Updated on 04/22/2011 12:00AM

OBS sale: Buyer's $1.5 million shopping spree lifts final session

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Arkansas Thoroughbred owner Frank Fletcher created a stir Thursday in Ocala, Fla., when he spent $1.5 million for two horses in the first 90 minutes at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s April juvenile sale’s final session. Two Fletcher purchases, an $825,000 Macho Uno colt and a $675,000 Hard Spun colt, helped fuel gains in gross and median for the session and a record gross for the entire four-day auction.

The session sold 196 juveniles for a $6,927,200 gross, a dramatic 42 percent increase over last year’s total for a substantially lower number of horses, 159, last year. The session average swelled by 15 percent, climbing from $30,618 last season to $35,343. The results were dampened by a 6 percent decline in median, which fell from $18,000 to $17,000. But buy-backs also fell, dropping from last year’s 34 percent to a more moderate 26 percent.

Fifty-two horses brought $100,000 or more, up from 32 last year, testifying to the relative strength in the upper market.
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. The sale average was $31,505, a 13 percent gain from last season, and median was unchanged at $20,000. Buy-backs for the four days combined also declined from 26 percent to 24 percent.

Fletcher went to a sale-topping $825,000 for the first 2-year-old, a Macho Uno colt whose consignors included 23-year-old Tristan de Meric. Cataloged as Hip No. 1049, the colt had worked the fastest-ever quarter-mile at OBS during last week’s under-tack show, when he was clocked in 20.4 seconds. The gray or roan colt is out of the Wild Again winner La Defense. A half-brother to stakes-winner Quelle Surprise, he is bred similarly to Grade 1 winner Macho Again.

Nick de Meric, agent, sold Hip No. 1049 on behalf of a three-man partnership led by his son Tristan. The de Merics and Jackson McKay had bought the colt for just $22,000 at the OBS January mixed sale last year.

“I’m floating,” said Tristan de Meric, who is his father’s assistant trainer. “I got very lucky. A lot of things went right, and he was an awesome horse. He never missed a day and loved to train. Everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s wanted to do it for us.”

Fletcher came back to snap up Hip No. 1094, a Hard Spun colt, for $675,000, the auction’s second-highest price. The Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbred agency consigned the dark bay or brown son of Light From Above, by A. P. Indy. The colt had worked a furlong in 10 seconds at the April 15 under-tack show.

Randy Hartley and Dean De Renzo paid $30,000 for the colt at last year’s Keeneland September yearling auction.

Hill ’n’ Dale Bloodstock’s Donato Lanni represented Fletcher, who said he would be sending 2-year-olds to trainer Bob Baffert for the first time this year.

“I met him and enjoyed talking to him, and every time I turn on the television he’s winning big races,” said Fletcher, the owner of Fletcher Companies, which includes steak houses, hotel and real estate companies, and 13 car dealerships. “I decided if I’m going to spend more than I can afford, I need to get a guy who knows what to do with them.”

The four-day auction has posted buoyant results so far. At Wednesday’s third session, the last for which final statistics were available, 207 horses grossed $6,054,200, up 30 percent from the total for 172 horses at last year’s corresponding session. Average price rose from $27,087 in 2010 to $29,247, and median climbed from last year’s $18,000 to $20,000. Buy-backs also dropped from 29 percent in 2010 to 23 percent.