08/25/2006 12:00AM

Yearling market strong at Ocala sale


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s August yearling sale neared its conclusion Friday afternoon after a five-day run that saw impressive financial gains.

At 5 p.m., the session leader on the last afternoon of selling was a $67,000 Gulf Storm colt that Excel Bloodstock bought from Elysian Bloodstock, agent. The yearling is a son of Fifi Nekia, an unraced Numerous mare. On Thursday, the last session for which complete figures were available, the company sold 200 yearlings for $1,837,700, up from last year's corresponding session, when 190 yearlings brought $1,587,200. Average also increased 10 percent to $9,189, and median held level with last year at $5,000. Buybacks were down slightly, from 30 percent in 2005 to 28 percent.

The Ocala, Fla., auction house kicked off its August sale with a single select session on Monday that set sale records for gross and average and equaled its record for median. The select session's top price, and the auction's highest price overall, was a healthy $300,000 for a Smart Strike-Cent Nouvelles colt that agent Ken McPeek bought from Martin Stables South. In total, the select session sold 176 yearlings for a record $10,427,50 and a record average of $59,247; the record-equaling median was $45,000.

By Friday, the last of the auction's three open sessions, the prices were winding down. But overall the open sessions have performed well above last year's levels. That's thanks in part to the early spring's record juvenile sales, which filled some pinhookers' pockets with spending money, and the apparent optimism of racehorse buyers.

"The sales have been going in the right direction," said OBS general manager Tom Ventura. "The 2-year-old sales this year were very good, and the yearling sales were good last year. Pinhookers are back reinvesting. And a good thing, especially on the first day at the select session, was that we had a lot of end-users buying, too. It was good to see that part of the market really participating.

"The market is good, and we've also been working hard to get our consignors to sell their better horses here. It's an ongoing process. When you can sell a marquee horse here like Lost in the Fog" - a 2003 graduate - "and when consignors see horses bringing top dollar, that's the most convincing thing for them."

The Ocala sale's robust prices could be a good sign for the Keeneland September yearling sale, which is just around the corner on Sept. 11-25. Traditional pinhookers or yearling-to-juvenile resellers, such as Leprechaun Racing, Becky Thomas, and Nick de Meric, were signing tickets at the OBS auction. At Keeneland September, pinhookers are a crucial part of the market, especially immediately after the pricier select sessions on Sept. 11-12. Pinhookers are necessarily more conscious of the bottom line than non-speculative buyers when purchasing at yearling sales. Those who felt the OBS yearlings were selling at a premium will likely wait until the larger Keeneland market to finish their buying, in hopes of finding a better deal.

Tattersalls sets October schedule

The England-based Tattersalls auction house has announced the format for its lengthy October yearling sale in Newmarket, England. The three-part sale opens on Oct. 3-6 with a total of 652 yearlings due to go under the hammer. At last year's Part I auction, a Kingmambo-Last Second colt set a record price of 1.25 million guineas, or about $2.3 million, on a final bid from Gainsborough Stud. It also set records for gross with more than $110 million in total sales and for average price at about $222,108.

Part II this year will offer 1,199 yearlings from Oct. 10-14, and Part III will sell 319 yearlings from Oct. 27-28. Horses sold during Parts II and III will be eligible for the Tattersalls October Auction Stakes, worth a total of about $472,500.

* The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association will host its annual State Breeder of the Year Awards luncheon on Sept. 8 at Keeneland at noon. The owners' and breeders' group also will hold its annual TOBA National Awards Dinner that night at Vinery in Lexington. Dinner tickets are $185 for TOBA members and $200 for nonmembers; rates are also available for couples and tables. For more information, contact TOBA at (859) 276-2291.

* The Old Dominion Series, a flat-racing series for Virginia-bred or Virginia-sired runners, has raised the purses for three prep races from $3,000 to $5,000. The preps are Sept. 24 at Foxfield Races, Oct. 7 at the Virginia Fall Races, and Oct. 14 at Morven Park. Horses must run in one of the three preps to be eligible to compete in the $20,000 Old Dominion Stakes on Oct. 28 at the International Gold Cup.