Million-Dollar Baby Paces OBS April

Hip 901 | Christie DeBernardis

by Jessica Martini and Christie DeBernardis

OCALA, Florida – The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's April Sale of 2-Year-Olds produced the second million-dollar price tag in its history Thursday when a colt by Broken Vow (hip 901) brought a final bid of $1.2 million during a session in which figures continued to match pace with last year's record-setting auction.

Through three sessions of the four-day sale, OBS has sold 484 horses for a total of $37,769,500. The average ticked up 1.7% to $78,036, while the median remained steady at $45,000. At this point a year ago, 514 horses had sold for $39,420,900.

For the session, 156 head sold for $13,816,500. The average was $88,567 and the median was $50,000. With 70 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate was 27.1%. At the close of business on last year's third session, the buy-back rate was 26.5% and that figure improved to 22.4% with the addition of post-sale transactions.

Thursday's session produced the sale's top two prices so far, with racing newcomer Mike Hall of Breeze Easy making the biggest splash with his seven-figure purchase from the Tom McCrocklin consignment. Dennis O'Neill, bidding on behalf of Paul Reddam, took home the day's second-highest price when acquiring a colt by Candy Ride (Arg) (hip 803) from the Niall Brennan consignment for $875,000.

A filly by Tapit became the April auction's first seven-figure sale when she brought a final bid of $1.9 million a year ago.

“The quality of horse that consignors bring to April continually improves over the years, as does their comfort level and their confidence in April to sell a horse like that,” OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski said. “I think it's proven itself over and over again for them.”

Consignors continued to be concerned about the lack of depth in the buying bench at the April sale.

“It's very fickle,” consignor Eddie Woods said of the market. “The top end of it, as always, is very, very good–stout, great for everybody, if you happen to be fortunate enough to be in that spot. The lower end is treacherous. There is really no one there for them.

“There is no middle market in the country anymore for anything, even at the yearling sales,” Woods continued. “They say there is a shortage of horses in California and there is a shortage of horses in New York. There isn't a shortage of horses anywhere, there is a shortage of people who want to own them. There are 26,000 foals every year, so where does the shortage come from? There is no shortage of horses. From a racing point of view, yes, there is a shortage of horses because there is a shortage of people wanting to own them. We are in the trenches here, struggling with the horses that just don't meet all of the criteria they are supposed to meet.”

Niall Brennan, who was the leading consignor during Thursday's session, agreed.

“It seems a little tough–tougher than I expected,” he said. “OBS April the last few years has been like Keeneland September–it's a smorgasbord for the 2-year-old sales and you get buyers from all ranges here. Obviously, the top-end horses, that's where people are really focusing their money and their budget are really geared to getting those high-end horses. But it just seems to me, the middle is lighter than I expected. Those are the bread and butter horses–the ones in the average category that are useful horses and normally you can sell them in the $35,000 to $65,000 range. And there is usually a great market for those horses here, but it seems like it's been tough. Obviously the high-end horses, people are doing their homework and they are not missing them and they are selling very well. But the bread-and-butter horses that people need to sell to keep it all turning over, it seems like the buyers for them are very scant.”

At the other end of the spectrum, buyers admitted to finding plenty of competition in bidding.

“It's been tough for me,” Dennis O'Neill said. “I've been the underbidder on a lot of horses. I am finding competition in the middle market. I've landed on a couple who I thought would be $80,000 to $100,000, where I'd like to be for a lot of clients, and they've gone for $150,000 and $200,000. So it's been really hard for me. I think I've only bought three horses and I was hoping to get eight or 10.”

Asked about the April market, bloodstock agent Steve Young said, “I think it's like any other 1200-horse sale. There is the good, the bad and the in-between. I think some horses are bringing a lot more than I'd think they would bring and vice versa. I think it's an April sale. There are some horses here that are going to struggle until they get to show what they are worth on the racetrack and other horses that have been pinpointed to sell in April.”

The April sale concludes Friday with a session beginning at 10:30 a.m.

“There are still a lot of good horses left, so we are hoping for a good day tomorrow to finish things up,” Wojciechowski concluded.

Broken Vow Colt Lights Up OBS

With just 11 juveniles left to sell late in the day Thursday, a Broken Vow colt, catalogued as hip 901, caused a fury of late action to become the current OBS April topper at $1.2 million.

The :20.4 breezer was purchased by newcomer Mike Hall of Breeze Easy Stable, who has only been in the business for three months and has about eight other horses in training. Hall was seated near the front of the pavilion alongside his trainer Troy Wismer, who will condition the colt at Woodbine.

“We've loved the horse ever since we saw him from day one,” Hall comented. “He's just a really well-built horse, well put together. The colt's breeze was wonderful. Everything the colt's done has been wonderful here. We couldn't find a fault anywhere with the horse. We plan on taking the horse on to race. He will probably travel first to Woodbine and then we will figure it out from there.”

As for the price tag, Hall said, “I expected to pay really close to that. I knew he was that caliber horse. We think the horse has a lot of potential.”

Out of MSW Haddie Be Good (Silver Deputy), hip 901 is a half-brother to stakes winner Story to Tell (Bluegrass Cat). This is also the family of Grade I winners Sam's Sister (Brother Derek) and Sweet Talker (Stormin Fever).

The chestnut was purchased by Christina Jelm on behalf of Joe Minor's JSM Equine for $55,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton November sale. Picked up for $105,000 by Solana Beach Sales at the 2015 Keeneland September sale, the colt was consigned here by Tom McCrocklin. –@CDeBernardisTDN

First Seven-Figure Sale for McCrocklin

When hip 901 was led out of the ring after a final bid of

$1.2 million, it marked the first seven-figure sale for veteran horseman Tom McCrocklin, who consigned the juvenile to the April sale Thursday. McCrocklin purchased the Broken Vow colt for $105,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.

“We were expecting him to sell very well and he had a lot of interest, but I didn't expect that kind of interest,” McCrocklin admitted.

Asked what attracted him to the colt as a yearling, McCrocklin said, “He had a great physical presence. He was a beautiful horse, a balanced horse with a beautiful walk. Obviously, with our crystal ball we didn't see this coming, but it worked out.”

The million-dollar baby was originally slated to sell at the OBS March sale, but McCrocklin said the extra time between sales made all the difference Thursday.

“He was a horse that we actually thought about putting in the March sale and he is a horse that really benefitted from the extra month or six weeks. He has blossomed and bloomed and his breeze was phenomnal. He showed like a champ. He is a super classy horse and we're extremely proud of him.”

A native of Louisiana, McCrocklin has earned a reputation for buying future Grade I winners at bargain prices. He purchased 2013 GI Matriarch S. winner Egg Drop (Alphabet Soup) as a yearling for $12,500. He has been the longtime bloodstock advisor for Robert and Lawana Low, and in addition to his buying and consigning duties, also does lay-ups, turn-outs, yearling breaking and sales preparation at his Ocala base.

Despite all that experience, McCrocklin admitted to some anxious moments as he watched his first million-dollar sale unfold Thursday.

“I was nervous,” McCrocklin said. “A lot of work goes in on all the horses–it's even more work on the horses you don't get sold–so this is very gratifying. It was really a team effort with all the partners on the horse.” —@JessMartiniTDN

O'Neill Making Plans for Derby '17

Paul Reddam, through bloodstock agent Dennis O'Neill, purchased a juvenile by Uncle Mo from the Niall Brennan consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale last spring and ended up with juvenile champion and likely GI Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist. O'Neill was back in action at OBS Thursday, securing a colt by Candy Ride (Arg), who he called the “spitting image of Nyquist,” from the same consignment for $875,000.

“He is probably the prettiest horse I've seen all sale,” O'Neill said after fending off agent Gary Young and signing the ticket on hip 803. “I told Paul he is the closest thing I've seen to Nyquist. We loved his breeze and he is an absolutely fabulously gorgeous horse.”

“He is my type,” O'Neill continued. “He is a very lean, athletic horse. He vetted perfectly. They took him out for me on Saturday and my jaw just dropped. He breezed in :10 flat and he had a nice long stride and just looked like he was galloping to me.”

Reddam, who won the GI Kentucky Derby and GI Preakness S. with I'll Have Another (Flower Alley) in 2012, may have the favorite in this year's Derby, but he and his team are already looking forward to next year's Classics.

“We are kind of getting addicted to this Kentucky Derby trail and this was the one we thought would get us there next year,” O'Neill said. “We are hoping next year at this time, this is our guy.”

O'Neill admitted the youngster's final price was less than he expected to pay.

“To be honest, I thought he'd be more,” he said. “I actually lost a bet with Paul that I am very happy I lost. It was an over/under of $1 million. I thought he'd be more. I knew all of the heavy hitters were on him and usually they don't stop. So I was kind of surprised it stopped there.”

The bay colt is out of graded stakes winner Fencelineneighbor (Wild Rush), who was purchased by Gainesway, with him in utero, for $150,000 at the 2013 Keeneland November sale. The mare has already produced stakes winner Barbie Wire (Tapit) and graded stakes-placed Nextdoorneighbor (Lido Palace {Chi}). The youngster was purchased for $280,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.

“Mike Ryan and I bought him [last September] for our pinhooking partnership,” Brennan explained. “We loved Candy Ride and we were looking for Candy Rides. This one was a little bit raw at the time. He was a lovely colt, but you could see he was a little different Candy Ride. You could see him growing into himself more and he had great feet and some of the things you might knock on the Candy Rides, this guy didn't have them at all. He was the most expensive yearling we bought, but sometimes you go with your gut feel.”

Brennan, who sold Nyquist to Reddam for $400,000 last March, saw some similarities between the two colts.

“He does remind me of Nyquist in the sense that he is a similar shaped horse,” Brennan said. “He is a similar color. He's a big, scopey colt with a tremendous disposition who carries himself with an elegance and a class about him and an intelligence and Nyquist always had that. He's obviously got a long way to go, he's got big shoes to fill to emulate Nyquist, but I hope he can do it for them.” –@JessMartiniTDN

Young Purchases Filly With Wow 'Factor'

Agent Steve Young came out on top of a spirited round of bidding Thursday afternoon to acquire Hip 843, a filly by The Factor, for $420,000 on behalf of an undisclosed client. The gray breezed a quarter-mile in a speedy :20.4 at OBS last week.

“She had a terrific breeze, a wow breeze,” Young remarked after signing the ticket out back. “I know the track was fast, but she did it with a lot of quality. She's a very intelligent, classy kind of horse that you like to think, if she's brave and lucky, she can run just about anywhere. I know she's by a horse that had his biggest days going short, but she's got a lot of leg and a lot of depth to her, and I think she'll run as far as we want her to. She should be a pace filly at over a mile, I would hope.”

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, The Factor was a dual Grade I-winning sprinter, capturing both the 2011 GI Malibu S. and GI Pat O'Brien S., but he also won that term's 1 1/16-mile GII Rebel S. A colt by the freshman sire, who stands at Lane's End for $25,000, topped last month's Barrett's sale at $460,000.

“He's by War Front, who I could not have more respect for if I tried,” Young said of The Factor, while wearing a War Front ball cap. “His babies sold very well as yearlings. I didn't participate there, but they have trained very good at the 2-year-old sales. They move with quality and I would think that he is in with a very good chance to be a good sire.”

Hip 843 went through the ring for the first time as a yearling at the 2014 Keeneland November sale, where she sold to Walter Bloodstock for $75,000. Offered again in Lexington at the 2015 September sale, she garnered $140,000 from Eddie Woods's Quarter Pole Enterprises. The consignor was the first to shake Young's hand after the sale.

“I didn't think she would bring that much with the way the sale's been going,” Woods commented. “It's very up and down here. At one point at home when we were working her, I thought the filly was going to bring a lot of money and then when you get here, and you see the way things are going, the steam comes out of you a little bit. We had all the right guys on her and I thought she'd bring some money, but no, I didn't think she'd bring quite that much. I thought she would bring [around $300,000] or a little better. I would have been delighted with that, so now I am really delighted.” –@CDeBernardisTDN

More Wonderful for Dubb

Michael Dubb, who has already campaigned a pair of graded stakes winners by Tiz Wonderful, will be looking for more success with the stallion after purchasing hip 631 for $375,000 during Thursday's session of the OBS April sale.

“We've had a lot of good ones by that stallion, we had Condo Commando and My Happy Face, so we'll always go to that stallion,” confirmed bloodstock agent Kim Valerio after signing the ticket on the filly on behalf of Dubb.

Condo Commando won the 2014 GI Spinaway S. and GII Demoiselle S., as well as the 2015 GII Gazelle S. My Happy Face captured the 2012 GIII Tempted S. and hit the board in three Grade I events.

“This one is exactly like Condo, just a little bit smaller and lighter in color,” Valerio commented. “She has the same face and the same build, so we are going to hope we can win another Spinaway.”

Consigned by King's Equine, the juvenile is out of stakes winner Christmas Lily (Marquetry). She worked a furlong in a

co-bullet :9 4/5 during last week's under-tack preview. Bred by Spendthrift Farm, the juvenile RNA'd for $24,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton July sale.

Valerio admitted she went a little overbudget on the filly.

“I don't usually ever pay that kind of money for horses,” Valerio said. “I was hoping we would get her for about $200,000, but the good ones are bringing money. I like to buy in the under $100,000 range. We've gotten two nice fillies for good prices, so I'm excited about that. I do sit and wait a lot, but I didn't want to sit with her. I just told [Dubb] I would rather buy her and go home.” –@JessMartiniTDN

Meah Begins to Make His Mark at OBS

A long-time exercise rider and assistant trainer to Richard Baltas, David Meah is relatively new to the sales scene, but is already beginning to make his presence felt after buying a Union Rags filly for $375,000 early in Thursday's session. The bay got an added push Wednesday when her freshman sire was represented by his first winner from his first starter at Aqueduct in the Wesley Ward-trained Lady Stardust.

Meah bought hip 640 on behalf of California construction company owner Mick Ruis's Ruis Racing. The filly will be trained in California by the owner's daughter, Shelbe Ruis. The young trainer–whose brother is former jockey Mick Ruis, Jr.–saddled her first starter Rockport Babe (Rockport Harbor) in an Apr. 9 maiden special weight at Santa Anita, where the sophomore filly, who Shelbe Ruis also owns, finished fifth.

Ruis Racing purchased two horses earlier in the sale, going to a session-topping $310,000 Tuesday for Hip 33, a colt by Into Mischief, and $95,000 for Hip 206, a colt by Broken Vow. They struck again late Thursday to take home hip 870, a Bodemeister half-sister to talented GSW and OBS graduate Acapulco (Scat Daddy), for $160,000.

“Mick just loves the game and is looking for a group of quality horses,” Meah said after signing the ticket in the pavilion for hip 640.

Part of what attracted Meah to the filly was his history with her half brothers, MGSW millionaire Handsome Mike (Scat Daddy) and Handsome Dennis (After Market).

“First of all, I liked the page,” he commented. “She's a half to Handsome Mike. I used to work for Doug O'Neill and galloped that horse and galloped Handsome Dennis–two very nice horses. She's just the picture of health, looked very good. She was prepped well and worked well. She is a very well-balanced, strong filly. She is going to do well on the racetrack and after her career is over too.”

Hip 640 was purchased by McMahon and Hill Bloodstock for $170,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November sale and 10 months later RNA'd for $130,000 at the September sale in Lexington. Consigned here by Old South Farm LLC, the bay breezed a furlong in :10 flat during last week's under-tack preview.

“It was a good breeze, very athletic, nice moving, long stride,” Meah remarked. “I'm very happy.”

Meah also enjoyed his first success as a pinhooker during Tuesday's session of OBS April when a Candy Ride (Arg) filly (Hip 255) he bought for $30,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale sold to Barry Berkelhammer for $185,000. He hopes to find similar success Friday with Hip 1212, a Warrior's Reward filly he picked up for $37,000 at Keeneland September.

“It was great,” Meah said of Hip 255's sale. “I bought her for $30,000 and she sold for $185,000, so she more than paid for the whole thing. I definitely plan to do more [pinhooking]. I have another one selling [Friday], so hopefully that goes just as well.”


Flores Planning Ahead

David Flores hasn't entirely closed the door on his riding career, but the veteran reinsman is making plans for a future out of the saddle. Flores has been working with Becky Thomas's Sequel Bloodstock throughout the juvenile sales season, learning what the other side of the business is like.

“I've been riding for over 30 years,” Flores said at the OBS sales complex Thursday. “I never retired. I just stopped riding because it was getting hard to keep my weight down and the business wasn't too good.”

The hiatus had the 48-year-old, who has ridden such stars as Action This Day and Singletary, looking ahead.

“I just started thinking about what I was going to do when I retired,” he explained. “I talked to [Barretts General Manager] Kim Lloyd about it and he introduced me to Becky Thomas and she was willing to help me to learn about being a consignor and the training and all of this. The transition for me has been unbelievable. It's been a new life for me. I would say, going back to riding is always an option, but I want to give myself a chance to learn something else before I really throw the towel in on the riding side of it.”

Flores is committed to working with Sequel through the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale and his plans after that auction are up in the air. But no matter where he ends up, Flores said horses will always be part of the plan.

“The horses are my life and have been since I was born,” Flores said. “My father was a horseman and my family has always been involved in the horses. I bought a yearling just to get started. I am going to keep her and break her and maybe put her in the sales. I'm putting myself into this industry and it's a good adventure for me and I will do my best to just learn as much as I can. I have to thank Becky Thomas for being so supportive. She has a lot of knowledge and it's a great place to start.”


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