average sale price also hit an all-time high, up 17 percent to $187,741. However, the median fell 7 percent to $95,000.

The March sale has been on an upward trend since shedding its “select” modifier in 2015. However, Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock said the auction still has the air of a select sale, with the same absence of regard for horses that don’t pass muster.

“If we’ve got a horse in the March sale, even though it is an ‘open’ sale now, most of us aren’t going to put a horse in there that’s a marginal horse,” she said. “If they don’t want them, they don’t want them at any price.”

Last year’s sale-topper was a Congrats filly who sold to Kerri Radcliffe, as agent for Phoenix Thoroughbreds, for $1.7 million.

The filly, later named Diamondsandpearls, is out of the unraced Dixie Union mare Azalea Belle. She was sent to the barn of trainer Bob Baffert last year and won on debut by 6 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita. She then finished fourth in the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar. After that, Diamondsandpearls was sent to England, where she has not yet raced.

Other notable graduates from last year’s OBS March sale include Grade 2 winner Pure Silver and Grade 3 winners Instilled Regard, Lombo, Take Charge Paula, The Tabulator, Engage, and Analyze It.