01/21/2005 1:00AM

Ocala's winter sale a big hit


The Ocala Breeders Sales management perceived from the heavy traffic in the barn area last Sunday that the winter mixed sale from Monday through Thursday was going to be a successful one. The crowd for the opening session Monday was among the largest in memory, with three-quarters of the auditorium's 1,100 seats occupied, confirming that there was going to be action aplenty.

The consignors preferred sessions were Monday and Tuesday. These are sessions wherein consignors pay a bit more in fees to be in front of the sale. There were 548 lots through the ring and 373 lots were listed as sold. In January 2004, the OBS recorded 427 through the ring and 322 of them sold. This year's gross of $7,164,800 (up 18 percent) produced an average of $19,209 (up 1.5 percent) and a median price of $12,000 (up 9 percent). The buy-back rate jumped, however, from 25 percent in 2004 to 32 percent this year.

There was a strong demand for yearlings and the 207 of them listed as sold averaged slightly over $21,000. Yes It's True, the stallion once owned by Padua Stables, was the leading sire of yearlings. The six sold by Yes It's True included the sales topper, Hip No. 609, consigned by Johnson Hollow Farm and sold to Athen Woods LLC of Lexington, Ky., for $200,000.

Dean and Peggy Johnson of Johnson Hollow Farm have a small broodmare band.

"We have a broodmare band of eight mares," said Peggy Johnson. "We bred half of them for the past couple of years to Yes It's True. A lot of people said this wasn't a smart thing to do - eggs in one basket. But it worked out okay."

The Johnsons also sold the final session's topper, Hip No. 1127, a broodmare by Affirmed in foal to Yes It's True. The 14-year-old mare sold for $100,000 to Alan Pesch's Second Wind Racing, a relatively new Ocala enterprise.

Another stallion well-represented at the sale was Graeme Hall. The Winding Oaks Farm stallion stands for $7,500, and his first yearlings are going to market. A chestnut colt by Graeme Hall brought $92,000 on the second day of the sale. The colt, the first foal of a mare who won over $104,000, is from the family of Kentucky Derby hopeful A Fleet Alex.

Trainer Manny Tortora was on hand for the sale of the 15-year-old mare Boots N Jackie, Equitor Farm agent. The mare had been raced and owned in partnership with the Tortora family's Equitor Farm and John Bush. Boots N Jackie, a graded stakes winner of $647,580 and dam of Supah Blitz, was sold (barren) to Gulfcoast Farms Bloodstock for $190,000. Moments later, Kobella Bean, a 4-year-old half-sister to Boots N Jackie, was sold as a broodmare prospect for $60,000 to Gary Mahon, agent.

The open sessions of the sale, Wednesday and Thursday, saw the attendance dwindle, but business at the lower end of the market continued to thrive. The two days of selling recorded an increase of 18 percent in the averages to $5,363 and a decrease in the buy-back rate from 26 percent to 18 percent.

"It was a very strong sale," said OBS general manager Tom Ventura. "We sold more horses, and the numbers remained as good if not better than last year, which was up from the previous year. The buy-back rate was higher in the consignors preferred sessions and lower in the open sessions. All in all, a solid sale."

* Rising Hill Farm is having a stallion show and luncheon next Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at which time it will show all 10 of its resident stallions.