08/24/2007 12:00AM

Selected session just about hits target


There was some uncertainty leading up to this past Monday's Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's select session of its August yearling auction. The sources of the uncertainty could be attributed in part to the spotty numbers generated by the earlier summer yearling sales and by the wild gyrations on Wall Street. Then, too, was the apprehension that last year's record-setting yearling numbers might be tough to match.

"I thought if we could keep within 10 percent of last year's averages and median, it would be a good sale," said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and sales director.

Ventura's estimate proved to be on the mark for the selected session (the open sessions began Tuesday and concluded on Friday). The average for 167 sold in the selected session was off by 2.2 percent from last year to $57,961. The median price, however, rose to $50,000, an all-time OBS record and 11.1 percent better than last year's record-setting median price.

The only double-digit variance with the '06 tally was the number sold in the selected session. There were 260 through the ring in '06 versus 223 this year. The buy-back rate dropped from 32.3 percent to 25.1 percent.

Trainer Ken McPeek was the leading buyer. He bought four yearlings for a gross of $460,000, including the sales-topper, Hip No. 147, a colt by Cape Canaveral out of Caveat Apt, by Chief's Crown. The colt is a half-brother to the graded stakes winner Crowned Dancer. Prior to the start of the sale, McPeek expressed his opinion that in this era of synthetic tracks, it doesn't hurt to have some turf elements in a horse's pedigree.

"You never know who's going to take to the Polytrack and who isn't," he said.

Strong in the middle, weak at top

A closer look at where the money was being spent in the selected session shows that there was not as much activity at the upper end of the price range as there was in '06. For example, last year there were 31 yearlings that sold for $100,000 or more compared to 20 this year. Where the action was the strongest was in the $40,000 to $100,000 range. In '06 there were 77 sold in this category versus 90 this year.

Foreign money was spent at this sale - spent by buyers from Ireland, Italy, and the U.K. Richard Galpin's Newmarket Agency, in conjunction with U.K. trainer John Best and colleagues, bought five out of the selected session, spending $299,000. They continued their shopping through the open sessions.

Galpin looks for horses with a European connection.

"The connection can be either in the yearling's sire or dam's pedigree," he said.

Galpin says that he and his group could be labeled trans-Atlantic pinhookers.

"We buy horses to race in the U.K., and if they turn out to be useful, they are for sale," he said. "That is for repatriation to the U.S. We have Polytracks the same as in America, and there is a good market in America for made horses who can handle turf and/or Poly."

Domestic pinhookers were active at the selected session but so were the end users. Ventura hasn't had the time to scrutinize the buyers' list, but a quick perusal indicates that roughly half of the selected session yearlings went to end users. That is those who race rather than pinhook into the 2-year-olds in training sales.

Eddie Woods, who does business as Eddie Woods Stables, is part pinhooker and part end user. That is he pinhooks yearlings for the selected 2-year-old sales for his own account and for partnerships, and he buys them for clients who look to replenish their stables.

"It's tough," said Woods, "damn tough."

Woods was expressing his frustration in not being able to buy the yearlings he had picked out for the price he thought he should be paying.

"I've been to all the yearling sales so far, and I will be going to Keeneland in September," he said. "I will be going wherever yearlings are being sold. If this sale is any indication, I have my work cut out for me."

On the average, Woods buys some 40 yearlings a year. He bid on three at the OBS selected sale and came up short on all three.

* Tom McKinnon, whose operation Mac Mt. Thoroughbred Farm was chronicled in the Aug. 12 column, did well with his OBS sales yearling. He had hoped his homebred bay colt by Sweetsouthernsaint, cataloged as Hip No. 726, would bring a good price. McKinnon was not disappointed, as the colt went for $40,000 on Wednesday. The bidder was Zayat Stables.