03/10/2017 12:46PM

OBS March sale of 2-year-olds has large, diverse catalog

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While it is not the first sale on the juvenile calendar, the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March sale of 2-year-olds in training will provide the most accurate glimpse of the market thus far, with a large and diverse catalog of horses.

The auction is Tuesday and Wednesday in Ocala, Fla., with each session beginning at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. The presale under-tack show took place over the Ocala Training Center’s all-weather Safetrack surface.

“The market has been somewhat polarized in different levels of the market, and this will be a good test for the depth of the 2-year-old market,” OBS president Tom Ventura said. “We’ve got a pretty good variety of horses. It would be a higher concentration of high-end horses than, say, our April sale, but it will still be a good test on the depth of the middle to upper-middle market, as well as the ones that float to the top.”

This year’s catalog includes 674 entries, growing 10 percent from last year’s 611-horse book. The auction’s numbers have yet to waver since the March sale removed its “select” moniker for the 2015 sale. The change increased the typical March catalog by about 200 horses.

Consignor and OBS board member Nick de Meric was one of the voices who began the push toward opening up the March sale and said the expansion has helped bring horses to the sale who were physically mature enough to go through the sale process but might have had to wait otherwise.

That, in turn, helped take pressure off the auction company’s spring sale in April, which often operates at full capacity for the property.

“I thought in an evolving market, what we needed to do was sell athletes and not preclude horses that might have the athletic credentials but were a little lighter on pedigree just because of that,” de Meric said. “You’ve got nice, precocious, athletic-looking horses with, say, two blank dams that might have been eliminated in the past that now have an opportunity to sell earlier in the year, when they’re often ready to shine.”

As the auction approaches its third year under the “post-select” format, Ventura said the March sale has managed to scale its growth by building around the ideals of the select format instead of abandoning them.

“Increasing the numbers of the sale by maintaining that core group of March select horses helped bring in maybe that next tier of buyer that could have gotten almost to the point where they said, ‘Maybe we don’t need to go to the March sale because it might be above our range,’ ” Ventura said. “I think we have enough horses in this sale that will be below the very top, but nice, legitimate horses that make a buyer say, ‘I need to be at the March sale, too.’ ”

Last March’s sale posted marginal declines across the board, with 320 horses changing hands for $51,288,000, down 7 percent in gross from the 2015 edition. The average price fell 6 percent to $160,275, and the median declined 2 percent to $102,500.

The auction was topped by a Smart Strike colt who sold to Lane’s End Bloodstock for $1.7 million, the third-highest price ever commanded at an OBS auction.

Later named Formula One, the Illinois-bred colt is co-owned by Lane’s End Racing and Brinker Hill Farm and is trained by Shug McGaughey. He has raced twice, most recently finishing fifth in a Gulfstream Park turf maiden special weight Jan. 22.

Other notable alumni from last March’s sale include Grade 1 winners Klimt, Noted and Quoted, and Dancing Rags; Grade 2 winners Iliad and Favorable Outcome; and Grade 3 winners El Areeb and Bitumen.