By Brian DiDonato & Steve Sherack
What a difference a year makes.
With a $750,000 filly from the first crop of Practical Joke leading the way, the first auction of 2-year-old sales season completed a very promising two-day run as the 2021 OBS March sale concluded with across-the-board gains compared to last year and numbers not too far off of 2019 stats recorded during more normal circumstances.
Consigned by Top Line Sales as hip 311, Wednesday's highest-priced lot and the sale's overall topper was purchased by Japan's Hideyuki Mori, who led all buyers for the auction, purchasing eight juveniles for $2.245 million. She worked a co-bullet in :9 4/5 at the breeze show.
Eddie Woods topped consignors for the second straight day with eight sold for $2.007 million and led the standings overall at the two-day auction, selling 14 juveniles for $4.134 million.
While exact year-to-year comparisons are tricky due to OBS's policy of adding subsequent post-sale transactions to its official statistics, there does seem to be a bright light at the end of the tunnel as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dissipate.
For Wednesday's session, 151 juveniles grossed $19,004,500, good for a $125,858 average and $70,000 median. As the pandemic just began to take a hold last year and with the stock market plummeting, the corresponding day two session in 2020 grossed $14,355,000 for 150 sold with an average of $95,700 and a median of $50,000. The buyback percentage was 18.8% Wednesday; it was 37.7% a year ago.
A total of 326 juveniles brought $38,265,000, good for a cumulative average of $117,377 and a median of $62,500. In 2020, 295 head realized gross receipts of $27,349,500 with a $92,710 average and a $50,000 median. The cumulative buyback percentage was 16.2%; it was 38.8% in 2020.
The 2019 gross was $44,248,500 for 306 sold at an average of $144,603 and median of $80,000.
No fewer than 16 juveniles brought $500,000 or more at this year's sale. Only five hit that same mark in 2020. Last year's sale was topped by a $650,000 American Pharoah filly. Now named Russian Samovar, she was a debut winner in Japan last fall.
“It was another good, solid day of selling horses,” said OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski. “We were very pleased with how the sale wrapped up. It seemed to hold its strength all the way to the end.”
He continued, “Mr. Mori was here, and we had a number of Japanese buyers online. It was nice to see their participation, but the domestic spending was strong as well.”
Next on the OBS agenda is the Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, scheduled for Apr. 20-23.
“Certainly, we hope the momentum of this sale carries through to the rest of the season,” Wojciechowski said. “April continues to be the premier 2-year-old sale in the world. I know we'll have plenty of good horses in April, and if this sale is any indication, it bodes well for April.”
Top Line Goes Back to the 'Well'
Torie and Jimbo Gladwell's Top Line Sales LLC made a huge score last season when they sold 'TDN Rising Star' and eventual GI Del Mar Debutante heroine Princess Noor (Not This Time) for a sale-topping $1.35 million at the pushed-back OBS April sale, and they turned another nice profit Wednesday with a daughter of a freshman stallion.
Hip 311, by buzzed-about MGISW Practical Joke, brought $750,000 from Japanese trainer Hideyuki Mori after breezing in :9 4/5. The $65,000 KEENOV RNA and $120,000 KEESEP yearling is out of Peruvian champion and GSW Valiant Emilia (Per) (Pegasus Wind) from the family of recent GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner Helium (Ironicus).
“She's the only one we had here who was for our partnership,” said Torie Gladwell. “It was some of the same partners who we had on Princess Noor last year, so they are definitely some lucky partners. We will not be getting rid of them.”
As for what she and her husband liked about hip 311 as a yearling, Gladwell said,
“We actually found her in the Taylor Made express lane. That was the first time we saw her–when she walked by she just had that big, slinky walk. She wasn't a big filly at the time, but that walk and balance that she had, that's what we look for at the yearling sales. She also had a really, really good, strong hind leg–a big gaskin muscle. So, when we saw her walk by for the first time, we both knew that we really needed that filly. She was early in the day when she sold, within the first 10 hips of the day, and I think that helped us get her at a reasonable price.”
Princess Noor was also purchased from Taylor Made and for similar money–$135,000.
“When we got that filly home, we turned her out, and I was sitting at the computer doing some paperwork,” Gladwell said of hip 311. “They lead her back into the barn and said, 'Boss, we have a problem.' She sliced her chest open from the middle all the way to the side of it and I about threw up. I was sick. She's a really smart filly, but she just got running too fast and slid into the T-post at the perfect angle. Other than that, we've never had any kind of setback with that filly.
“As far as training goes, she's just a filly who you can ask to go slow, or go fast–she'll do whatever you want her to do. I like that type of filly. She's not high strung; never does anything bad. She'll take a hold of the bit and bow her head and do what she's supposed to do.”
Gladwell said that many prospective buyers had remarked that the filly, a Mar. 18 foal, almost looked like a colt given her powerful build. She was still surprised by the price.
“We did not think it was going to go that high,” she said. “She was vetted quite a bit–maybe 15 or 16 times. We were thinking $400,000-$500,000, but last year we had a lot of luck with a filly by a freshman stallion, and if a horse by a freshman stallion jumps up and looks like her and breezes like that on the racetrack, people are going to want to buy them.”
As for any similarities between Princess Noor and hip 311, Gladwell said, “They are both plain, dark bay fillies and that's what I'm going to try to buy from here on out.”
Mori, one of several Japanese buyers playing at the top end this week, purchased eight for $2,245,000. His next-priciest expenditure was a $550,000 American Pharoah colt (hip 507) who breezed in :10 1/5. Consigned by Jesse Hoppel's Coastal Equine, the $220,000 FTKSEL RNA hails from the family of MGISW Got Stormy (Get Stormy) and Grade II winners Smooth Air (Smooth Jazz) and Overdriven (Tale of the Cat).
Colombo Snags Pharoah Filly for Yoshida
After struggling for most of the sale to fill his order due to vet issues and high prices, agent Eugenio Colombo swooped in late in the day Wednesday to grab hip 547 for $600,000 on behalf of Shadai's Teruya Yoshida.
“Everything–the conformation, the way she walked, the mental attitude. She's a calm filly,” Colombo said of the filly's appeal. “I'm very, very happy to buy her. I was afraid, with the prices going on here, and after seeing [what hip 311 brought]… She also vetted perfectly–I vetted 11 fillies, and all the others had some minor issues. And then even with those minor issues, they still brought top money.”
Hip 547 was a $200,000 Keeneland September yearling acquisition. She is out of MSW and GSP Henny Jenney (Henny Hughes) and has an unraced full-brother named Primary Colors who was a $350,000 KEENOV weanling buy by Bob LaPenta's Whitehorse Stables. That colt returned to the worktab recently at Fair Hill.
No fewer than three juveniles by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will be headed to Japan from OBS after this week–Kazuko Yoshida purchased hip 387 for $350,000 from Kings Equine; and Hideyuki Mori bought the aforementioned hip 507 for $550,000.
The Coolmore resident has been well represented on the track in Japan by the likes of last month's G1 February S. winner and $475,000 OBSMAR '19 grad Cafe Pharoah and Japan Dirt Derby hero Danon Pharaoh (Jpn). —@BDiDonatoTDN
Spendthrift Takes Home Four
Wayne Hughes's Spendthrift Farm was an unsurprising player at the top of the market this week, taking home four horses for a combined $1,725,000, led by a Kantharos colt (hip 357) secured Wednesday for $575,000 in partnership with their affiliated MyRacehorse.com.
Consigned by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Agent II, the chestnut breezed a quarter in a co-quickest :20 2/5 during the under-tack preview. He is a full-brother to juvenile MSW Adventurous Lady. His dam was a debut winner as a July juvenile, his second dam was a stakes winner at two and his third dam was graded-placed at two. Bred by Stonestreet, the Feb. 25 foal was a $220,000 Keeneland September yearling.
“He's just an absolutely beautiful horse,” said Spendthrift's Ned Toffey. “He had a little more leg than you might typically find on a Kantharos–just a very classy-looking horse. I feel comfortable that he'll be very fast, but he looks like a horse who may be able to stretch out a little bit as well. We thought he had one of the best breezes that we saw. Kantharos may be a little bit quiet right now, but that doesn't bother me–we think he's a very good sire. We're very happy to have one. Just a very impressive physical–he was our pick of the day.”
The team will take some time before deciding on a trainer for the colt.
“He'll go back to Spendthrift this evening,” Toffey explained. “Even if there are no issues, we usually like to give them 30 days at the farm to just let them chill out a little bit and put this sale environment behind them, and make sure still are happy with what we've got, and then go on with them. So, we've got about 30 days to make a decision.”
John and Susan Sykes's Woodford had a productive day overall–they also sold a $450,000 Maclean's Music colt (hip 350, :20 4/5, $190,000 KEESEP) to Lauren Carlisle, agent; and a $300,000 Lemon Drop Kid colt (hip 362, :10 1/5, $80,000 KEESEP) to L.E.B., agent for West Point Thoroughbreds.
Spendthrift, meanwhile, made all its other buys Tuesday: a $200,000 Outwork filly (hip 2, :10) consigned by Fast Horses; a $550,000 Violence colt (hip 48, :9 4/5) from Kirkwood Stables; and a $400,000 Unified colt (hip 110, :9 4/5).
Toffey was encouraged, like many, for what a strong market at OBS could mean for the state of the industry.
“Maybe it's a little of the covid rebound factor–people are just eager to get out and get back to normal,” he said. “I was very encouraged walking around the sales grounds, looking at horses in the days leading up to the sale, by how much activity we saw–plenty of buyers and people looking at horses. The vets seemed to have good activity. So, from an overall health of the market industry standpoint, I thought it was very encouraging to see.”–@BDiDonatoTDN
Another Banner Day for Eddie Woods
A day after selling a trio of half-million dollar or more juveniles, including Tuesday's $550,000 Munnings filly co-topper, OBS March's leading consignor Eddie Woods was back at it Wednesday with another pair of big-ticket items.
Hip 504, a filly by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, brought $550,000 from owner Sean Flanagan. The :21 1/5 breezer was produced by an unraced Afleet Alex half-sister to MGSW Woodlander (Forestry). This is the family of millionaire Coal Front (Stay Thirsty), winner of the G2 Godolphin Mile and GII Amsterdam S. Bred in Kentucky by Mike Connelly, Hip 504 was a $140,000 KEESEP yearling.
“She's been a special filly from day one,” Woods said. “She's very elegant, very classy. Always been a beautiful mover. Just one of them delights to be around.”
Hip 531, a colt from the first crop of Spendthrift Farm stallion Gormley, was a $550,000 purchase by Mike Hall and Sam Ross's Breeze Easy. The $160,000 Fasig-Tipton Select yearling pinhook fired a :9 4/5 bullet at the breeze show. Gormley's first yearlings in 2020, led by a $270,000 colt, averaged $37,544 (59 sold), according to TDN Sales Results by Stallion.
The half-brother to SW Little Kansas (El Kingdom), out of the Tale of the Cat mare Green Eyed Cat, is a grandson of two-time Grade I winner Critical Eye (Dynaformer). Hip 531 was bred in Kentucky by Ledgelands and Andrew C. Ritter.
“He had a fabulous breeze,” Woods said. “He's a magnificent-looking horse. It's good money for a first-season stallion. He did everything right and was real easy on the eyes, hence everyone liked him.”
Both Hip 504 and Hip 531 were pinhooks by Woods's Quarter Pole Enterprises.
For the second straight day, Woods led all consignors with eight sold for $2.007 million. He topped all consignors at the two-day auction as well, selling 14 juveniles for $4.134 million.
“I thought it was very, very good, it was very healthy,” Woods said of the 2-year-old market. “There were people there at all levels.
You know, nothing silly happened, there was no huge seven-figure number, but a lot of horses got pedaled for the $400,000 and $500,000 [range]. Which is always a way healthier market than one horse bringing it all and the rest just looking at one another.” —@SteveSherackTDN
Pike Has Them Saying Uncle at OBS March
After selling a pair of seven-figure, Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old toppers by Uncle Mo in 2016 and 2020, consignor Al Pike enjoyed another big result with the leading Coolmore sire early in the session at OBS March Wednesday.
Hip 295, a filly by Uncle Mo out of a Speightstown winning half-sister to MGISW Moonshine Memories (Malibu Moon), brought $550,000 from Live Oak Plantation. The Uncle Mo/Speightstown cross is also responsible for promising young sire and GII Jim Dandy S. winner Laoban.
“We're big fans of Uncle Mo, he's been very good to us,” Pike said.
The $185,000 KEESEP yearling graduate breezed an eighth in :10 1/5 at the under-tack show. This is also the female family of 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick.
“We've loved her ever since I laid eyes on her as a yearling with Ben Burleson's consignment at Keeneland and she's never disappointed me a day,” said the Opelousas, Louisiana-based horseman. “She looked beautiful here and she worked beautifully. Some really good horsemen were involved in trying to buying her.
He continued, “The underbidder was [trainer] John Kimmel for a client, he was on the phone. John and Mike Mulligan were trying hard. I had a big group–a partnership of about 10 people on this one. A bunch of people from as far away as Oklahoma and all over from Louisiana, including [former jockey] Shane Sellers and his wife Susan.”
“We've had a good sale,” Pike said. “Down here it looks like they're looking for a good horse and they'll pay for a good horse. It kinda makes it fun for us.”
Pike concluded, “I'm just excited to get to do what I do and get to train animals like this.” —@SteveSherackTDN
Lieblong Has It All 'Mapped' Out
With his Grade I-winning 'TDN Rising Star' Wicked Whisper (Liam's Map) off to the breeding shed for a date with leading sire Uncle Mo, owner Alex Lieblong added a 2-year-old colt by the young Lane's End sire to his stable for $335,000 at OBS March Wednesday.
Hip 306, consigned by Hoby and Layna Kight, breezed a quarter in :21 at the under-tack show. He was produced by a Giant's Causeway half-sister to MGISW You (You and I). Bred in Kentucky by St. Elias Stables, he RNA'd for $45,000 as a KEESEP yearling.
Content with his current hand of 2-year-old fillies, as well as his homebreds slated to race in South Florida by his former stand out The Big Beast, Lieblong asked Bo Hunt to give him a ring if a nice colt caught his eye this week in Ocala. Hunt breaks most of Lieblong's yearlings.
“Wicked Whisper, she was kind of built stoutly, and this colt, he's not a frail-looking individual, and that's the way she was built,” said Lieblong, chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission. “I had some luck with her and I liked the way he moved. He didn't have the fastest work, but I don't think that's always the best predictor. They're not gonna run too many two-eighths-of-a-mile races anyway. He looked like he could cover plenty of ground and I liked the fact that he was out of a Giant's Causeway mare. That should give him a little boost, as far as going a little bit of distance and taking the speed he has with it.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who campaigned Wicked Whisper to a career-best win in the GI Frizette S. at Belmont at two and a victory in last term's GIII Miss Preakness S. at Pimlico, will likely train Hip 306, per Lieblong.
“[Asmussen] did go by and take a peek himself and he was impressed,” Lieblong said. “His stout-build reminded him of Wicked Whisper, too. I think we'll just keep him with the one that has the experience with it.”
Along with his wife JoAnn, the Central Arkansas natives have campaigned recent standout 2-year-old sale graduates such as: the aforementioned GI King's Bishop S. winner and Ocala Stud stallion The Big Beast (Yes It's True) ($150,000 OBS April 2yo); GII Indiana Oaks heroine High Dollar Woman (Super Saver) ($675,000 OBS March 2yo); GII Saratoga Special S. winner and GI Hopeful S. runner-up I Spent It (Super Saver) ($600,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida 2yo); and Oaklawn Invitational S. winner Laughing Fox (Union Rags) ($375,000 OBS March 2yo).
The Lieblongs have also had their blue-and-white colors carried by GI Alabama S. heroine Embellish the Lace (Super Saver), a $320,000 KEESEP yearling purchase. Wicked Whisper was a $500,000 KEESEP yearling graduate as well. Lieblong heads his own investment firm in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Lieblong concluded, “Somebody asked me one time, 'What's your best sale?' That's kind of like asking, 'What store should I go buy my lottery ticket?' It's still about the individual more than the sale. And it's definitely about who's consigning the horse. And that goes for yearling or 2-year-old in training sales.” —@SteveSherackTDN