10/10/2008 12:00AM

Weanlings best part of weak sale


An hour before the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. was to begin its annual fall mixed sale last Monday, there were open spaces in the parking lot. Not since the lean days of the 1980s has this phenomenon occurred.

By sales time, 10:30 a.m., those present were focusing as much attention on Wall Street and the tumbling Dow Jones averages as on the horse in the ring, Hip No. 2, a weanling colt by Halo's Image who went unsold for $20,000.

Monday's results, the only day of the 2008 consignor-preferred part of the sale, generated bearish numbers all around. Numbers dealing with gross receipts and horses sold cannot be truly compared with 2007, when the two-day consignor-preferred sessions had approximately twice as many lots. The average of $18,330 represented a 35 percent decline, while the median price of $12,000 was down by 45.5 percent. The buy-back rate of 53 percent was comparable to the 51 percent rate of 2007.

Quality weanlings retained their luster. The top four weanlings sold were fillies. Exchange Rate had two in this group: Hip No. 328 and Hip No. 17, sold for $105,000 and $67,000 respectively. A weanling daughter of Rockport Harbor, Hip No. 157, sold for $80,000, and a filly by Medaglia d'Oro, Hip No. 284, sold for $67,000.

Two days of open sales followed the consignor-preferred session, and the numbers continued their decline. The three days of sales recorded 385 sold, compared with 669 a year ago. The buy-back rate went from 40.5 percent to 46 percent. The average of $9,002 was 39 percent lower, and the median of $4,500 was down 40 percent from $7,500.

Tom Ventura, general manager and sales director for OBS, summed it up this way: "I knew this was not going to be an easy time for this market, but the weanlings held up well, and this is a positive sign that things will or should get better down the road."

No surprises in election of officers

Until recently, there was some drama as to who would be elected to the board of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association. Nowadays, however, unless there is a surprise write-in candidate, the slate proposed by sitting board members is the slate that gets elected.

Although there are term limits, after sitting out one term, former board members are eligible for another series of terms.

Incumbents re-elected to another term this year are Fred Brei (Jacks or Better Farm), Barry Eisaman (Eisaman Equine), and Mike O'Farrell (Ocala Stud). Those former members who had served their one-year hiatus off the board and are once again board members are Sheila DiMare (Rising Hill Farm) and Don Dizney (Double Diamond Farm).

Gil Campbell (Stonehedge Farm) remains as the president. Ed Martin (Martin Stables South) is the first vice president, and O'Farrell the second vice president.

* On the topic of advance-deposit wagering, the FTBOA supports horsemen in their quest for an equitable distribution of offtrack revenue. The FTBOA also supports a lowering of the state's 50 percent taxing of racino slots.

* Florida Thoroughbred farms are facing the challenge of manure disposal. The FTBOA has partnered with Max West Environmental Systems to convert 100,000 tons of waste into electric power, enough energy to power 1,400 homes, according to estimates. The target date for the completion of this waste conversion is late 2009.

* The FTBOA, according to its executive vice president Dick Hancock, is looking into the feasibility of operating a "boutique" race meeting in Ocala along the lines of a Keeneland meet. It would be a non-profit meet. Legislation was introduced to this effect at the 2008 legislative session in Tallahassee, and while the measure was cleared by Florida's Senate, the state's far more conservative House of Representatives let it die.

* Another matter that requires state approval is the distribution of breeders' and stallion awards. Under the current law, a percentage of the purse, up to $10,000, is paid for winning races. There is no provision to pay for second- and third-place finishers as is customary in most other states that have such programs.