03/15/2017 12:16PM

Orb well-received at early auctions for 2-year-olds

Barbara D. Livingston
Horses from the first crop of Orb are commanding premium prices in early-season auctions for 2-year-olds.

While first-crop juveniles are often points of interest at sales, given the element of the unknown that comes with 2-year-olds by a new stallion, the offspring of established commercial names often command session-topping prices at elite sales.

That notion was turned on its ear Tuesday when a colt from the first crop of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb sold to a partnership including LNJ Foxwoods for $1.25 million to lead the opening session of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

The transaction punctuated what had already been an active juvenile auction season for Orb, a 7-year-old son of Malibu Moon who also had the highest-priced first-crop offering at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, a $500,000 colt who sold to China Horse Club and WinStar Farm.

Bernie Sams of Claiborne Farm, where Orb stands for an advertised fee of $25,000, said the results in the auction ring were the culmination of many positive reviews leading up to the sale season.

“Anybody that I’ve talked to about the horse has been pleased with what they’ve had,” Sams said. “I’ve gotten a number of comments from the South Carolina guys and Ocala, the people who break them, and all the comments have been very positive; hence, he’s basically [booked] full in his fourth year, and it’s the beginning of March and just the beginning of the 2-year-old sale season.”

Orb put himself in unique company during the OBS March sale, with the $1.25 million colt becoming the first freshman-sired juvenile to bring seven figures at a North American sale since the Coolmore partnership bought a $1.3 million Big Brown colt at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training. That colt went on to become the Irish Group 3 winner Darwin.

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“Several people had told me there were a couple of them down there that could sell well, and someone texted me this morning and said that horse could top the sale today, if not be one of the top,” Sams said about the buzz surrounding the Orb juveniles.

The Orb colt was the highlight of the OBS March sale’s opening session on Tuesday, which saw 137 horses sold for $26,320,500, down 0.4 percent from last year’s first day of trade. The average sale price rose 23 percent to $192,120, and the median went unchanged at $110,000, but the buyback rate rose sharply from 24 percent to 34 percent between comparable sessions.

He was one of 12 juveniles to eclipse the $500,000 mark on Tuesday, bettering the eight to do so at the sale’s halfway point last year.

Orb has 99 registered foals in his debut crop, and 55 sold during the 2016 yearling season for a combined $8,157,500, giving him the highest gross among North America’s incoming sires. Declaration of War, who grossed $9.2 million with his first crop the same year, stood his first season at Coolmore’s Irish base before being relocated to Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

Orb was also the leader in his class by average yearling sale price at $148,318.

While the Orbs have been selling well, most speculated that they would be best suited for two turns later in their juvenile campaigns and into their 3-year-old seasons, much like their classic-winning sire.

Sams said he expected the same and was surprised when he saw multiple Orbs covering an eighth of a mile in 10.20 seconds during the OBS March under-tack show. The seven-figure Orb colt went in 10 seconds flat.

“They may be a little quicker than I had anticipated,” Sams said. “I thought they may be a little bit later, bit it looks like there could be a number of them that are early 2-year-olds.”