08/21/2008 11:00PM

Weather, economy take some blame

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There’s little doubt that Hurricane Faye played a role in this past week’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s yearling sale. Not that the imminent threat of this storm stopped buyers from bidding, rather it likely kept potential buyers away from the scene. These are buyers who could be classified as “impulse buyers.” That is, they did not come to Ocala to buy specific horses, but came to see what’s what, saw a horse they liked, and bought.

Then, too, there’s the influence of the economy. Horse buying is a discretionary action, and when the economy is as uncertain as it is nowadays, it is bound to have an effect. The economic decline of business and purses at Calder Race Course in Miami is also an unknown factor.

OBS sales director Tom Ventura said that these reasons were partially the cause of the weaker numbers for this year’s sale, which ran from Monday-Thursday.

“The numbers were off from last year,” acknowledged Ventura, “but I don’t think this is an alarming decrease.”

The statistics of the Monday’s selected part of the sale show a decline in the gross of 40 percent. But, this was in part due to 169, or 12.8 percent, fewer yearlings offered. The 2007 average of $57,961 for 167 sold fell to $50,243 this year, a 13.3 percent drop. The median came in at $40,000, compared with $50,000 in ’07.

Horses sold at the upper levels went to pinhookers and end users alike. Nick de Meric, considered a pinhooker, led the list of buyers at the selected session. He bought nine yearlings for an average of $65,000.

The leading Florida resident sire with first yearlings at the selected session was Bridlewood Farm’s Indian Ocean. He had four sell for an average of just under $50,000. The son of Stormy Atlantic stands for $5,000 live foal.

Overall the four days of sales recorded declines in all categories. The number sold was down 20.5 percent, the gross was down 34.6 percent, the average of $16,312 represented a 17.7 percent drop, while the median of $7,000 was a 26.3 percent decline.

De Meric was the sale’s leading buyer, purchasing 10 for an average of $60,500. End user Ken Ramsey bought eight averaging $46,500 for his racing stable.

The Vinery’s stallion D’Wildcat was the leader among Florida stallions with get sold at this sale. The son of Forest Wildcat, who stands for $6,500, had 13 sell for $46,307. Next on the list was Martin Stable’s South’s Spanish Steps. The full brother to Unbridled Song stood for $5,000 when covering the mares who produced the current crop of yearlings, and the stallion’s five yearlings at this sale averaged $43,200

Family knowledge

Pennsylvania doctor Robert F. Fishman bought the OBS sale-topper, Hip No. 47, a Florida-bred daughter of Macho Uno-Top of the League, by Lite the Fuse, for his close friend and longtime client Bill Roebling of Princeton, N.J. (Joseph Roebling, Bill’s uncle, bred the champion filly Fall Aspen.) He paid $200,000 for the filly, bred by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs.

Fishman retired from medicine several years ago. And in so doing, he transformed his avocation into a full-time activity that includes standing stakes-placed Special Times, by Seeking the Gold, at Godstone Farm in Pennsylvania. Fishman describes himself a a breeder, adviser, and bloodstock consultant and lists among his clients King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, via his manager Frank McGovern.

Fishman’s interest in the OBS yearling sale-topper goes back to the year 2000 when he was impressed by the victory of Top of the League in her first start at Belmont.

“I was there,” he said. “The filly’s second start came a couple of weeks later in Philadelphia Park’s Manyunk Stakes and she won that one as well. But, the test came back positive, and she was disqualified.”

Fishman learned that she was going to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But the filly suffered a career-ending injury in training for that race.

Buying breeding stock from Stronach’s Adena Springs can be daunting, according to Fishman. He tried to buy Primal Force from him but she was not for sale.

“She became the dam of Awesome Again and Macho Uno,” said Fishman.

“I really liked Macho Uno as a racehorse and thought him to be solid stallion prospect,” he said. “I was glad to see him move from Florida to Kentucky.”

Fishman knows his way around Kentucky, and this includes his friendship with Adena Springs’s Dan Hall.

“Dan knows that I followed the career of Top of the League, and I suggested to Dan that if she were mine, I would breed her to Macho Uno,” Fishman said.

Hall did just that, and Fishman said that after having her yearling filly inspected by several conformation gurus, he felt confident in setting the bidding parameters for Roebling between $150,000 and $200,000.

“I thought I knew something about her dam that other potential buyers did not and might get her cheaper,” he said. “But, it looks like others knew all about her or liked what they saw.”