06/16/2010 12:00AM

Strong gains at Ocala June sale

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The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company saw strong gains, a $220,000 sale-topper, and some behind-the-scenes legal maneuvering Tuesday at its June 2-year-old and racing-age sale.

The one-day auction in Ocala, Fla., sold 230 juveniles for $4,912,100, up 5 percent from last year's total for 284 juveniles. More impressively, the 2010 sale's average and median soared 29 percent and 67 percent to $21,357 and $15,000, respectively. Buybacks rose from 27 percent to 31 percent.

Bob Baffert purchased the sale-topping Rockport Harbor-May Day Bluff filly consigned by Bridlewood. She is a half-sister to stakes winner May Day Vow. Eight older racing-age horses brought $42,400. Last year, 15 racing-age horses sold for $58,900.

A 24-horse Stonewall Farm consignment, handled by Leprechaun Racing agency, grossed $300,200. The top-priced Stonewall horse was a $130,000 juvenile Medaglia d'Oro filly out of two-time Grade 1 winner Jostle. Ron Nicholson purchased the filly.

The Stonewall horses were the subject of last-minute legal proceedings when farm owner Audrey Haisfield placed stud-fee liens on them, a move opposed by Fifth Third Bank. Stonewall's dispersal was agreed between Stonewall and Fifth Third, which has sued the Kentucky farm and related entities for allegedly defaulting on $14.8 million in loans.

Fifth Third filed an emergency motion to ensure the horses' sale, alleging Haisfield was attempting to place stud-fee liens on horses bred by Stonewall and other Haisfield entities as "part of a clear effort on her part to shift monies away from entities on the Fifth Third loan documents to other Haisfield entities."

The Fayette Circuit Court ordered that the horses sell, with proceeds to be turned over to receiver Bluewater Sales and placed in escrow. Parties claiming liens to the proceeds were to assert their claims in court.

Fifth Third attorney Craig Robertson declined to comment. Stonewall attorney John Hamilton called the order "favorable," adding that the bank "was attempting to gain an advantage by selling the foals without paying the stud fees to the stallion owners."