03/09/2012 2:32PM

OBS sale looking for growth

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Barbara D. Livingston
Curlin, twice horse of the year, has two fillies in the Ocala sale.

A week after California’s Barretts March select 2-year-old sale began the juvenile auction season with gains, the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company general manager believes the trend will continue when its Florida select sale opens Tuesday, a day after the OBS Championship stakes day.

The two-day auction features a 26-percent smaller catalog than last year, a change expected because of smaller Thoroughbred foal crops. Withdrawals through midday Friday had trimmed the catalog further, from an original 362 to 302. But the sale is still large enough, OBS’s general manager, Tom Ventura, believes, to draw a wide variety of buyers.

Since OBS has a larger catalog than some other select sales, Ventura said, "I think the March sale gets the benefit of attracting a broader group of buyers and not just the ones trying to take the best of the best." And that, according to Ventura, keeps the sale’s percentage of reserves not attained low.

"We’ve been through some rough years and held up, and the big yearling sales were moving in the right direction." he added. "In general, there’s a much more positive feel to the whole industry, and with the purse increases in New York, things are looking brighter."

Last year’s boutique juvenile sale results generally were mixed, as their combined North American average price fell 6 percent to $48,933, and the median stayed the same as at $20,000. The OBS March sale, reformatted last year to consolidate two previous select sales, saw only a shallow dip in its average price, which fell 2 percent to $104,266, but the median slipped by 7 percent to $70,000. Gross receipts, on the other hand, bounced up 39 percent on a larger catalog, and the buy-back rate fell from 30 percent to 24 percent.

If the 2-year-old market was still groping for stability then, it appears to have gotten off to a stronger start in 2012. The Barretts March select auction – leading off the season for the first time with a one-day sale on March 5 – put up stronger figures that are spreading some optimism. The Barretts auction sold 77 horses for $8,426,000, a 52-percent increase over 2011’s total for 55 horses. The average price climbed 9 percent, reaching $100,709, and the median jumped by 21 percent to $85,000.

Ventura said early activity at OBS also looked good. "The intangibles like hotel reservations and early requests for credit have been up," he said. "When you look at what’s happening in New York with the purse structure, and the fact that these select horses are geared to those major racing circuits, that should have a positive effect."

The OBS auction’s 2012 catalog offers some well-connected horses, in terms of pedigree, including some with Grade 1-winning or -producing dams and siblings to Grade 1 performers or major stakes-winning earners.

Some of those are by first-crop sires. Hip No. 32, by Belgravia, is a half-sister to Comma to the Top. War Pass juveniles include a colt (114) out of Runup the Colors, already dam of two graded-placed runners. Harlington has a daughter of Grade 1-placed Appleby Gardens (237).

Two-time Horse of the Year Curlin also is among the freshmen sires and has a half-sister to Garden District (258) and a daughter of the Storm Cat mare Distant Roar (295).

Among more established sires there also are a slew of Grade 1-connected juveniles. Pensioned A.P. Indy has one lot, a son of Sharp Susan (126). There’s a Distorted Humor half-brother to Point Given (316). Giant’s Causeway’s four include a daughter of Take D’Tour (166). The late Indian Charlie sired Hip No. 80, a half-brother to Diplomat Lady. Smart Strike’s Hip No. 119 is a three-quarter-sister to Visionaire. Harlan’s Holiday has a half-brother to Ready’s Echo (42). Empire Maker’s daughter Hip No. 49 is a half to Bordonaro. Unbridled’s Song offerings include a colt (82) from the family of Personal Ensign and My Flag and a half-sister to Sweet Hop (345). Bluegrass Cat’s Hip No. 127 is a half-sister to Pico Central. Johannesburg sired Hip No. 138, a half-sibling to Stopshoppingmaria and major earner Sand Cove.

Dixie Union’s Hip No. 229 is a half-brother to Seek Gold. Repent has a half-brother to Imperialism (253). Street Sense has a half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Dangerous Midge (224) and half-sister to Spinaway-placed Jardin (188). Speightstown has a half-brother to Montgomery’s Arch (357), and one of Arch’s three lots is a half-brother to Siren Lure (264). Not For Love’s Hip No. 189 is a three-quarter-sister to Hollywood Starlet-placed Down. Sun King’s sole entry (209) is a half-brother to Grade 1-placed record-setter Willow O Wisp. High Cotton, sire of 2001 Hopeful winner Currency Swap, has a full sister to that runner (304). And Read the Footnotes has a New York-bred full sister to Ballerina winner Rightly So (318).

Also in the catalog are siblings or half-siblings to such major earners as Areyoutalkintome (231), Gottcha Gold (331), Tackleberry (255), Private Emblem (43), Secret Gypsy (52), I’mawildandcrazyguy (325),and foals of major mares such as Nicole’s Dream (63), Duda (301), and Staraway (150).

The two-day OBS sale runs March 13-14. Sessions start daily at 11 a.m.