By Jessica Martini
The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's June Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training–once an afterthought, but now a destination in its own right–begins its three-day run Tuesday in Ocala with bidding slated to get underway at 10 a.m. The June sale brings the curtain down on the OBS juvenile sales season, which featured a co-record sale topper in March and records for gross and average in April.
“The sales calendar has migrated later [in the year], so I think there is still a demand for 2-year-olds out there for sure,” OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski said of the expected market in Ocala this coming week. “I think we said it last year, the June sale is all grown up. Sellers have confidence that if they have a horse who needs some time, they can bring it to the June sale and there will be people to buy it. And on the other side of that equation, the buyers are confident when they see the quality of the horses that are coming out of the June sale and their performance on the track.”
That performance on the racetrack was in evidence over the weekend when Adare Manor (Uncle Mo), a 2021 graduate of the auction, won the third graded stakes of her career in the GII Santa Margarita S. at Santa Anita.
“That's just another indicator that June has become its own sale,” Wojciechowski said. “It's not a clean-up sale, it's not a leftover sale. There are horses that are targeted for the June sale because they are maybe later foals that would benefit from more time,” Wojciechowski said.
A total of 1,081 juveniles have been catalogued for the three-day auction, down slightly from the 1,114-strong 2022 catalogue which produced a record gross when 653 horses sold for $26,986,500 and an average of $41,327. The 2022 auction also produced its highest-ever median of $25,000.
The OBS March and Spring sales produced strong results compared to their 2022 renewals, but drew mixed reviews from consignors who had purchased yearlings in a highly competitive market last fall. The average sales price at last year's bellwether Keeneland September Yearling Sale rose 7.83%, but the course-charting OBS Spring sale this spring saw an average increase of less than 1%.
The yearling market last year was also impacted by a number of high-purchasing partnerships intent on acquiring well-pedigreed two-turn colts. Their activity pushed many pinhookers out of that segment of the market and led to a dearth of those type of horses in the 2-year-old sales this year.
“There has been a shortage of good colts and if you were lucky enough to have one, you got paid,” consignor Ciaran Dunne said last week.
Dunne said he expects to see a continuation of a polarized market at OBS this week.
“The horses who breeze good and vet good, I think there will be plenty of money here for them,” he said. “But I think if you miss here, it's going to be a wide miss.”
Wojciechowski also said he expects to see continued strength at the top of the market at the June sale, while the middle market may hold the key to the ultimate success of the auction.
“I think we will continue to see a flight to quality–or perceived quality,” he said. “The upper end always seems to take care of itself.”
Of the sometimes enigmatic middle market, Wojciechowski said, “I think there is sometimes a disconnect, everyone talks about the middle market and I have yet to hear one person define the middle market the same way as the next person. I think that the middle market is a moving target. Sometimes what the buyer perceives as the middle market and what the seller perceives as the middle market, don't always add up. But I think that the top usually takes care of itself and the devil will be in the details of that perceived middle market.”
During last week's six-session under-tack show ahead of the June sale, a filly by Bucchero (hip 999) turned in the fastest furlong of :9 3/5 and a colt by Chitu (hip 347) had the fastest quarter-mile work of :20 1/5.
“We had fairly consistent weather, although the first couple of days were a little cooler,” Wojciechowski said of conditions at the under-tack show. “The third and fourth and fifth days, we started seeing that westerly wind and it got hot quickly. But all in all, the horses did well, they performed well. And it was a good breeze show.”
The June sale continues through Thursday with sessions beginning each day at 10 a.m.