02/08/2006 1:00AM

Ocala results cause for cautious optimism


If the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's select 2-year-old sale at Calder on Tuesday is a bellwether for the rest of the juvenile auction season, sellers will have a fair chance to make a profit. Most buyers, though, will be hesitant to overspend.

The one-day auction set a record for average price, bettering last year's previous record by 2 percent to reach $139,430. Last year's average was $136,890. But the median slipped from last year's record $120,000 to $110,000, and the buy-back rate rose slightly, from last year's 31 percent to 33 percent on Tuesday. The number of horses selling for $200,000 or more this year declined from last year's record of 22 to 17.

The 2006 juvenile sale was smaller than last year's, with just 192 horses in the catalog, and sold 93 horses for $12,967,000. This compared with last year's 109 sold for $14,921,000.

Coming off a record-breaking sale in 2005, the 2006 figures indicated that the market, at least for OBS select juveniles, had returned to earth without crashing. And that, on balance, is good news for consignors.

The sale-topping lot was a $650,000 Forest Camp-Holy Love colt sold by Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree agency to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's agent, John Ferguson. That was the only horse to crack the $600,000 figure, but the Ocala sales director, Tom Ventura, noted that this year's catalog lost some star power when some sellers opted to give their most expensive yearlings an extra month and sell at Ocala's March sale instead. The auction also lost one of its more promising lots when Hip No. 56, a Forest Camp-Daggett filly offered by Don Graham, died after flipping over backwards and striking her head on her way to the auction ring. The previous week, she had posted the fastest eighth-mile time of 10 seconds in an under-tack show.

Nonetheless, this year's top price was $50,000 more than the peak last year, when a Dance Master-More d'Amour colt sold for $600,000. Perhaps more importantly, from the standpoint of most sellers, the market for horses in the $50,000 to $200,000 range held up well. That may bode well for the March sale in Ocala, Ventura said.

"I think it was very solid," Ventura said of the Calder auction. "I think we'll get a better gauge on the middle market in March, but there was a lot of activity here and people were interested in the horses in this smaller catalog.

"The first sale out of the gate is always scrutinized," he added. "I don't know how much you can tell from 200 horses, but this certainly was a good start."

Hansel back home

Hansel, a champion 3-year-old and dual classic winner, has returned to his birthplace in Virginia. The 1991 Preakness and Belmont winner, Hansel stood the last five seasons at Japan's Hidaka Stallion Station, but now Joe Allbritton's Lazy Lane Farm in Upperville, Va., has bought the 18-year-old horse again. Lazy Lane bred and raced Hansel, a son of Woodman.

The six-time stakes winner and $2.9 million earner could be bred again, said Lazy Lane's Frank Shipp.

"I don't foresee any plans to stand him as a public stallion," Shipp said, "but we might breed him in-house."

Allbritton had stipulated when he sold the horse to Japan that he be allowed to buy him back at the end of his breeding career there, Shipp said. Since retiring in 1991, Hansel has stood at Gainsborough, Questroyal, and Hidaka. In that time, he has sired such graded or group winners as Fruits of Love, French champion Loving Claim, millionaire Guided Tour, Magellan, and Quantum Merit.

"We're very pleased to have him back," Shipp said. "He's been good to us, and we want to be good to him."

* Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's Feb. 12-13 winter mixed sale got a boost this week when the Paramount Sales agency announced it will consign recent the Foster City Handicap winner, Somethinaboutlaura, as a racing or broodmare prospect. A 4-year-old Dance Floor-Crystals of Ice filly, Somethinaboutlaura now has a race record of 6-0-1 from 10 starts and $174,830 in earnings. She will sell as Hip No. 671.

* The Blood-Horse has reported that Grand Espoir Blanc, one of just five registered white Thoroughbreds, died at age 21 in December in Shreveport, La. A winning John Franks homebred, Grand Espoir Blanc was a dressage horse after his racing career. He was euthanized after becoming unable to rise.

Top-priced lots

98CForest Camp - Holy LoveWavertree Stables (Ciaran Dunne) AgentJohn Ferguson Bloodstock$650,000
154CPulpit - Queens WildO&H Bloodstock (Oliver & Hunt) AgentBowling & Associates525,000
14FMontbrook - Velvet Choaker Ocala Stud FarmsMrs E. P. Robsham460,000
10CMontbrook - Unbridled BlissOcala Stud FarmsMrs E. P. Robsham435,000
7CFreud - Tricky MoveWavertree Stables, AgentZayat Stables (Ahmed Zayat)400,000
186CStephen Got Even - Summertime LizaMoonshadow Farm AgentJay Em Ess Stable400,000
38FTouch Gold - Black Tie Lady Niall Brennan, AgentWest Point Thoroughbreds Inc 385,000
9FWild Rush - Turbo DreamNick De Meric, Agent IWest Point Thoroughbreds Inc285,000
58CMr. Greeley - Darby ShuffleNiall Brennan Stables, Agent IIDogwood Stable, Inc250,000
20CSuccessful Appeal - Wicked WaysD. S. B. Stable, AgentKinsman Farm240,000