03/11/2011 4:07PM

Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company optimistic ahead of select sale


Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company general manager Tom Ventura is echoing other 2-year-old sales officials’ upbeat predictions as his company prepares for the year’s largest select juvenile sale on March 15-16 in Ocala, Fla.

Ventura is hopeful that the 490-horse catalog will help draw a deep slate of bidders. Earlier this month, consignors blamed a relatively small buyer pool for losses at the far smaller Fasig-Tipton’s select sale at Palm Meadows, Fla. That auction sold a $1.35 million Empire Maker filly and its median held level at $200,000, but after selling 81 horses it suffered a 15 percent downturn in gross, a 5 percent loss in average price, and a 43 percent buyback rate.

Last year’s OBS March sale performed well in a difficult economic climate, posting a 10 percent gain in average price ($106,383), a 12 percent jump in median ($75,000), and a 30 percent buyback rate, almost a standard figure in recent years at select juvenile auctions. The sale-topper was the $525,000 filly Avid, a daughter of More Than Ready who went on to win for owner Ramona Bass.

This year, OBS expanded the March select sale by combining it with the smaller February select sale. That auction last year lost ground from 2009. On a smaller catalog, its gross dropped 35 percent, while average ($97,182) fell 8 percent and median ($66,000) was off by 27 percent. The top-priced juvenile there was $475,000 Tiz Sensational, a Tiznow colt that Chuck and Maribeth Sandford bought for a partnership.

Putting the February and March auctions together, Ventura said, makes it easier for buyers – especially foreign or cross-country buyers – to come shopping.

“Based on the early indications, our credit is very strong, hotel rooms are strong, all the indicators you look at before the sale point to having a pretty good depth of buyers here,” Ventura said. “Part of that can be related to the size of the sale, but certainly if you have a catalog with a bunch of mediocre horses and the sale hasn’t been productive in terms of good runners, that’s not going to help you.

“I’m very happy with the catalog. We were able to keep similar numbers to the two sales’ totals last year, and the consignors have been really good to work with and have come to the table with some very nice horses. Combining the two sales has provided a really good group of horses.”

Ventura also was hopeful that the international buyer base would be strong. It was not clear what effect Friday’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan might have on Japanese buying at the auction, but at least before the quake – which struck hours before OBS’s first under-tack session for the March sale – Ventura was expecting a sizeable Japanese contingent on the sale grounds.

“I think we’re going to have a little more of an international flavor,” he said. “When they’re coming to a sale that has almost 500 horses, they can feel confident they can find something that fits their needs, whether they’re playing at the very top of the market or at the mid-range. They can buy a horse for $100,000 or they can buy a horse for $700,000.”

The March sale got some good advertising from its 2010 graduates when Tell a Kelly, a $95,000 buyback, scored in the Grade 1 Debutante Stakes at Del Mar and $250,000 buy Kantharos won a pair of graded stakes.

Buyers sifting through the 2011 auction’s hefty catalog will find everything from leading established stallions to first-crop sires. Giant’s Causeway, Distorted Humor, and Malibu Moon have a combined 15 juveniles in the catalog. Those include a Giant’s Causeway three-quarter-brother to Fantasticat (Hip No. 134); the only Distorted Humor in the catalog, a half-brother to Silver Bird (25); a Malibu Moon half-brother to Wine Police (364); and a Malibu Moon filly from the family of Spain (336). Indian Charlie’s dozen feature a half-brother to With Patience (136) and a half-brother to Well Monied (213). And Medaglia d’Oro’s five include a half-sister to Malabar Gold and Critical Factor (299).

Last year’s leading freshman sire, Congrats, has nine, while 2010 leading juvenile sire More Than Ready fields 12. Among the stallions with their first crop of 2-year-olds in 2011 are Hard Spun with eight; Any Given Saturday with seven; Corinthian and Discreet Cat with five; and Street Sense and High Cotton with three.

The sale’s second under-tack session was to take place Saturday starting at 8 a.m., and the auction was set for March 15-16 beginning at 11 a.m. Both the under-tack shows and the sale were to take place at the OBS auction complex in Ocala, Fla.