Cautious Bidding as OBS Spring Sale Opens

Kaleem Shah and Tuesday's session topper, Hip 1250 | Photos by Z

Action returned to the sales ring Tuesday for the first session of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training and consignors and buyers tiptoed carefully through the first auction since the coronavirus pandemic halted the industry across the globe. At the conclusion of the session, numbers were down slightly from 2019 figures, but by and large participants seemed content simply to have made a new beginning.

“Given everything that everyone has had to go through, I think it was a solid start,” said OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski. “It felt like the sale picked up as the day went on and hopefully we can build on it in the next few days.”

A total of 133 juveniles sold Tuesday for a gross of $12,166,500. The session average was $91,477–down just 1% from the 2019 opener which saw 166 horses sell for $15,346,000 and an average of $92,446. The median of $50,000 dipped 9% from last year's figure of $55,000.

Bloodstock agent Ben McElroy, acting on behalf of Arman Shah, made the day's highest bid when going to $750,000 for a colt by Ghostzapper (hip 1250), who had been supplemented to the four-day sale following the cancellation of the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale earlier this year.

With 59 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate was a respectable 30.7%, but from a catalogue of 327 juveniles only 192 went through the sales ring.

“There were a lot of outs,” Wojciechowski said. “This catalogue was originally meant to be sold in April, so the same horses have been catalogued since basically the beginning of March. Things change over that period of time, plans change, owners change plans with the horses based on everything that has gone on. So while we don't like to see it, I'm not concerned about it at this point.”

Bloodstock agent Justin Casse, who signed the day's second-highest ticket for a son of Air Force Blue, said he expected action to pick up throughout the week.

“I think it is a wait-and-see approach,” he said. “This sale always gets stronger as the week goes along. I think that's going to be no different this week. Some very interesting prospects are going to pop up later through the week, so that may have forced buyers to sit on their hands a little bit and wait. And then on top of that you have a little scepticism from being in isolation and quarantine. But I expect it will pick up.”

Deuce Greathouse had a pinhook score with the colt by Air Force Blue, but said he thought the economy is hastening the already prevalent polarization of the marketplace.

“It's very tough,” Greathouse said. “People think they can be even more critical than they have been in the past because of the economy and they've always been critical. So it's a typical deal where everybody is kind of falling on what they perceive to be the top five to 10% of the horses and I think it's even harder today because people are wanting to see how it goes. They think they can steal everything. But they are going to finally realize that there is money for the nice ones, so they've still got to be willing to go for the ones they want.”

Bloodstock agent Pete Bradley saw continued strength at the top of the market.

“It looks really sticky,” Bradley said of the market. “The elite horses are selling well. There are a lot of nice horses that appear to have vet issues because they are not getting sold. So if you didn't do your homework on them, you are wondering why. I don't know how much that plays into it, but it is certainly a factor at the 2-year-old sales. I don't think there is much of a middle market. It looks to me like the buy-backs are outpacing those sold. Still, if you have a good horse, they pay you for it down here.”

OBS introduced online bidding for the first time during the Spring Sale and peppered among the auctioneers' chants throughout the day were shouts of, “You're out internet.” At the end of the day, nine horses had sold online.

“The reception of the online bidding was very good,” Wojciechowski said. “We are still registering people for online bidding. We were very proud the Xcira software functioned. I think this might be a first, I don't think anyone has offered online bidding before in the United States and the software worked great. Xcira really stepped up to the plate. What would normally take six months, we accomplished in 30 days. So hats off to them for the way it worked and operated. I think online bidding will also pick up steam as we go through the next few days.”

Looking ahead to the next three days of bidding, Wojciechowski said, “There are going to be bright spots. This is April. There is something for everyone in April. There are still an awful lot of good horses on the grounds. Maybe the wait-and-see description is appropriate. I think people will start to come off the sidelines and try to get involved.”

The Spring sale continues through Friday with bidding beginning each day at 10 a.m.

Ghostzapper Supplement Proves Worth the Wait for Platts, Thomas
The end of each OBS Spring session figures to yield some high-dollar horses as supplemental entries who had been entered in the boutique but cancelled Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale instead have found their way into this auction. Of the pricey and well-pedigreed individuals offered at the end of Tuesday's session, none proved more popular than hip 1250, a colt by Ghostzapper who worked the co-quickest furlong in :9 4/5 during last Monday's second under-tack session.

Consigned by Becky Thomas's Sequel Bloodstock, Agent VII as hip 1250, he brought winning bid of $750,000 from Ben McElroy, agent for Arman Shah, son of prominent owner Kaleem Shah.

A $250,000 KEESEP yearling purchase by Wyoming native and oil and gas industry executive Joey Platts, the Mar. 30 foal is out of a half to MSW and MGSP Foxy Danseur (Mr. Greeley), in turn the dam of GSW Ever So Clever (Medaglia d'Oro). His third dam is GSW In Conference (Dayjur) and fourth dam is GISW Personal Business (Private Account).

“After he worked that :9 4/5–I thought he did that pretty easy; he had his ears pricked and head down–I called Becky and said, 'Do you think we can get $700,000 or $800,000?'” Platts said by phone. “She was kind of hesitant and said, 'Well, I don't know.' We'll be at the top of the market; I just don't know what the top's going to be.' So, in this bad market we were hoping we could get that and it worked out just right.”

Platts, whose father also owned horses, said he purchased his first horse at auction off of Thomas in the early 80s. He currently has about nine runners in training spread out between New York, Kentucky and California, and ran Lusty Latin (El Prado {Ire})–who he claimed for $62,500–in the 2002 GI Kentucky Derby with his wife Wendy and trainer Jeff Mullins.

Platts purchased three yearlings last term to take to this year's juvenile sales with Thomas. They sold a Medaglia d'Oro colt (hip 568) for $350,000 at OBS March (purchased privately after he RNA'd for $220,000 at September); and have a full-brother to GISW Smooth Roller (Hard Spun), rerouted from Gulfstream like the Ghostzapper colt was, entered at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale as (hip 442).

“From Day One, Becky has liked the Hard Spun even more than the Ghostzapper,” Platts revealed. —@BDiDonatoTDN

Another Into Mischief for Spendthrift
Wayne Hughes's Spendthrift continued to support its superstar stallion Into Mischief Tuesday, scooping up hip 129 for $400,000. Consigned by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Agent I, the bay filly covered a quarter in :21 flat last week.

“She struck us as very typical of the Into Mischiefs,” said Spendthrift General Manager Ned Toffey from the sales grounds. “She had a really good mind on her; nothing seemed to phase her at all, handled everything really well. She breezed really well and well within herself. She was very clean and sound-legged–just a strong, stout, athletic individual. She's a very nice filly.”

Out of stakes winner Midnight Visit (Henny Hughes), hip 129 was acquired by Woodford for $200,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.

“I think we felt like it was good, fair price,” Toffey said. “You always hope you'll get them for a little less and worried that you'll have to pay a little bit more. But I think she fell right in between those ranges. Really, it was about what we felt we'd have to pay.”

With so much global uncertainty amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Toffey said he thought a lack of foreign participation might have been having a negative impact on the market early on:  “Certainly, you don't have the crowd here that you typically do. It doesn't look like there's as much competition as you'd typically see for these higher-end horses. I think the foreign buyers who drive some of the different levels of the market aren't here. There's not a lot of depth to the market, but I think a lot of this is just a function of what's going on with the world with coronavirus, but hopefully we can get things back to normal soon and get this market back to normal for everybody's sake.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Coolmore Team Has the Blues
There has been lots of buzz around the first crop of foals for Air Force Blue (War Front) and plenty of it is coming from Aidan O'Brien, who trained the multiple Group 1 winner for Coolmore. The Coolmore team added another juvenile by the sire to its roster Tuesday in Ocala when Justin Casse made a final bid of $400,000 to acquire a dark bay colt (hip 209) on behalf of John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.

“There has been a real buzz about the sire from both sides of the Atlantic,” Casse said. “I know Aidan has a few that he's really excited about. And there has been some good buzz about some here in Ocala.”

O'Brien will saddle a pair of runners by the young stallion Wednesday at Navan, including a highly regarded son of Grade I winner Marylebone (Unbridled's Song) named Chief Little Hawk.

“We are very strong on the stallion,” Ashford spokesman Charlie O'Connor said Tuesday. “We think he was the best 2-year-old they ever had at Ballydoyle and we have good ones by him in Ballydoyle. We are big believers. So we asked Justin to pick out what he thought were the best there.”

Of the colt's final price tag on a day where the market in Ocala was still trying to find its feet, Casse said, “It's tough to gauge given the current market, but I'd say that was a fair price for how a horse like that performed (:20 4/5).”

While plans remain fluid, O'Connor said he expects the colt will remain in the U.S.

Air Force Blue, who stands at Ashford Stud for $15,000, was also represented by a $390,000 colt at the OBS March sale.  @JessMartiniTDN

Patience Pays Off For Greathouse
When Deuce Greathouse, in the name of his family's Glencrest Farm, purchased a weanling by Air Force Blue (War Front) for $55,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November sale, the plan was to pinhook the colt as a yearling. But once the youngster RNA'd for $100,000 at Keeneland last September, he was rerouted to the juvenile sales. The decision to buy the colt back last fall was rewarded when he sold for $400,000 to bloodstock agent Justin Casse, bidding on behalf of Coolmore's M.V. Magnier Tuesday in Ocala.

“He was just a nice, athletic horse,” Greathouse said of the colt's appeal as a weanling. “Obviously, the first plan was to sell him as a yearling, but that didn't work and we liked him enough to keep him. He always had the frame, but he was a little bit of a lighter horse. He's filled out and gotten a lot wider and just has a lot more substance to him now. That obviously was still a little bit of an issue when he was a yearling, but by the time he got to a 2-year-old, he filled out into a beautiful horse with good balance. He's not a huge horse, but big enough obviously.”

Out of No Splits (Smart Strike), hip 209 is a half-brother to stakes placed Lucky Jingle (Tonalist) and his second dam is multiple graded stakes winner Great Intentions (Cat Thief). He was consigned by Wavertree Stables and worked a quarter in :20 4/5 during last week's under-tack show.

The first crop of Coolmore's multiple Group 1 winner Air Force Blue has created plenty of positive buzz this winter, which also helped raise the colt's profile.

“People start talking about certain stallions,” Greathouse said. “It seems like everybody has been high on the Air Force Blues all winter, so obviously that didn't hurt.” @JessMartiniTDN

Live Oak Secures Munnings Filly
Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation went to $350,000 to secure a daughter of the red hot Munnings Tuesday in Ocala. A :21 1/5 breezer, Hip 179 was consigned by Mayberry Farm on behalf of Bradley Thoroughbreds. She will join the Mark Casse barn.

“She is really a strong filly who looks like she will hold up to a lot of training,” said Bruce Hill, Live Oak's racing manager. “Of course, all the cliches, balance, huge shoulder. There are just no holes in her. She is an A for everyone the team. She is a big stout filly and looks very sound.”

Munnings has been on a hot streak over the past year and his fillies have done especially well. Two of his leading ladies burned up the GI Kentucky Oaks trail earlier this year in GII Rachel Alexandra S. heroine Finite and GII Las Virgenes S. winner Venetian Harbor, most recently second in the GIII Fantasy S. Some of his other top offspring include MSW Kimari, victress of the Purple Martin S. last out, and GIII Fred Hooper S. winner Phat Man.

Munnings has been doing very well this year, but we have been breeding to him for years,” Hill said. “We loved her breeze and the entire team liked her.”

Bred by Edward Seltzer, Hip 179 was purchased by Pete Bradley's Bradley Thoroughbreds for $110,000 at the Fasig-Tipton July Sale. She is out of Mylitta (Sky Mesa), who is a half-sister to Italian Group 3 winner Malossol.

“I bought her for a client Steve Spielman who was looking for a couple of fillies to race of pinhook,” Bradley said. “This one just came to hand nicely. She was a nice filly when we bought her in July and she just kept getting nicer.”

When asked if the change in the sales calendar due to COVID-19 affected the filly's preparation, Bradley said, “The Mayberrys do such a great job. They are not ones to overdo their horses or rush them. It certainly didn't hurt [having more time]. If you don't press on these horses too much, the more time the better. The extra time didn't hurt. That's for sure.” –@CDeBernardisTDN

 Scherer Keeps Busy in Ocala
Bloodstock agent Clay Scherer was busy buying in Ocala Tuesday, taking home a trio of juveniles for his clients.

His first purchase of the day was Hip 96, a colt from the first crop of MGISW Frosted, who was bought for $185,000 by Staton Flurry's Flurry Racing Stable. Consigned by Pick View LLC, the :21 3/5 breezer was picked up my Ramiro Restrepo's Marquee Bloodstock for $80,000 at KEESEP.

Breeder Stonestreet Stables bought the gray colt's dam Majestically (Gone West) for $525,000 at the 2013 KEENOV sale. She is also the dam of MGSW & GISP Dust and Diamonds (Vindication), who is the dam of MGSP Much Better (Pioneerof the Nile)

“He is wonderfully well-bred,” Scherer said. “The Frosteds seem to be very nice horses. I thought the market would be a touch soft in the opening day, so I thought it would be our time to strike.”

Scherer also picked up a Candy Ride (Arg) colt for Flurry for $200,000. Breezing in :10 flat for Jesse Hoppel's Coastal Equine, the bay was purchased by Hoby and Layna Kight for $150,000 at Keeneland September. Out of GSW Letgomyecho (Menifee), Hip 1235 is a half to GSW J Boys Echo (Mineshaft) and GSP Unbridled Outlaw (Unbridled's Song). Both colts will go to the Brad Cox barn. Scherer and Flurry have a success story on the racetrack right now in GIII Honeybee S. victress Shedaresthedevil (Daredevil), who captured a Churchill optional claimer June 5.

“She ran a nice race at Churchill, stretched her legs and did it easily.” Scherer said. “Florent [Geroux] could have texted in a dinner order, he was riding so easy on her. There is still a lot of time between now and September, but Brad Cox has done a phenomenal job putting fillies in the right spot, so we will trust his judgement.”

Scherer was also active on behalf of Al and Bill Ulwelling, going to $170,000 for a son of the red hot young stallion Constitution. Bred in Ontario by Trackwest Racing, Hip 193 breezed in :10 1/5 for Randy Miles. He was a $75,000 KEESEP purchase by South Mills Bloodstock. Out of SW Naughty Holiday (Harlan's Holiday), the bay hails from the family of GSW millionaire Naughty New Yorker.

“He had a beautiful head and is a great mover with a nice big walk,” Scherer said, adding that the colt would go to Kevin Attard. “The Ulwellings in Canada are committed to being successful up there and they are going after the right kinds of horses to be able to compete. Hopefully they have a Queen's Plate contender, but time will tell.”


 Bayern Filly a Home Run for Schumer
   Bloodstock agent Chad Schumer bought a group of foals to pinhook as yearlings on behalf of a client new to the game in 2018 and, while she missed the yearling sales, a filly by Bayern (hip 248) turned a nifty profit when selling for $150,000 at OBS Tuesday. The dark bay had been purchased for $18,000 as a weanling at Keeneland November.

“We were shopping for foals to resell as yearlings,” Schumer said. “The average we were trying to stay at was $40,000-$50,000 per horse. We paid a little bit more for some and a little bit less for some. This particular filly we really loved as a physical, but she didn't have a great page. So we were trying to be careful and not to pay too much. Of course, at $18,000 we were very happy to take a chance. She's a lovely, lovely filly.”

The filly, who was consigned at OBS by Golden Rock Thoroughbreds, is out of Passing Shower (War Pass) and was purchased by Schumer in 2018, just before Bayern's first foals hit the track. The timing added to the filly's bargain price, according to the agent.

“Any time you have a stallion who is approaching the year the 2-year-olds are actually going to run, people tend to take a step back. I don't care who the horse is,” Schumer said. “They generally just come back a little bit, even if they sell really well as yearlings. And that was the case with him. I think he fell into the trap of people not really wanting to buy into the stallion at the moment. She had a light page. And she's a filly. As you know, when you are selling foals, generally fillies don't do as well as colts. I think for all of those reasons we were able to buy what I thought was a very good physical for a low price.”

Schumer continued, “The plan was to sell her at September. But Bayern's 2-year-olds were going so well and [the clients] have a farm here in Florida, so the decision was taken to hold her back and see how she would do. And it really paid off.”

The filly backed up her credentials with a :20 3/5 work during last week's under-tack show before selling for six figures Tuesday.

“How could you not be happy with that? Any time you can buy a horse for that kind of money and sell her for $150,000, you have to be very happy,” Schumer said.

Schumer was so impressed with hip 248, he purchased the filly's dam Passing Shower carrying her full-sibling for $20,000 at Keeneland last November for a client in Saudi Arabia.

“When we approach these sales, we do all of the research and that mare made the list for whatever reason in November,” Schumer recalled. “But once I saw her, I remembered the filly we bought and I knew what type she could produce. So we were particularly keen to get the mare.”

Of the foals he bought in this pinhooking group, Schumer added, “Some were sold in September and we did really well with them. And then we had another filly we sold today who didn't reach her reserve in September. They sold her today, a Point of Entry filly [hip 162], for $65,000. We paid $45,000 for her as a foal.”

With the return of bidding, concerns were high that the middle market in Ocala this week would be non-existent, but Schumer said he had found plenty of activity in that range.

“For me, I was the underbidder twice,” he said. “I think I was at  $67,000 and the horse brought $70,000, and once I was $60,000 and the horse brought $65,000. I would consider that the middle market and it seemed healthy enough to me. Maybe other people have different definitions of what the middle market is.”

Still Schumer saw less strength at the traditionally strong upper market.

“The top of the market, I think, is certainly down,” he said. “I know there were some pretty good sales, but typically at this sale, you are seeing horses bring a million, $800,000 or $700,000. The top price early was $400,000 and the horse that brought $750,000 [was supplemented to the sale] wouldn't have been here. But it's the first day of a very long sale. I don't think it's really fair to ever evaluate a sale that is more than two days by its first day. When it's all said and done, we'll know where we stand. Having said all that, I am particularly pleased to see trade. With everything that is going on in the world, in every place, you wouldn't have known what was going to happen at this sale. I am pleased to see plenty of agents here, plenty of trainers, and people are buying.” @JessMartiniTDN

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