$1.2-Million Justify Colt Stars at Strong OBS March Opener

The first session's topper, a $1.2-million Justify colt | Photos by Z

by Jessica Martini & Christina Bossinakis

OCALA, FL – The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale opened its three-day run Monday with a session which gained strength throughout the day, ultimately ending with increases in both average and median over the first session of last year's two-day auction.

During Monday's session, 131 horses sold for $20,192,500 for an average of $154,141–up 10.1% from a year ago–and a median of $90,000–up 16.1% from 2022. Without the inclusion of post-sales transactions, the buy-back rate was 32.1%, up from 18.6% from the conclusion of last year's opening session.

The additional session–and an extra 198 horses–makes comparisons between years an inexact science at best.

“It's hard to make apple-to-apple comparisons because we have 200 more horses this year and three days,” said OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski. “It will be interesting to see what happens over the next two days with the RNA rate. I suspect it will trend downwards with the post sales. We've already seen a lot of post-sale activity. Certainly, we would like to see it lower. But I can't pass judgment on the sale until we get through the next two days.”

A colt by Justify, consigned by Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds, topped the day's trade when selling for $1.2 million to Maverick Racing and Siena Farms. Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo also sold the day's second highest offering, a son of Uncle Mo purchased for $950,000 by Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt and Jackpot Farm.

“Those were special horses,” Wojciechowski said of Monday's two top-priced juveniles. “They did it on the racetrack and then, when you went back to look at them at the barn, they were spectacular. There was no surprise that those two horses did well. It's the old adage, you can't hide a good horse. The good ones stand out.”

A deep domestic buying bench was at the top of the March market Monday, with the top 10 horses purchased by nine different buyers.

Japanese agent Hideyuki Mori, who purchased seven horses during last year's March sale, including a $1.1 million son of Into Mischief and a $900,000 colt by Bolt d'Oro, for a total of $3.55 million, signed for one juvenile Monday, going to $300,000 to acquire a colt by Bernardini for $300,000.

The OBS March sale continues through Wednesday with sessions beginning each day at 11 a.m.

WinStar Comes Out On Top for Justify Colt

Randy Hartley with Elliott Walden and David Hanley | Photos by Z

A colt by Triple Crown winner Justify (hip 215) became the first to reach seven figures during Monday's first session of the OBS March sale when bringing a final bid of $1.2 million for WinStar Farm's Elliott Walden, who signed for the colt on behalf of the partnership of WinStar's Maverick Racing and Siena Farm.

“[WinStar general manager] David [Hanley] and I just felt like he was the best horse in the sale,” Walden said. “I think the whole package, with how he breezed and with his pedigree, he was worth taking a chance on.”

Out of graded-placed Zinzay (Smart Strike) and already named Saturday Dreams, the colt was bred by Summer Wind Equine. A half-brother to Grade I-placed Moon Over Miami (Malibu Moon), he was purchased by Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo for $250,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale. He worked a furlong last week in :10 flat.

WinStar Farm was co-owner of Justify and Maverick Racing purchased the future champion in partnership with China Horse Club for $500,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September sale.

“We were close,” Walden said when asked if the $1.2-million bid was near his limit.

As for what is next ahead for the colt, Walden said, “He will go back to WinStar and we will figure it out from there.”  @JessMartiniTDN

Uncle Mo Colt Hitting the Jackpot

Hip 95 | Photos by Z

Moving along at a comfortable pace early on in Monday's opening session of the OBS March Sale, it was apparent the tempo was about to pick up markedly moments before Hip 95, a colt by Uncle Mo, strode into the ring. A camera crew swept into the pavilion, quickly setting up at the back as the photogs scurried into position. And it wasn't long before the fireworks began. The bidding initially shot up in $100,000 increments before accelerating to $150,000 volleys. When the dust had settled, it was Bill and Corrine Heiligbrodt, in tandem with Terry Green's Jackpot Farm, that landed the session's second most prized juvenile for $950,000.

“We didn't think we had a chance to get him with what our budget is,” admitted Bill Heiligbrodt. “We thought there would be some other players in there ahead of us. Maybe they know more than we do, but I don't think so.”

Added Green, “We just loved the horse. Billy has been at this a whole lot longer than me. I've been the caboose on his train.”

He continued, “We're just excited about him. We think he's a great horse and have our fingers crossed.”

Consigned by Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds, the Mar. 12 foal is out of unraced Sunshiny Day (Bernardini), a granddaughter of Champion juvenile filly Storm Song (Summer Squall). Having proven an active influence in the breeding shed, Storm Song is also responsible for GISP Trojan Nation (Street Cry {Ire}) and MGSP Balladry (Unbridled's Song) and Another Storm (Gone West), herself responsible for European Highweight Order of St George (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}).

The colt worked in :10 flat (video) during last week's breeze show.

“We looked at all the horses in the sale and tried to pick out the best one,” explained Heiligbrodt. “And this one was in our price range.”

According to Heiligbrodt, the colt will go to Steve Asmussen, who also trained 2019 Champion Sprinter Mitole (Eskendereya) for the Heiligbrodts.

“He's running speeds that is like a sprinter almost,” said Heiligbrodt of his highest-priced purchase of the session. “We're just really happy we got him.”

Terry Green with Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt | Photos by Z

Already having partnered on a handful of horses over the past couple of years, the Heiligbrodts and Green enjoyed prior success with Gulfport, another son of Uncle Mo. Winner of the Bashford Manor S. at two, Gulfport also placed in the GII Saratoga Special and GI Hopeful S. in addition to finishing third in the GI Champagne S.

“We've been [partnering on horses] the last couple of years–we're both from Texas and good friends,” said Heiligbrodt.

Regarding the affinity for the Coolmore sire, he added, “We've had very good luck with Uncle Mo. We ran Gulfport together, so to find an Uncle Mo with this kind of speed and pedigree is unusual. I have been doing this a long time and I haven't seen many Uncle Mos that looked any better to me than this.”

Purchased for $360,000 by Chris Baccari at Keeneland November in 2021, the bay was offered at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale last summer, but failed to attain his reserve of $575,000. Bred by Aaron Sones, the colt was secured for $500,000 by Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo privately.

DeRenzo said, “We bought the horse in Saratoga and he was our highest-priced yearling purchase price [in 2022]. We just loved him. Since then, he's trained amazing all year long and we thought he was one of the top horses in the sale. He's going to one of the best trainers, Steve Asmussen. That makes us feel really good because now we know the horse has a chance to do what we thought the horse can do.”

As for the purchase price, he said, “I thought he would have brought more than that. I think they got a really great buy.”

He continued, “[Heiligbrodt] didn't think he could get him. But I told him 'Always be ready.' We don't set our reserves too high because selling horses is what we do. He was there, waiting for the horse, and he got it. We are ecstatic for them. [Heiligbrodt] has a great eye and he has a great instinct as well. And he's been right so many times.”

In addition to landing the day's top colt, the partnership also secured a son of Mitole, Hip 61 for $225,000. Consigned by Wavertree Stables, the chestnut's work equaled (video) that of his pricier counterpart.

“[Hip 95] is a little bit faster [than Hip 61], but probably won't go as long,” said Heiligbrodt.

Going back to the well for a horse that served the Heiligbrodts so well in the past was an obvious decision.

“Mitole has some really fast ones here so I want to buy all the fast ones here. Because if we own them, we won't have to face the really fast ones in the races!” Heiligbrodt said with a laugh. “We're thinking down the road.”

The partnership also purchase Hip 164, realizing $310,000. Consigned by Cruzin' Thoroughbreds, the colt by Lea also worked in :10 flat (video) during the breeze session. @CBossTDN

Hartley/DeRenzo More than Justified

The $1.2-million session topper's work last week | Photos by Z

If selling 2-year-olds was a numbers game, Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo certainly didn't get the memo. Lining up with only two juveniles during Monday's opening OBS March session, the duo landed a blow with both of them, with Hip 95 realizing $950,000 from a partnership of Bill and Corrine Heiligbrodt and Jackpot Farm ahead of Hip 215, who reeled in a $1.2 million final bid from the converging titans Maverick Racing and Siena Farms.

“They were both very good horses and we had a lot of people calling us about them,” said Hartley. “But they're two very different looking horses. The Uncle Mo is really tall and leggy and this colt has more muscle and bigger. They're both very good and could end up in the same place–on top.”

Of Monday's session topper, Hartley explained, “He's an amazing colt and we're so happy WinStar and Siena bought him. He's got the best shot now. It's sad when they leave our hands, but when they go to an operation like that, they're going up in the world.”

Bred by Summer Wind Equine, the dark bay was purchased for $250,000 at Keeneland last September. Out of Grade III placed Zinzay (Smart Strike), the Apr. 11 foal is a half to SW and GISP Moon Over Miami (Malibu Moon). This represents the family Classic scorers Musical Note and Musical Chimes.

“He's been my little sleeper all year,” admitted Hartley. “He has a special place in my heart. He was amazing from day 1.”

Explaining part of his attachment to the dark bay colt, he said, “We had his mother, Zinzay, who I bought for $250,000 [Keeneland September in 2012] and we sold her for $700,000 [Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale in 2013]. I got to gallop her and was such a big part of her development, so I've had a soft spot for this colt all year long.”

He continued, “He's done everything right all year long. He never did anything wrong. He's always been Mr. Serious. And he breezed lights out, it was just spectacular [:10.0]. He just has a different air about him. He has a real presence. He's good but also very nice too.”

Standing at Ashford Stud in Kentucky, the colt's sire Justify is represented by his first crop of 3-year-olds this season.

“We are such big Justify fans,” affirmed Hartley. “In fact, we are big Scat Daddy fans. We were around plenty of Scat Daddys and he was such a tremendous stallion. It was such a big loss to our industry when he died so young.

Justify is getting good runners now and we'll try and buy more of them. We have a few yearlings that we bought as weanlings, so we're keeping it going.”

Rarely afraid to extend to buy a worthwhile youngster, Hartley explained that the partnership has branched out a bit in recent times to find the potential commercial standouts they're perpetually looking for.

“We are buying babies to resell as yearlings so we have been stepping up our game in that area,” he explained. “We sold [three-time Grade I winner] Taiba two years ago, and given that you can hardly buy a Gun Runner as yearlings these days, we thought we'd jump ahead and get them as weanlings. We'll bring them back as yearlings.”

DeRenzo added, “When the horse hits us and we have a gut feeling that this horses can be an athlete, we purchase it. And usually, nine times out of 10, those horses are the athletes.”

He continued, “We don't walk into it thinking how much will pay for horse. We use a lot of gut instinct. We've been doing this 32 years so that instinct is usually right.”

Also well reputed for bringing to the ring a small but select group of horses, this year's March sale was no different with the pinhooking operation bringing three juveniles to the OBS scene. Already represented by the top two juveniles during Day 1, the duo is also represented by Hip 449, a filly by Tapit, during Tuesday's session.

“We are very small by design,” explained Hartley. “I only have 20 stalls in my barn. So, those are all the horses I have. Dean and I have been doing this a very long time. We have always been geared toward quality. We always thought if things weren't so good with the world, the Sport of the Kings would probably come down to the 'kings'. So we always tried to keep a boutique consignment. You'll never really see us with more than five or six horses at a sale. We have been very lucky and have sold some very good racehorses. We'll just keep bringing quality.”

So what might be the main ingredient to their longevity and success?

“We treat them like champions from the day join us,” said DeRenzo. “And they believe they are champions the day they leave us.” @CBossTDN

Shah Strikes for City of Light Filly

Hip 123 | Photos by Z

Kaleem Shah, standing alongside bloodstock agent Ben McElroy and trainer Simon Callaghan, went to $750,000 to acquire a filly by City of Light (hip 123) during Monday's first session of the OBS March sale.

“Ben loved her and so did Simon,” Shah said after signing the ticket on the bay filly. “Next year, we will see if they are right or wrong.”

Of the filly's final price tag, Shah said, “It's always more expensive than you want. I wish I didn't have to spend this kind of money, but that's what the good horses cost.”

Shah is used to signing big tickets at the 2-year-old sales. He purchased the $1.2million top-priced lot at last year's March sale.

The juvenile, who worked a furlong in a bullet :9 4/5 last week, is out of Tessie Flip (Grand Slam) and is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Jo Jo Air (Scat Daddy) and stakes-placed Congo River (Mendelssohn). She was bred by Springhouse Farm and Dromoland Farm and, after RNA'ing for $290,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale, was consigned Monday on behalf of her breeders by Top Line Sales.

“She surprised me as a yearling that we didn't get her done,” said Springhouse Farm's Gabriel Duignan. “It's just one of those things that didn't get done. But she's always been beautiful. We loved her. We always did. It's a gamble [to take her home from the yearling sale]. But she looked the right time for this. She came out here and breezed well and I'm delighted that she's going to good hands with Kaleem and Simon.”

Springhouse purchased Tessie Flip as a 5-year-old for $200,000 at the 2014 Keeneland January sale. She has had yearlings sell for $325,000, $425,000, $350,000, $225,000 and, most recently Congo River sold for $400,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale.

“She just checked in foal to Jackie's Warrior,” Duignan said of the mare. “And she has a Maxfield foal.” @JessMartiniTDN

Good Magic Colt Shines as Gladwell Legacy Continues to Grow

Hip 262 | Photos by Z

A colt by Good Magic (hip 262) continued a bang-up day in the sales ring for the Gladwell family when selling for $725,000 to the bid of bloodstock agent Steve Young. Consigned by Jimbo and Torie Gladwell's Top Line Sales, the youngster had been purchased by the family's pinhooking partnership for $150,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.

“He is a super-good training horse,” Young, who was bidding on behalf of an undisclosed client, said. “He is by a sire who was one of the best freshman sires last year by a long way and he's a half-brother to an undefeated horse. He has sneaky quality all through his bottom line.”

The colt is out of Ari the Adventurer (Pioneerof the Nile) and is a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Adventurous Lady (Kantharos). The mare's 4-year-old, Kanthari (Kantharos), purchased for $575,000 at the 2021 March sale, is now two-for-two for Todd Pletcher and MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm.

Just a few hips before the Good Magic colt went through the ring, Nellie (nee Gladwell) and Chetley Breeden introduced their Grade One Investments consignment with another pinhooking score when selling a colt by Frosted (hip 247), purchased by the family for $50,000 at Keeneland September, for $475,000 to Three Amigos.

Jimbo Gladwell | Photos by Z

Watching on from the back walking ring with obvious pride was family patriarch Jimmy Gladwell and his wife Martha.

“The Frosted colt that my daughter sold, we thought he would work fast,” Jimmy Gladwell said of the juvenile who shared the :9 4/5 bullet last week. “And we thought he would be well-received, but we never dreamed that he would bring the dollar amount that he brought at the end of the day. So we're thrilled with that. It was a great start for their consignment and we are really proud of the job they did bringing him over and proud of the outcome.”

In addition to the pinhooking success with the Good Magic, Top Line Sales also consigned a filly by City of Light who sold for $750,000 to Kaleem Shah.

“Jim and Torie, in our opinion, have really risen in the ranks as one of the leading 2-year-old consignors in the game,” Gladwell said. “They present a quality product and have sold some really nice horses. They have developed a good following. They just present good horses who work well. They are doing a great job.”

The longtime pinhooker said it was gratifying to see his children continue to succeed in the industry.

“We are just busting with pride,” he said, while his wife added, “It brings tears to your eyes sometimes.”

“We are a close family and our middle son [Raymond] he works in the business as well,” Jimmy Gladwell said. “All of the kids are close. It's just a great feeling. Martha and I couldn't be more proud of them.” @JessMartiniTDN

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