03/28/2007 12:00AM

Ocala opener shows solid mid-range

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The outlook for sellers with middle-market horses brightened up Tuesday at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March select 2-year-old sale. The two-day auction's opening session did not produce any million-dollar prices, but a number of sellers were relieved that their wares were finding a home at $100,000 to $200,000.

The session-topper was Hip No. 185, a $400,000 Malibu Moon-Silent Academy filly. Tony Bowling and Bobby Dodd, agent, consigned the filly. Brian Koriner was the purchaser. The Pennsylvania-bred is from the family of graded winner Silent Turn.

Fewer horses were sold and the gross declined during the opening session compared to last year. There were 126 horses sold for $12,182,000, down 4 percent from last year's opening session, when 141 horses brought $12,640,000. But the average price rose 7 percent, from $89,645 last year to $96,683. The median price also rose 7 percent, from $75,000 in 2006 to $80,000.

But buy-backs also rose. In 2006, the opening session yielded an unusually low buy-back rate for a juvenile sale, 28 percent. But this year that climbed to 36 percent.

The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March sale follows early-season select auctions at Calder and Barretts that saw buyers willing to pay more than they did last year, but only for a very few horses they deemed outstanding. That selectivity contributed to high rates of unsold horses and withdrawals from those auctions. Judging by the buy-back rate, the trend seemed to be holding true at the Ocala sale. But, for sellers with mid-range horses that might not appeal to the top echelon of bidders, the OBS March auction's first session provided less sizzle and more meat and potatoes. And that was a relief for some.

"It looks to me like a solid middle-market sale," said Kentucky-based Pete Bradley, who often pinhooks, or resells, yearlings to the 2-year-old sales with Florida-based consignor Nick De Meric. "It looks like some pinhooks are selling that might be losing money. But, if you overpaid for the yearling, at least you're finding a home for your horse. That's the name of the business, finding a home for your product."

Pinhookers had faced a rough ride in the highly selective marketplace of 2007 after being forced to spend more for their bloodstock in last season's feverish yearling market. Just how rough select buyers could be showed up in the buyback rates earlier this month at Fasig-Tipton's Calder sale and the Barretts juvenile sale, where 41 percent of the horses offered failed to meet their reserves.

The Ocala results sheets, too, were dotted with unsold horses. Between the catalog's publication and the opening session, 14 of the first 100 horses in the catalog had been withdrawn. Thirty-two of the remaining horses failed to reach their reserves. That made for a buy-back rate of 37 percent at roughly the halfway point of the session. That was an improvement over what sellers had seen at earlier auctions, though well above last year's OBS March two-day buy-back rate of 27 percent.

Whether Wednesday's second session can push the OBS March sale's financial figures up this year remained to be seen. Last year's auction is a tough act to follow. The sale rang up sale records for top price ($1.8 million), gross ($31,044,000), and average ($108,545).

El Prado colt tops Adena Springs sale

On Monday night, Frank Stronach's Adena Springs held its annual juvenile sale at its Florida division near Williston, Fla. This year's sale-topper was a $220,000 El Prado colt out of Saint Bernadette. Eric Fein bought the colt, who is from the family of Grade 2 winner Vision and Verse.

A Grand Slam-Dancing with Wings filly also brought a bid of $220,000 but failed to reach her reserve. The one-night auction grossed $4,892,000 for 90 juveniles, up from last year's $4,397,000 for 65 horses. The average this year was down 20 percent, from $67,646 last year to $54,356.