06/19/2008 11:00PM

Ocala juvenile sale season a solid one

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The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s June sale this past Tuesday and Wednesday capped a stellar year for consignors to the company's 2-year-olds in training auctions. All the earlier sales had their share of positive numbers, and the negatives were slight. Last week's auction posted similar numbers to the corresponding sale of last year: 352 sold versus 308 in 2007. The average price of $21,934 was down only marginally from last year's $22,061 while the median price of $13,000 was down from $14,000 in 2007. What was a surprise was the buy-back rate, which plummeted from 32.3 percent to 18.1 percent

OBS held five 2-year-olds in training sales in 2008. Four of these were under its own banner and the fifth was conducted for Adena Springs Farm. Overall, records or near records were set in the categories of average, median, and gross sales.

Eisaman Equine was the season's leading consignor, with prominent consignments from Barry Eisaman in four sales. Collectively, he sold 68 2-year-olds for a gross of $7,123,000.

The leading buyer for 2008 in terms of numbers was Thomas Clark Bloodstock LLC, which purchases on behalf of Thoroughbred interests in South Korea. A total of 87 horses costing just under $1.5 million are headed to the Far East.

The June sale topper, Hip No. 455, is a rangy and racy-looking New York-bred daughter of Florida sire Peace Rules. She zipped three furlongs in 33.40 seconds in the June 15 under-tack show. The filly caught many eyes, but the one who wanted her most was John Wieczorek, the owner of Avalon Farm in Oklahoma. Acting through his agent, Arch Bloodstock LLC, he made the winning bid of $250,000.

Michael "Bo" Yates sold the sale-topping filly as part of his eight-horse Shadybrook Farm consignment to the June sale. The name Yates should ring some bells of recognition when it comes to Ocala's Thoroughbred industry.

Bo Yates's grandfather Roy moved down from Kentucky in the 1950s to work at Bill and Dickey Leach's Dickey Farm. It's the farm where Needles was foaled and trained, and it's the farm that morphed into Ocala Stud.

"My grandfather was training horses in Kentucky," said Yates, taking some time to chat between horses in the sales ring. "The 1950s were tough economic times for my family. My grandfather reported back to my grandmother that he found a house, found a church, and found a job and to pack up, the Yateses were moving to Florida."

Roy Yates died some decades ago and his son Buddy Yates, who was an exercise lad for Needles, started Shadybrook Farm. When he died prematurely, Bo Yates took over. Bo and his wife, Georgie - the niece of a local businessman with ties to the horse industry - are the parents of two daughters, Micayla and McKenna, and a son, Michael.

Shadybrook Farm is a 50-acre spread across Highway 326 from the old Farnsworth Farms. Yates keeps eight broodmares, down from a previous high of about 25.

"These are tough times," he said, "and you have to be cautious. That's why I am not hurrying to replace broodmares. Those problems the horsemen are having at Calder are not good for business."

Yates describes himself as part pinhooker and part market breeder. That is, he pinhooks yearlings in partnerships: "Got to spread the risk," he said.

This year, most of his risks turned out to be successful ones. He pinhooked a $65,000 weanling daughter of Trippi into the February 2-year-olds in training sale and got $205,000. In March, a Tapit yearling who cost $50,000 was resold for $285,000. He did not hit a home run, but his $25,000 Black Mambo yearling was resold for $75,000, and his Peace Rules $250,000 June sale topper was a $110,000 pinhook.

Yates will tell you that he has no set formula for breeding or pinhooking. He likes milers, however, when it comes to stallions.

"I want some class - Breeders' Cup winners have the class - but we don't have many if any of those standing in Ocala," he said.

When it comes to pinhooking prospects, Yates uses the word "athleticism" to sum up his perspective.

His children are still pre-teenagers, so the question of future Yates family members becoming a fourth generation of Ocala horse people is premature.

"You never know," says Yates, "but the business has sure been good to our family."