03/14/2016 12:20PM

OBS March sale looks to build on new format's success

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The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. took a bold step in 2015 when it removed the “select” modifier from its leadoff March sale of 2-year-olds in training and opened up the catalog beyond its typical confines.

The change was almost universally well received and kicked off arguably the most successful 2-year-old season in the central Florida auction house’s history, with records falling in all three of its juvenile sales.

A year later, OBS aims to build off the positive reviews and further build its March sale’s reputation as a place for buyers at various levels and a venue for horses who are at their peak without the pressure of a select environment.

“We’re not as anxious as we were last year,” OBS president Tom Ventura said. “We were hoping to attract a broader base of buyers, and I think we accomplished that. The catalog is almost the same numbers-wise. I do think we have a broad offering that will not only attract the top of the market, but that next level of buyer that can come here and feel confident that they’ll be able to buy a horse that meets their budget and criteria.”

:: DRF BREEDING LIVE - Full coverage and streaming of the OBS March sale

The auction will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, with each session beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern. The presale under-tack show was held over the adjacent Ocala Training Center’s all-weather Safetrack surface.

After the catalog grew 48 percent between 2014 and 2015, this year’s catalog remained practically even year over year, rising from 610 entries to 613.

Now, with three open juvenile sales regularly featuring catalogs of 600 or more entries, Ventura said the consistent interest from sellers compared with last year was largely organic, but the staff was mindful to ensure the March sale does not get too big too fast.

“We kept it in mind that we didn’t want to over-expand the sale,” he said. “We wanted to have the ability to not include horses in the sale that we just didn’t believe fit with the other horses. There were some that were excluded from the sale, but in general, we’re on even par with the number of horses entered and the number of horses that actually made the catalog. We could probably take some more horses for the March sale, but we didn’t want to get carried away and grow just for the sake of having more numbers.”

Last March’s OBS sale closed with a record gross of $55,432,000 from 325 horses sold, up 47 percent from the 2014 edition, where 201 juveniles brought $37,627,500.

Typical for any sale that moves its designation from select to open and adds a significant number of horses, the average and median saw declines, both from record figures. The average sale price dipped 9 percent from $187,201 to $170,560, while the median fell 22 percent from $135,000 to $105,000.

Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation bought last year’s sale-topper, a Bernardini colt named Zero Hour, for $1.4 million. Winless in one start at 2, Zero Hour is from the family of Grade 1 winners To Honor and Serve and Angela Renee.

Notable alumni from last March’s sale include Grade 1 winner Gomo, Grade 3 winners Collected and Frank Conversation, and Grade 1-placed stakes winner Constellation.

“We’re competitive in nature, and I think we want to see a better sale than we did last year,” Ventura said. “We’re also realistic, and I think that if we can improve on the numbers from last year, that would be great.

“We have some purses in different parts of the country that are continuing to improve. Maryland is starting to get some significant raises from the casinos, Ohio’s certainly seen some impact from that, so the purses are certainly relevant when it comes to selling a horse. They haven’t skyrocketed, but they’re going in the right direction, and I think that gives the buyers confidence.”