By Jessica Martini
A reshuffled and rearranged juvenile sales season like no other came to a conclusion with the final session of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's July 2-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age Sale Thursday and, with a market left shaken by the fallout of the ongoing global pandemic, numbers were predictably down at the three-day auction.
“Certainly the numbers were off comparatively, but it's hard to compare this to other years with so much that has gone on,” said OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski said. “There were some bright spots and then there were some not-so-bright spots. I think we were fortunate to get the sales off and completed. We are dealing with a different environment even from June to July. That environment posed obstacles, but I think with our online bidding we were able to help buyers who were unable to travel still participate in the sale. So that was one bright spot that we can look to.”
At the close of business Thursday, 498 horses had grossed $15,195,300. The average fell 12.1% to $30,513 from a year ago and the median dropped 23.5% to $13,000.
At the 2019 June sale, 615 horses sold for $21,349,300. The average was $34,714 and the median was $17,000.
While the buy-back rate concluded at 20.5%, only 650 of the 1,100 juveniles went through the sales ring.
“It's hard to say why that was,” Wojciechowski said of the large number of outs. “People make different plans with horses, they might decide to keep them, so it's difficult to pinpoint. Everything is so topsy-turvy this year, that it's kind of hard to start assessing or assigning reasons why to things.”
The July sale was into its supplemental section when bloodstock agent Jacob West made the week's highest bid, going to $700,000 to acquire a colt by Distorted Humor on behalf of Robert and Lawana Low from the McKathan Bros. consignment.
“It still shows you that the top end still has plenty of strength,” Wojciechowski said of the sale topper. “So it was nice to have that towards the end of the day.”
West purchased four juveniles during the July sale from every price level and the agent said there were plenty of people looking to buy horses this week in Ocala.
“Competition was pretty fierce all around,” West said. “I probably bid on a total of six or eight horses and ended up walking out of there with half of them. I bought one for $4,000, one for $50,000, one for $110,000 and then one for $700,000, and we followed a handful of others in hoping we would get them and we didn't end up getting them. So there were enough people there to spend money.”
The $700,000 topper marked a highlight of the sales season for Kevin McKathan, who had purchased the youngster for $165,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton October sale, but the Ocala horseman says sellers will have to reassess the market going into the yearling auctions this fall.
“I am thinking people are going to have to expect that the yearling market is going to be a little better for us [2-year-old pinhookers] for once,” McKathan said. “I think over the years, it has just seemed to be multiplying with these babies costing so much and then so much more every year. It almost put us out of the game. So hopefully everyone can step back and take a breath and maybe have the market readjust for itself. I want to go in and buy nice horses and nice horses always cost money. So I don't expect to buy them cheap, but hopefully we can get a little better market on them.”
With 18 horses sold for $1,081,000, de Meric Sales was the leading consignor at the July sale. Jacob West's lone sale-topping purchase for the Lows made him the leading buyer. He was followed by Dennis O'Neill who purchased five juveniles for $620,000.
Late Fireworks for Distorted Humor Colt
Jacob West, bidding on behalf of Robert and Lawana Low, acquired the highest-priced offering of the week at OBS when paying $700,000 for a son of Distorted Humor (hip 1027) from the McKathan Bros. consignment Thursday in Ocala.
“He appealed in every aspect, from conformation, to pedigree to breeze (:10 flat), so when they do that you have a pretty good idea that you're not going to go in and steal him,” West said. “We had an idea that he would bring somewhere around that and we're just happy to get him.”
The dark bay colt is the first foal out of Tizacity (Tizway), a daughter of stakes winner Vindy City (Vindication) and from the family of graded-placed Lady Chace and graded winners Bahamian Squall and Apriority. He fit the mold of horses West seeks out for the Lows.
“To me, he just looked like a two-turn, go-win-the-Derby type horse,” West said. “Mr. and Mrs. Low, their goal is to win the Arkansas Derby and then go win the Kentucky Derby after that.”
Asked if he thought the colt might have cost more in the pre-pandemic market, West admitted, “I honestly don't know. All I can say is, in 2020 during the middle of a global pandemic, he brought $700,000.”
Distorted Humor Colt a Score for McKathan
Kevin McKathan purchased hip 1027 for $165,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton October Yearling Sale and the Ocala horseman admitted the later auction dates due to the pandemic may have helped the youngster who was supplemented to the July sale after being withdrawn from the June catalogue.
“He was a big, rangy stretchy kind of horse, but he was really immature at the [October] sale,” McKathan said. “So I saw a lot of potential in him. I thought if I could get him to develop in time, he would really grow into a beautiful horse. So with COVID, that gave us the time. If we had been pushing to make March, it would have been a little different story. April was the spot we were aiming for and for one reason or another, it all fell apart, so we ended up here and it worked out well, I think. It's nice to be a big fish sometimes.”
Despite the down market, McKathan was confident the colt would bring a top price Thursday.
“I thought he was a really nice horse and I'd just come back from Baltimore [Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale] and really nice horses were bringing a lot of money,” he said. “So I had some idea that the horse would sell well. If you end up at the top of the heap, at every one of these sales, even though it is a really tough market, those horses have all been hard to buy. I didn't know what he'd bring, but I did feel like he was the best of them and so I had high hopes that he would sell well, that's for sure.”
With the end of an abbreviated, disjointed juvenile sales season, McKathan said he was ready to start over again with the yearling sales.
“It feels like I'm always out of a job, so I have to start all over,” he said with a laugh. “It's like filling out my resume again and off I go hunting for work. But I love doing what I'm doing. I love training horses. A little break is nice, but I really look forward to my barns being full and getting to play with another group.”
Tizacity Timely Buy for Lyons
Hip 1027 was bred by Three Lyons Racing, HTH Enterprises and Distorted Humor Syndicate and was a standout result, not just for McKathan, but also for Matt Lyons who purchased Tizacity for $5,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton February sale.
“We do still have the mare,” Lyons confirmed Thursday evening. “She is going to get an extra flake [of hay] tonight.”
Lyons knew plenty about Tizacity and her family before she went through the ring at Fasig-Tipton three years ago.
“I foaled her and raised her,” Lyons, the former manager of Woodford Farm, said of the mare. “I know the family pretty well. We had Squall City, the granddam, when I worked at Classic Star, and we foaled her mother, Vindy City, there. We raised Tizacity and sold her at Saratoga for Woodford as a $425,000 yearling. She was a beautiful filly, she really was. Mandy Pope bought her. She had a little injury setback and never got to quite realize her potential at the racetrack, but for a Tizway to bring $425,000, that tells you what she looked like. So when she came back through the Fasig-Tipton sale, obviously I was interested in her. Luckily I ended up getting her. We bred her to Distorted Humor on a foal share and we got that colt and we have a Street Boss colt who is a yearling and we have a Munnings colt that is a baby.”
Of his early impressions of the OBS July topper, Lyons said, “He was always a nice colt, pretty with a clean neck. He looked like the mare in that respect. He was a Distorted Humor with a little bit of scope and stretch and he was good through his pasterns. He was popular at the sale, he got enough action and he sold well. We were happy to see him go to the McKathans and they have obviously done a fantastic job with him. It's great to see him going to good hands.”
Malibu Moon Colt to Wilson
Carolyn Wilson and trainer Larry Rivelli have found success buying out of the OBS sales ring with graded winners like Wellabled (Shackleford) and The Tabulator (Dialed In) and they went back to the well to acquire a colt by Malibu Moon for $260,000 Thursday in Ocala. Consigned by Eddie Woods, the bay colt is out of Grand Pauline (Two Punch) and is a half-brother to graded winner Keen Pauline (Pulpit). He was a $100,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase.
“He is just a big, beautiful, athletic-looking colt,” Rivelli said of the juvenile. “I know that Eddie Woods was excited about him and a lot of the guys around his operation thought he was a special horse. When we pulled him out of the stall, Carolyn and I were looking at him and it was one of those that was, 'Oh, look at this one.' The video was great. The time was good (:21 1/5). And I think it was value. I think the sale is a little light, so I think we did good.”
“I think the good ones are selling ok-to-good and that's about it,” Rivelli said. “But we are really happy with both the ones we purchased.”
Wellabled, purchased for $340,000 at the 2016 OBS Spring sale and winner of that year's GIII Arlington-Washington Futurity, won the Honor the Hero S. at Canterbury Park Wednesday night. The Tabulator was purchased for $460,000 at the 2017 OBS March sale and went on to win that year's GIII Iroquois S. Both participated in juvenile Breeders' Cup races.
“Obviously we buy them all with the plan to get them to stakes races and the Breeders' Cup,” Rivelli said. “Carolyn and I have had success in the last few years with horses from here, so we're always happy to go back to this sale. Eddie Woods and Ciaran Dunne at Wavertree, those are good consignors and we have faith in them. It seems that the combination is working.”
Of Wellabled's win Wednesday, Rivelli said, “He broke the track record. It was awesome. We're hoping this could be the next one.”
Laoban Colt Pays for Ortiz
Victor Ortiz, a longtime showman for consignor Jesse Hoppel, was showing a colt by Laoban (hip 983) all week at OBS, but it wasn't until after the juvenile sold to Steve Young for $255,000 Thursday that Hoppel revealed Ortiz, along with his mother Elizabeth Ortiz and father Luis Franco, owned the juvenile who had worked a furlong in a bullet :9 4/5 at the under-tack show. The family had purchased the colt for just $3,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton October sale.
“Victor works for me and has shown horses for me for years, he's grown up in the industry,” Hoppel said. “He and his mother Elizabeth Ortiz, and his father Luis Franco, they all three owned a third of this horse.”
The colt originally was led out unsold at the Fasig October sale and Hoppel himself had plans to buy him until the 23-year-old Ortiz expressed interest.
“I vetted this horse out to buy,” Hoppel said. “I was on my way back to the barn to buy this horse after he RNA'd and Victor called me and said, 'Hey boss, what do you think about number 980?' I said, 'I am walking back to the barn to look at that horse now.' He said, 'Never mind.' I said 'Victor, what's going on? Talk to me.' He said, 'I was going to buy that horse.' I told him I had vetted the horse out, he scoped good and vetted good. I told him everything was good to go. I said, 'I have a bunch of horses bought already, why don't you go look at him. If you like him, let me know and you can have him. But if you don't like him, let me know and I'll go buy him. Twenty minutes later, Victor called me and said, 'I'm going to take him.'”
“He was a skinny little thing,” Hoppel said of his impressions of the May 2 colt as a yearling. “He just looked like he needed anything he could get and Victor gave him everything, along with Luis and his mother. They took care of him, they trained him themselves and he came out here looking like a million dollars. In this game, close doesn't do it. So many times we are so close to having the right horse but the wrong vetting or the right vetting with the wrong horse. When it all comes together, it is a really good thing. And it couldn't be for a better family. He is ecstatic. I think they are all on the verge of crying. If you're going to do good things, do it for people like them.”
Hoppel continued laughingly, “I'm grateful he gave him to me to put in the consignment. But he does need to pay that vet bill. He has never reimbursed me.”