06/20/2003 12:00AM

Status quo reigns at OBS


The Ocala Breeders' Sale's June sale of 2-year-olds in training, which ended Wednesday, pretty much followed the scenario of every other Florida 2-year-old sale this year. The average of $18,412 for 249 sold was down a hair from last year's average of $18,691, and the median price of $9,500 was down a fraction from last year's $9,700. The only major June sale change from last year was the buy-back rate, which climbed from roughly 25 percent last year to about 33 percent this year.

Fillies were in demand. Seven of the top 10 sold were fillies, including the sales topper, Hip No. 247, a daughter of Cherokee Run-Social Director, by Deputy Minister, who sold for $270,000. Niall Brennan Stables was the agent, and Arosa Stable of Wing City, Ontario, was the buyer. The filly had worked the sale's fastest quarter mile (21.20 seconds).

Brennan said he felt all along that he had a potential sales topper. "She was a nice filly, but needed time to get everything right," he said. "We broke her this past winter, turned her out, and picked her up again in time for this sale. She did everything right."

Buz Chace, agent, was the sale's leading buyer with two purchases amounting to $290,000. Chace, on behalf of New Jersey owner Noreen Carpenito, went to $150,000 for Hip No. 290. The colt, consigned by Paul Sharp, agent for Isaac Tawachi, is by Runaway Groom-Tippecanoe Creek, and thus a half-brother to this year's Grade 3 Hutcheson Stakes winner, Lion Tamer.

Tawachi, a Panamanian merchant who does business as Dalzur Stud, bought the colt last July in a private transaction. He was consigned to the OBS March selected sale, but it was too late for Lion Tamer's stakes victory to be cataloged, and Tawachi bought the colt back for $97,000. He thought he would do better down the line when Lion Tamer's black type appeared in the sales catalogs.

Chace also bought Hip No. 468 from the Ricky Leppala consignment for $140,000. The daughter of Saint Ballado worked a brisk quarter in 21.40. The filly goes to the Aaron U. Jones stable in California.

"Good sale," Chace said. "Prices were right, and I got what I came for."

Relief is on the way

Florida's workers' compensation insurance rates are among the highest in the Thoroughbred industry, and a recent rate increase of 10-12 percent has added to the premium burden.

"There is relief coming," said Dick Hancock, executive vice president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association. "There is a bill that passed at the last legislative session awaiting the governor's signature. This new statute will lower the rates by 12 percent to 16 percent."

No clout, no VLT's

The Florida Legislature is in a second special session to deal with burgeoning malpractice insurance premiums. There is no chance, however, that legislation legalizing video lottery terminals or slot machines at the parimutuel facilities will be considered.

Meanwhile, on June 17, the Seminole Indian tribe opened its Hard Rock Casino in Tampa. The $100 million gambling complex sports 810 VLT's, 28 poker tables, and a hall big enough to accommodate 800 bingo players, with roulette and crap tables on the horizon. A few miles west of Gulfstream Park, a $200 million Seminole-backed gambling emporium is scheduled to open for business in 2004. Also named Hard Rock Casino, it will be a state-of-the-art Las Vegas-type operation.

These and the other sovereign-nation gambling entities around Florida are expected to generate more than a billion dollars in non-taxed profits in the coming years. Money buys political power - especially in the Sunshine State. Florida's parimutuel and Thoroughbred industries, which seek statutory approval for VLT's or slots as a source of state and industry revenue, simply do not have the political clout to get it.