04/22/2011 4:24PM

OBS sale of 2-year-olds shows encouraging signs for market

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Results from the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s April 2-year-old auction suggest that the juvenile market has turned the corner, OBS general manager Tom Ventura said Friday. The four-day sale ended Thursday night with sharp increases in gross and average and a median of $20,000 that was level with last year’s figure.

The auction’s two most expensive horses were sold Thursday, and both were part of Arkansas-based owner Frank Fletcher’s plan to upgrade his racing stable for a tilt at next year’s Arkansas Derby. Fletcher bought the $825,000 sale-topper, a Macho Uno colt out of the Wild Again winner La Defense, as well as the auction’s second-highest-priced colt, a $675,000 son of Hard Spun and the A.P. Indy winner Light From Above.

For the entire sale, 822 juveniles brought a combined $25,897,400, a record for the April sale and an increase of 26 percent over last year’s total for 736 horses. Gross got a lift from a substantially larger catalog this year, but in the end the added horses didn’t drag down the sale’s average price. Average was $31,505, a 13 percent gain from last season.

Ventura acknowledged that Fletcher’s two purchases aided average but said: “Even without those two horses, the average was up each day anyway.”

Median did not rise but was unchanged from last year at $20,000. Buybacks for the four days combined also declined from 26 percent to 24 percent.

A total of 52 horses brought $100,000 or more, up from 32 last year, testifying to the relative strength in the upper market.

“If you have the special horse that jumps through all the hoops, there are certainly willing buyers, and they’re willing to stretch,” Ventura said. “There aren’t a lot of horses that can meet that criteria, but two that did happened to be on the last day of the sale. The fact that the buyback rate was lower on the last day of the sale than it was on the first day of the sale shows the strength of the market to me.

“I think there are indications we’ve turned the corner and are moving in the right direction. The good thing was, we threw a lot of numbers at the market, and there were buyers for them in different price ranges, so that’s promising. Whether we’re going to start flying high again certainly remains to be seen, but at least we’re coming off the bottom.”

Bloodstock agent Nick de Meric sold the sale-topping Macho Uno colt, and Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds consigned the Hard Spun colt. Both colts provided significant home runs for their sellers, having cost just $22,000 and $30,000 as yearlings, respectively. And pinhookers who have money could be a boon for the upcoming summer and fall yearling sales.

“If pinhookers have a decent year, it’ll keep them active, and the breeders will have less invested in stud fees this year because fees are below where they were last year,” said Ventura. “Those are positive signs.”

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