Marching On Through Uncertain Times

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Session-topping Hip 598 in the ring | Photos by Z

by Steve Sherack & Brian DiDonato

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipping below 20,000 as the stock market continues to plummet, it was no surprise that the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale concluded its two-day run with sharp, across-the-board decreases as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to wreak havoc throughout the world.

This year’s two-day sale grossed $27,902,500, good for an average of $95,885 (-34%), a median of $50,000 (-38%) and an RNA rate of 40%. The 2019 auction, held under dramatically different circumstances, grossed $44,422,500, with a $143,762 average, $80,000 median and 24.4% RNA rate at the conclusion of business. A total of 14 juveniles brought $500,000 or more at this sale last year; only six reached that barometer in 2020.

“Certainly, it was kind of a unique week with having to deal with all the external forces–it was kind of new territory for us, trying to hold a sale in the environment in which we’re living right now,” said OBS director of sales Tod Wojciechowski. “All in all, I think it went as good as it could go. There were bright spots throughout both days. We’re happy that we were able to get done… We’re just pleased that we were able to get the sale in–not for our sake, but for the horsemen’s sakes.”

During Wednesday’s session, 146 head grossed $14,893,000, good for a $102,007 (-29%) average and a $55,000 (-42%) median. The RNA rate for the session was 39.9%. During last year’s second session, 147 juveniles changed hands for gross receipts of $21,291,000 at an average of $144,837 and a median of $95,000 before post-sale transactions were reported.

With prestigious meetings like the Keeneland spring stand already canceled and the uncertainty surrounding the remainder of the juvenile sales season or racing season, for that matter, the 2020 OBS March Sale, not surprisingly, lacked breakout horses and featured a number of higher-priced RNAs who likely would’ve changed hands at past March renewals.

“One of the things we did as a company to try and unburden the horsemen this week was that we didn’t charge an RNA commission for this sale,” Wojciechowski noted. “That probably contributed to some of the RNAs that we saw–I’m sure that elevated the RNA rate.

The auction was topped by a daughter of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who brought $650,000 from Northern Farm’s Katsumi Yoshida from the Wavertree consignment during Monday’s opening session.

Seven juveniles brought more than that figure in 2019, led by the $2-million record-setting Chestertown (Tapit), who lines up in Saturday’s $1-million GII TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, and an unraced $1.2-million Pioneerof the Nile colt.

Ciaran Dunne’s Wavertree Stables led all consignors at OBS March with 22 juveniles sold for gross receipts of $3,777,000. Bloodstock agent Mike Ryan was the sale’s leading buyer, purchasing five head for $1,620,000.

A colt from the first crop of Upstart registered a final bid of $600,000 from Mike Ryan to top the second and final day of trade in Ocala. The :21 breezer was consigned by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Agent I.

“For the better horses, it’s better than I thought it was going to be. There are horses getting moved, and that’s vital for the health of our economy in this town,” said consignor Eddie Woods.

There remains plenty of uncertainty as to what to expect for the rest of the traditional 2-year-old sales season. Fasig-Tipton has announced tentative changes to its auction schedule, but OBS must now sit down and determine if and how to reposition its April sale (Apr. 21-24) and June sale (June 10-12).

“I don’t think we can have any expectations at this point–we can just have a lot of hope,” Woods said. “We don’t know when we’re going to have another sale and there are some places that don’t know when they’re going to have another race meet. Those two go hand in hand. That’s especially affecting the middle-of-the-road market here. These guys don’t know when they’re going to get to run a horse again, so why do they need to own another one?”

Bloodstock agent Jacob West echoed similar sentiments.

“I definitely do think there were some horses here bought at a discount compared to what you would’ve assumed they would’ve brought had they been in a sale like this last year,” West said. “When you look up and see where the stock market’s at right now and the world, people’s primary focus right now is their family and themselves and their health. I hate to say it, but they don’t necessarily need to come down here right now and spend hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars on horses. There are real problems going on right now. But, the horse racing world is very resilient. We feel like we constantly get our backs put up against the wall from multiple angles, but we always come out fighting and swinging. You just have to batten down the hatches and weather the storm, and in a couple of weeks or months this thing’s going to turn around and it’ll give some people a bit more confidence buying and selling horses later in the year.”

Wojciechowski said an announcement about OBS’s 2-year-old sales schedule would likely come next week.

“We’ll get together early next week,” he said. “There’s still a lot of news on the horizon, and still a lot of things in turmoil in the world… We’ve been asked quite a bit. For right now, our answer is that the April sale is on the books, but certainly we have to look at everything that’s going on and try to come up with a plan that works well for everyone.”

Ryan Finds Second Coming of Structor…

Prominent agent Mike Ryan seems to have a particular affinity for, and track record with, purchases who remind him of horses off his long list of past successes. In Wednesday’s session-topping $600,000 Upstart colt (hip 598), he saw shades of Structor (Palace Malice), who he purchased for $850,000 here 12 months ago for hip 598’s new owners, Jeff Drown and Don Rachel. Structor, unbeaten in three starts last term including the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, will soon be joined in the Chad Brown barn by hip 598.

“It was quite extraordinary how much he reminded me of Structor–same size, quality, strength,” said Ryan. “He had an aura about him. I felt he was the best horse in the sale… About 20 minutes after I bought him, David Hanley of WinStar, who were the underbidders, came up and said to me, ‘He’s just like Structor isn’t he?’ So, I wasn’t alone on my feeling. He’s a very special horse.”

A $220,000 KEESEP yearling purchase by John and Susan Sykes’s Woodford Thoroughbreds, hip 598 breezed in :21 flat at last Saturday’s breeze show session. The Feb. 12 foal is out of a winning half-sister to MSW and MGSP Brigand (Flatter) and SW Sky Music (Sky Mesa). Brigan was a $925,000 OBSMAR grad himself in 2011.

“The crosses worked–there’s a stakes winner by Flatter and a stakes winner by Sky Mesa under the second dam, so the A.P. Indy line has been very successful with this female line,” Ryan noted. “Plus, with his performance on the racetrack, the way he breezed, he’s a two-turn horse but he’s still got plenty of pace. He galloped out in :32 1/5 and :46 1/5. There’s a lot of Quiet American in him, too [via his second dam], which I like. Quiet American was the broodmare sire of [Ryan-purchased Horse of the Year] Saint Liam… I knew he was going to be expensive. I’m hoping he’s good enough to be on the front of the catalog next year like Structor was this year.”

Ryan made five purchases at the March sale for a combined $1.62 million, four of which were by first-crop sires–he bought another Upstart colt, hip 359, for $280,000; a $380,000 Outwork colt (hip 358); and a $170,000 colt by Speightster (hip 322).

“I’m not opposed to buying freshman sires,” he said. “Structor was by Palace Malice, [GI Kentucky Derby] winner Nyquist, who we bought as a yearling, was by Uncle Mo. If they’re good physicals, it doesn’t really matter to me.

Ryan added, “I was very impressed with both the Outworks and the Upstarts. I bought a yearling by Outwork last year, but I didn’t buy any by Upstart–I hadn’t seen too many of them. It became very evident to me watching the breeze show live that every one of them moved well. They’re good, easy movers. They have a low-to-the-ground action. Then, when I went back to the barn and looked at them, I was impressed with them physically. I’m sure there will be a great demand for people wanting to breed to the horse now on that $10,000 stud fee. He’s not an expensive horse, but he’s sure breeding quality.”

Upstart, a stakes winner and MGISP at two and GSW at three and four, stands at Airdrie Stud.

As for the market this week, Ryan said: “I know there are an awful lot of horses who didn’t find new homes, but I think it was good for the very nice horses. I’d say, under that, it was tough. It certainly seems like it was all or nothing.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Stonestreet Swoops in for Bernardini Filly…

Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables swooped in Wednesday to take home the day’s top-priced filly, a daughter of Bernardini offered by Eddie Woods, Agent XVIII as hip 424. The $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga grad covered a quarter in :21 flat last week.

“Three weeks ago, yes, I thought she’d bring a lot of money because of the style of her, the way she looks, the way she works, etc. Then, you run into negativity here. Because of everything that’s going on, you get concerned,” Woods said when asked if the price was what he expected given current market forces. “Yesterday, I still wasn’t so sure, but as this morning went on with the action she had I was pretty certain she was going to sell well. Did I think she’d bring $575,000? No.”

The May 2 foal was a $400,000 in utero purchase by Machmer Hall at the 2017 Keeneland November sale. Her dam is an unraced full-sister to MGISW Old Fashioned (Unbridled’s Song). Second dam Collect Call (Meadowlake) was a graded stakes winner herself and was third in the 2001 GI Kentucky Oaks. This is also the family of GISW Mitterand (Hold Your Peace) and her speedy GSW and sire son French Deputy (Deputy Minister).

“She’s very elegant, she’s beautiful,” Woods said of hip 424. “She’s still a bit immature–her butt’s still in the air, so she’s got to grow again a little bit. But she moves beautifully. She’s a lady; she’s a really classy-acting, quiet filly.”

Stonestreet has done very well with daughters of Bernardini, including GISWs Cavorting and Rachel’s Valentina. —@BDiDonatoTDN

O’Neill Bringing Home the ‘Best’…

Bidding on behalf of longtime client and two-time GI Kentucky Derby-winning owner J. Paul Reddam, bloodstock agent Dennis O’Neill signed for a $550,000 Constitution colt and a $340,000 Uncle Mo filly at OBS March Wednesday. Both juveniles will be trained by his younger brother Doug O’Neill.

“I really wanted the Constitution and I really wanted the Uncle Mo,” said Dennis O’Neill, who selected Reddam’s aforementioned Derby winners I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley) ($35,000 OBS April) and Nyquist (Uncle Mo) ($400,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida) as 2-year-olds in training. “I thought she was the best filly in the sale and he was the best colt. I got those two, so I’m very happy and Doug will be even happier.”

Constitution has gotten off to a scorching start at stud, led by Triple Crown hopefuls Tiz the Law, Independence Hall and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Gouverneur Morris.

Consigned by Wavertree Stables, Inc. (Ciaran Dunne), Agent I, as Hip 386, the son of Constitution breezed a quarter in :20 4/5 at the under-tack show (ThoroStride Video Inspection). Bred in Kentucky by J Stephen McDonald, he was a $95,000 KEESEP yearling purchase by Red Wings. The bay was produced by a Smart Strike-winning daughter of MGSW Roshani (Fantastic Light).

“Obviously, Constitution is on fire right now,” O’Neill said. “[Hip 386] had the look. He’s a gorgeous horse–nice size, and very correct and we absolutely loved his breeze. We bought [GIII Nashua S. winner and GIII Sam F. Davis S. runner-up] Independence Hall [to pinhook as a 2-year-old for $100,000 at Keeneland September] last year as a yearling. I’ve turned into a big Constitution fan. Strongconstitution [$220,000 OBS April purchase and last November’s GIII Bob Hope S. runner-up] is coming back and doing really well. Doug is real high on him. I tried to buy quite a few last year and got shut out on a bunch. They are just gorgeous horses. Boy, is he stamping them.”

The Uncle Mo filly, consigned as Hip 443 by Paul Sharp, Agent VI, and bred in Kentucky by Joseph Allen, covered an eighth in :10 1/5 at the breeze show. She was a $150,000 yearling purchase by Timber Stables at last year’s FTSAUG sale.

The half-sister to European stakes-placed runners Romeo Lima (Medaglia d’Oro) and Camp Courage (War Front) is out of three-time winner Storybook (UAE) (Halling), herself a half-sister to G1 Dubai World Cup winner African Story (GB) (Pivotal {GB}). Hip 443’s third dam is 1994 GI Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup S. heroine Danish (Ire) (Danehill).

“I kept telling Paul that she was my female Nyquist,” O’Neill said. “She’s real racey and athletic looking. I just loved her breeze and she galloped out really good. She looks like she’ll run all day. She’s a very classy filly. The big thing with her was–I take them out two–three times at the barn–and she never had a lip chain on or anything like that. We’re really excited to get her in the barn.”

O’Neill’s other OBS March purchases included: Hip 169, a $100,000 Blame colt (consigned by de Meric Sales, Agent XI; :10 1/5); and Hip 364, a $70,000 Speightster colt (consigned by Golden Rock Thoroughbreds, Agent VI; :10 2/5).

“It is bizarre,” O’Neill said of the current market in these extenuating circumstances. “There were quite a few horses like the Constitution colt that I thought would sell for a bit more. Guys bid $300,000-$400,000 and they start getting shaky. I think a lot of these agents have been told by owners that they don’t want to get too crazy this year. The lower end has just been horrible. Horses for $20,000-$60,000 were probably $80,000-$100,000 last year. It just seems like there’s not enough people here for that lower market.” –@SteveSherackTDN

Tapizar Colt Heading to Japan…

A well-related 2-year-old colt by Tapizar from a deep Allen Paulson family is heading to Japan after bringing $500,000 from Emmanuel de Seroux’s Narvick International at OBS March Wednesday.

The :10 flat breezer out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Allencat was consigned by Brick City Thoroughbreds, Agent III, as Hip 550. He went through the ring two previous times as a yearling, realizing $60,000 at KEEJAN and $135,000 at FTKJUL. Bred in Kentucky by Kendall E. Hansen, M.D. Racing, he is a half-brother to MSW Miss Frost (Curlin) and SP Prizefighting (Smart Strike). His second dam is GI Santa Ana H. heroine Pharma (Theatrical {Ire}) and his third dam is four-time champion Committed (Hagley). Both were campaigned by Paulson.

Koichi Nishikawa’s unbeaten Cafe Pharoah (American Pharoah), currently leading the way on the Japan Road to the GI Kentucky Derby with an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Hyacinth S. at Tokyo Racecourse, brought $475,000 from Narvick International at this sale last year. Hip 550 was purchased for a different Japanese owner, per de Seroux.

“He’s a beautiful horse who had a great temperament,” said de Seroux, a longtime former advisor to the late Paulson. “He was walking around like he owned the place. He never got nervous about anything, and on the track, he had a beautiful action. We liked everything about him. He comes from one of Allen Paulson’s great female lines, so I was very familiar with the family. We’re very happy to have him.”

Narvick International also acquired:

Hip 229, a $150,000 Mineshaft colt (consigned by Hawk’s Nest; :10);

Hip 300, a $200,000 Upstart colt (consigned by Brick City Thoroughbreds, Agent X; :21 2/5);

Hip 552, a $160,000 More Than Ready filly (consigned by Wavertree Stables, Inc.; :20 4/5); and

Hip 568, a $350,000 Medaglia d’Oro colt (consigned by Sequel Bloodstock, Agent IV; :10 1/5).

“There are some very nice horses here,” said de Seroux, adding that the More Than Ready filly was purchased for a client in California. “It’s just a pity what’s happening, but we all have to deal with the situation and hope it’s going to work out as soon as possible.” –@SteveSherackTDN

West Lands Frosted Colt for Repole…

Bloodstock agent Jacob West went to $420,000 Wednesday to secure a Frosted colt (hip 456) on behalf of Mike Repole from Kings Equine, Agent XIV. The $115,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga grad breezed in :10 flat.

He is half to GSP Der Lu (Orb) and SP Smartly Agree (Smart Strike), and his second dam is GISW Dream of Summer (Siberian Summer), who produced GISWs Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) and Destin (Giant’s Causeway) and GSW Vexatious (Giant’s Causeway).

“When OBS sent out the catalog and you were flipping through it, his page was one you’d turn down–he had arguably one of the best pedigrees in the sale,” West said. “From a stallion perspective, Frosted was an incredible horse and there’s a female side of the pedigree there as well. When you saw him breeze in :10 flat and gallop out the way that he did, he was a horse that was easy to get excited about.

“He’s a strong horse out of a Forestry mare–a very good broodmare sire. He had all the stuff you look for and hope to see when they breeze good and you go back to the barn. All of the things we’re looking for, he had. We’re just excited about getting him.”

When asked if he’d secured other members of Frosted’s first crop last term as yearlings, West said, “I didn’t get to buy that many of them [at the yearling sales] because the ones we wanted and the ones we chased were just too expensive. I have a lot of respect for the horse. He was arguably one of the most talented horses of that crop and of generation–I think those were some real horses he was running with and holding his own against them.”

West confirmed that hip 456 would be trained by Todd Pletcher. —@BDiDonatoTDN

Productive Session Start to Finish for Pikes…

Wednesday’s OBS March session kicked off with a bang for Al Pike’s Pike Racing. The Louisiana-based consignor first sold an Anchor Down colt (hip 347) for $270,000 to Peachtree’s John Fort, and quickly followed up with a $380,000 son of Outwork (hip 358) who went to Mike Ryan.

“We knew we had some nice horses–they did their job on the track, they came back and were clean; really nice individuals,” said Pike’s son Colt. “We had a pretty good idea that they would go over well.”

Hip 347, a $47,000 Fasig-Tipton October yearling from his sire’s first crop, shared the :9 4/5 bullet during last week’s under-tack previews. He is a grandson of Florida MSW Devilish Brunette (Diablo), making his debut-winning dam a half to GSW Devilish Lady (Sweetsouthernsaint).

“I think people were thinking he was going to be a little too big even then, but he had all the right parts,” Pike said of the grey’s yearling price, which was above the Gainesway resident’s average and median but well below his top sellers last season. “We loved him and decided to take a shot.”

As for how the colt has blossomed since then, he said, “He’s about 16.3–he’s a really big horse, but he just moves so well. He worked in :9 4/5, and just has a really big stride. Some people were telling us that he looked really good on stride analysis. For a big horse to work that fast is kind of special.”

Hip 358 covered a furlong in :10 flat. He hails from the deep family of Stuart Janney III-bred and campaigned GSWs Onus (Blame), Ironicus (Distorted Humor), On Leave (War Front), Norumbega (Tiznow), Hunting (Coronado’s Quest) and Quiet Harbor (Silver Deputy), et al.

“He’s just been a barn pet–he’s got a great mind on him,” Pike said. “Really easy to deal with, and he seems pretty special as well.”

Colt paid $45,000 for the Apr. 19 foal as a Keeneland November weanling, and Al signed the $155,000 ticket on him as a KEESEP yearling.

“I bought him with some clients as a weanling,” Colt said. “I fell in love with him at November. He was a really little guy, and he was really fuzzy, but he was well put together and looked fast to me. Plus, he had a really good pedigree underneath him, so we took him home and he grew into a monster. I’m really happy that my dad was able to get him.”

When asked about fellow freshman Outwork, he said, “My dad has a couple of Outworks back at home that he thinks can run as well, so he’s been very impressed with them. Since we’ve had this horse, I think I’m going to start sending more client mares to Outwork. If they’re anything like him, I think they’re going to run at the track.”

The Pikes finished up their day by selling the last horse in the catalog, hip 681, for $260,000 to Steve Landers. The :10 flat breezer was a $125,000 Fasig-Tipton October yearling and is the first foal out of a Munnings daughter of stakes-winning juvenile Hurricane Bernie (Sea of Secrets). Two-time GI Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint heroine Mizdirection (Mizzen Mast) is under the third dam.

“He’s gone over just as well as the other two, so we have high hopes for him,” Pike said after hips 347 and 358 sold. “He’s a little bit different type–he’s not as big as the other two, but he has one of the best walks maybe on the sales grounds. He’s all muscle; he’s got a great hip and shoulder. Then once they see him walk, they fall in love with him.”

Pike Racing has consigned most of its horses at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale and at regional sales in Louisiana and Texas in recent years. This was their first time selling at OBS since 2015.

“I’ve been coming down here and working for some people on the buying side–helping guys like Raymie Lightner and Peter Miller,” Colt noted. “We have a bunch of client horses at home, and my dad hadn’t been coming down to OBS. But we’re looking to expand our business and we have a new pinhooking syndicate with a really good group of guys, so I said, ‘Dad, we’ve got a bunch of really nice colts this year. We can’t have them all going to the same sales. We’re going to have to spread them out.’ So we picked out the early ones, and Chad Johnson with OBS–he’s got a great eye–said, ‘You bring me these, and I promise you if they do their job you’re going to make a lot of money.”@BDiDonatoTDN

Meah/Baltas Re-Fuel at OBS…

A juvenile half-sister to the ultra-talented filly Gas Station Sushi (Into Mischief) from the first crop of GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Hit It a Bomb will be heading to the Southern California stable of trainer Richard Baltas after bringing $200,000 from Meah/Lloyd Bloodstock at OBS March.

Gas Station Sushi, a $240,000 purchase herself by bloodstock agent David Meah on behalf of a partnership group at this same sale from the Old South Farm consignment three years ago, won three of four career starts for Baltas, headed by visually impressive victories after missing the start in Keeneland’s GIII Beaumont S. and a runaway front-running decision in her career finale in the Beverly J. Lewis S. at Los Alamitos.

Gas Station Sushi brought $675,000 from her breeder Spendthrift Farm at the 2018 FTKNOV Sale. The 5-year-old had a colt by Lord Nelson this year and will be bred back to Omaha Beach for 2021.

Consigned by Harris Training Center LLC, Agent III, as Hip 63, the Hit It a Bomb filly breezed an eighth in :10 1/5 at the OBS March under-tack show. Bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm, she was previously a $95,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by Boomer Bloodstock on behalf of Solana Beach Sales.

Hip 63 is out of SW & GSP Five Star Daydream (Five Star Day), also the dam of the highly regarded Starlit Daydream (Can the Man), who finished third as the favorite in her unveiling for Todd Pletcher at Gulfstream last month.

“We were very impressed with how she breezed, but a bit partial because of the family,” Meah said. “I was underbidder at Keeneland September on her. She went to Robbie Harris here in Ocala and that’s where we send nearly all of our babies. I had actually seen her a couple of times throughout the winter and I was there to see one of her last breezes before the sale. She did everything right. She was one that we really zoned in on. Richie liked her a lot, too.

Meah continued, “She’s a strong-bodied filly, just like Gas Station Sushi. There were a lot of similarities. She’s a bit darker in color, but other than that, physically, the same. Sushi went :10 flat when she breezed here and this filly went in :10 1/5. This work was a little bit easier on the eyes, not that Sushi didn’t look good, she looked great when she worked, too. I just thought this filly was very efficient with how she moved, maybe even more so than Sushi. We believed Gas Station Sushi was a legitimate Grade I filly. She was actually too fast for her own good.” —@SteveSherackTDN

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