03/24/2006 12:00AM

Solid week on all fronts

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It was a vintage week for Florida's Thoroughbred community. The Ocala 2-year-old sales market produced records at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. sale, while the Adena Springs auction was "satisfying," according to the farm's owner, Frank Stronach.

The Florida Thoroughbred Charities gala and auction hosted by Charlotte Weber at her Live Oak Stud raised more than $110,000. At the Adena Springs sale, a $20-per-head buffet and cash bar raised an additional $20,000-plus for charity.

On March 18, Tampa Bay Downs posted a record attendance and business on its Tampa Bay Derby Day, and Florida-breds won two of the four stakes on the card. This past Monday, Florida-breds won both divisions of the $100,000 OBS Championship Stakes at the Ocala Training Center.

Tom Ventura, the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s general manager and sales director, was in his office on the weekend before the sales. A steady stream of buyers stopped by to say hello and comment on the high quality of horses in this year's sale.

"I think we're going to have a hell of a sale," said Ventura.

The auction lived up to his expectations. The $108,545 average price for 286 horses sold was up nearly a third over the 2005 numbers. The median price of $75,000 was up by a third as well. The buy-back rate fell from 31.6 percent to 27.4 percent

Buzz Chace was the leading buyer, spending $2.9 million for five 2-year-olds. Included in his purchase group was the most expensive horse ever sold at OBS, at $1.8 million. Consigned by Wavertree Stables (Ciaran Dunne, agent), the record lot, a colt by Belong to Me who sold as Hip No. 362, had posted an under-tack time of 21 seconds flat for a quarter-mile - fastest of the sale. Chace and Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley Stable both had their sights on him, and Chace won the bidding duel.

Chace was representing Al Gold. "He's a New Jersey real estate developer who is relatively new to horse racing," said Chace. "We had been shut out - underbidders - at the Calder Race Course sales, and Mr. Gold told me, 'If you like a horse, just go ahead and buy it.' So I did."

The Adena Springs select sale of 2-year-olds in training did not match its 2005 numbers, but both Stronach and the Adena Springs farm manager, Mark Roberts, expressed satisfaction with the results.

A random sample of comments from those who attended the Adena Springs sale held the opinion that a high percentage of the 2-year-old breezes, replayed on video, showed traits common to turf horses. Adena Springs tapes the sales 2-year-olds as they lightly breeze a furlong on the dirt track and then come back to breeze a furlong on the adjacent turf course. Many of the horses who showed high knee action on the dirt appeared to level off on the turf. Roberts suggested that the sun and wind had a tendency to dry out the dirt track, so that track had become somewhat cuppy.

El Prado offspring average $119,000

El Prado, who stands at the Adena Springs facility in Kentucky for an advertised fee of $125,000, had 24 of his get offered at this sale. Ten sold, for an average price of $119,000. The 14 who failed to meet their reserves averaged $163,000, including a buy-back for $675,000. There are 70 registered foals from El Prado's 2004 crop, nine of whom sold as yearlings for an average of $81,667.

El Prado, an Irish-bred son of Sadler's Wells, did all of his racing on the grass, and much of his success as a sire has come with top-notch turf horses: Kitten's Joy, Artie Schiller, and others. It came as no surprise, then, when many of El Prado's get showed smoother action in the sales videos when breezing over the turf.

* There was talk that the Adena sale might be moved in 2007 to the Palm Meadows training center, owned by Stronach's Magna Entertainment Corp. When Roberts was asked about such a move, he said that he did not think so, but that next year is a long way off.