Market Opens Strong at OBS

Hip 216 | Photos by Z

by Brian DiDonato and Steve Sherack

With the end of the coronavirus pandemic seemingly in sight, and both buyers and sellers eager to return to some semblance of normalcy, the opener of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training featured borderline euphoric trade from start to finish.

A total of 160 head changed hands Tuesday for gross receipts of $18,482,500 at an average of $115,516 and a median of $62,500. The RNA rate as of Tuesday evening stood at 20%. While exact year-to-year comparisons are somewhat difficult due to OBS policy of adding subsequent post-sale transactions to its official statistics, it's clear that participants found a far different market than they did 12 months ago, when the industry and world at large was right on the precipice of COVID-19 shutting down everything and the sport was still trying to weigh the impact of a high-profile doping scandal.

During last year's corresponding session and afterwards, 145 sales were completed for a combined $12,994,500. The average was $89,617 and the median $50,000. The RNA rate was more than 44% at the immediate conclusion of the session.

“It was a very good day,” OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski said at the conclusion of Tuesday's session. “It seemed like it held through the entire sale–a lot of horses got moved, with a very low RNA rate. What was great is that we saw horses trade at a lot of different levels. What we saw pre-sale, from people on the grounds, and that pent-up energy, it bore itself out today, for sure… Kudos to the consignors for the quality of horses that they brought. Without them, it's hard to have a sale, and they did a great job of presenting some horses that people really wanted.”

Nine horses sold for between $500,000 and $550,000 Tuesday, with two sharing top billing–a Violence colt (hip 48, :9 4/5) purchased by Spendthrift Farm from Kirkwood Stables, Agent I; and a Munnings filly (hip 216, :10) bought by agent Donato Lanni from Eddie Woods, Agent VIII.

Woods led all consignors during the first day of trade at OBS March, selling six juveniles for $2.127 million. He sold three head for $500,000 or more Tuesday.

“I think the market has been very good all day,” Woods said. “Even for the handy horses. You've got to remember, we didn't have the Koreans [due to the Korean Racing Authority's temporary restriction on foreign-bred racing imports] who took all those horses in the past. The traffic in the barns has been nothing short of amazing–all the way through until this evening. When you went up there this morning at five to 11 a.m. to walk around the corner, you haven't seen that many people up there in years. It's been very vibrant and positive all week.”

OBS President Tom Ventura noted that pinhookers fared significantly better buying in the 2020 yearling market and selling at March than they did in the corresponding cycle in 2019 and 2020.

“The fall was good in that there was activity, and it was steady,” Ventura said. “I think the pinhookers paid less on average–we know what's in our sale, and it's less on average than it was last year. So at least they're playing in a market that was similar and maybe even a little better right now than it was in the fall, versus last year when they were buying [yearlings] in a normal market [in 2019] and selling in the middle of a pandemic. For the market to do well today–even if the prices are not quite what they were two years ago–the money that's invested in these pinhooks is less. We're very happy with the strength and depth of the market, and hopefully we have a similar day tomorrow.”

Japan's Yuji Hasegawa was the session's top buyer, spending $1.5 million total and $500,000 apiece on three juveniles.

“We do have some Japanese buyers on the grounds, but some of the higher-priced ones were bought online,” noted Ventura. “So, not only is the online bidding part of it, but also the veterinarians in Japan are actually able to access the repository information. They need to have someone on the ground scoping the horse and looking at the horse physically, but technology is helping us from that end too.”

Wojciechowski added, “Our representative in Japan has been telling us that for a number of the horses who have come out of our sales, and out of March in particular, the buyers who purchased those horses are really happy with them, and that's driven them back to the sale.”

Among March grads to succeed in Japan is Cafe Pharoah (American Pharoah), a $475,000 purchase by Emmanuel de Seroux's Narvick International on behalf of Koichi Nishikawa two years ago.

Selling continues Wednesday at 11 a.m. Watch live on

Woods Consignment 'Riding' High After Day One at OBS March

With three offerings bringing a half-million dollars or more during the first session of OBS March–a co-topping $550,000 Munnings filly (purchased by Donato Lanni, agent); a $525,000 War Front colt (purchased by Ron Ellis); and a $500,000 Candy Ride colt (purchased by Yuji Hasegawa)–Eddie Woods led all consignors during the first day of trade, selling six juveniles for $2.127 million.

“It was a spectacular day–a fabulous day,” Woods said. “We haven't had one like this in a while.”

He continued, “I'm just grateful to have good clients that give me nice horses to sell.”

The co-topping Munnings filly (hip 216) is out of the winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Show Me, a half-sister to GSW Aegean (Northern Afleet) and SW Light Bringer (Northern Afleet). The $240,000 KEESEP yearling pinhooking prospect glided through an eighth in :10 at the breeze show. She was bred in Kentucky by Nathan McCauley.

“A spectacular filly,” Woods said. “We paid good money for her when we bought her and she grew up and got stronger and prettier. Her work was amazing and her gallop out was great. Everyone just seemed to love her because she was real easy to like.”

The War Front colt (Hip 202), a grandson of power couple's Robert B. and Beverly J. Lewis brilliant Serena's Song, is out of the stakes-winning Street Cry (Ire) mare Serene Melody. The powerful :10 breezer was bred in Kentucky by Lewis Thoroughbred Breeding. War Front's War Decree, winner of the G2 Qatar Vintage S. and G3 Koffy Diamond S., is also out of a Street Cry mare.

“The War Front colt was very backward as a yearling,” Woods said. “They didn't feel like he was going to bring what he should, so we were very lucky to get him from Mr. Lewis. He's trained beautifully all year. He's gotten better and better as we've gone along. We've always thought he was a serious horse.”

The Candy Ride colt (hip 259), a half-brother to last Saturday's game Essex S. winner and last term's GIII Lecomte S. second and GII Risen Star S. third Silver State (Hard Spun), worked in :10. His SW & GSP dam Supreme (Empire Maker) is from the female family of GI Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos. Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, hip 259 RNA'd for $95,000 as a KEESEP yearling. The Candy Ride/Empire Maker cross is also responsible for MGISW Separationofpowers and GSW Crewman.

“The Candy Ride colt belonged to Stonestreet,” Woods said. “He's another sad story from a yearling sale where he was very small. He's still not overly big, but his video was amazing, and he did grow and round out. He just hit all the spots.” –@SteveSherackTDN

Kirkwood Comes Out Firing at OBS March

Before heading down to Hallandale with his seven-strong 'Gulfstream Gallop' consignment, Kip Elser's Kirkwood Stables had a bullet to fire in Ocala Tuesday.

Hip 48, a well-related son of Violence consigned by Kirkwood Stables, Agent I, brought a co-session-topping $550,000 from Spendthrift Farm following a bullet :9 4/5 breeze.

“Push-button from the beginning,” said Elser, currently on the mend recovering from back surgery. “The horse told us this is what he wanted to do and said, 'This is how I want you to get me there.'”

Hip 48 was previously a $125,000 KEESEP yearling purchase by Steve Schwartz. He is out of the winning mare Lemon Belle, a half-sister to GI Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic heroine Unrivaled Belle (Unbridled's Song), who also produced two-time champion Unique Bella (Tapit). Hip 48 was bred in Kentucky by Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds.

Elser and Schwartz, a California-based lawyer, also teamed up to pinhook the recently retired 2020 GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. winner Mucho Gusto (Mucho Macho Man). The $95,000 KEESEP yearling buy brought $625,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old after RNA'ing for $55,000 at OBS March in 2018. Mucho Gusto was previously a $14,000 KEEJAN short yearling.

Through the Kirkwood consignment, Schwartz was also represented by hip 114, an Empire Maker colt ($50,000 KEESEP; :10 4/5), who brought $50,000 from Rob Bailes, agent for Marshall Dowell, during the first day of trade. Hip 308, a colt by Blame (:10 4/5) ($100,000 KEESEP yearling), sells Wednesday for the duo.

“Very pleased with the outcome, all credit to Steve Schwartz, who bought the horse and the crew who got him ready and presented him,” Elser said. “Congratulations to Spendthrift.”

Elser added, “I am just very lucky that Steve chooses me to be the passenger on the train.”

Kirkwood's upcoming Gulfstream consignment of non-breezing juveniles includes colts by Gun Runner, More Than Ready, Street Sense and Violence. Elser's outside-of-the-box idea was launched at the 2018 sale.

Graduates of his Gulfstream Gallop program so far include: GII Jim Dandy S. runner-up Liveyourbeastlife (Ghostzapper) ($200,000 '19 FTFMAR); GI Runhappy Del Mar Futurity third Defense Wins (Flatter) ($175,000 '19 FTFMAR); and MGSP Splashy Kisses (Blame) ($100,000 '18 FTFMAR).

“Obviously, two very different programs,” Elser said of his OBS March and Gulfstream consignments. “The gallop program was dreamed up by another very brave client. I absolutely believe in the program, but it's not for everyone and it's not for every place. We're looking forward to going to Gulfstream with a very nice group of horses that goes through the gallop program at Gulfstream.” –@SteveSherackTDN

De Seroux Stays Busy

A Cairo Prince colt consigned by Robbie Harris's Harris Training Center LLC, Agent VI as hip 188 garnered a winning bid of $525,000 Tuesday from agent Emmanuel de Seroux of Narvick International, who was active throughout the session.

The :9 4/5 breezer will stay in the U.S. for his racing career, de Seroux said.

“We thought he was a lovely horse; a good mover on the track and very athletic with a nice racing future. We loved the horse,” de Seroux said.

Bred by Cairo Prince's co-owner Namcook Stables and signed for on behalf of another member of that ownership group, Paul Braverman, as a $70,000 KEENOV weanling, the dark bay RNA'd for $110,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling Showcase. He is the first foal out of MSP Sadie Be Good (Big Drama), a $125,000 OBS March grad herself.

“It's very hard to value that kind of horse because, unfortunately, there are other people who like them as well,” de Seroux said when asked about the price. “We were obviously hoping to get him a little cheaper, but there was some competition.”

In total, de Seroux signed for five head for $1,440,000. He also purchased a $525,000 Liam's Map colt (hip 243) from Pick View LLC, Agent V. Out of SP Starlet O'Hara (Discreetly Mine) and a half to MSP Delia O'Hara (Khozan), the grey worked in :20 3/5.

The agent was not surprised to see such strong competition Tuesday.

“I thought there were a lot of people on the grounds looking at the horses,” he said. “It seems like there's a strong interest in racing at the moment. It was very active on the grounds. There are a lot of buyers here.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Into Mischief Filly Heading to Japan

Hip 10 was the first horse to breeze during last week's breeze shows when she covered a furlong in a co-quickest :9 4/5, and it was no surprise Tuesday to see the daughter of scorching-hot Into Mischief cause a stir in the ring as well.

Consigned by de Meric Sales, Agent XVII, the Feb. 15 foal was purchased by Japan's Yuji Hasegawa for $500,000.

Out of 19-year-old MSW Island Escape (Petionville), hip 10 is a half to MGSW Tricky Escape (Hat Trick {Jpn}) and GSP Felifran (Discreet Cat). Bred by Machmer Hall, she was bought back for $250,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.

“We had her in Book 1,” recalled Machmer Hall's Carrie Brogden. “Kyle Wilson, who works for Keeneland, loved two of our Into Mischief fillies. We had six at the time. He picked two for Book 1, our Special Me filly who we ended up selling to Liz Crow for $1.025 million, and this filly. At the time, they were both kind of going against each other, and I think the million-dollar filly just overshadowed this one a little bit. But she had never, ever stepped wrong a day in her life.”

Brogden continued, “Nick de Meric called me after she RNA'd and asked if we'd mind selling a small piece of her and sending her to them to train. Valerie de Meric is my best friend, and I've worked very closely with that family forever, so we said, 'Sure; great.' She went to Valerie and Tristan's to train, and Nick and his partnership owned a minority piece of her. They said from the get-go that she trained like an Into Mischief. They may not be perfect, they may not be 10-feet tall, they may not be this, they may not be that, but they are racehorses through and through. And I think when they come up here, that's what they show.”

Machmer Hall was an early supporter of Into Mischief, having bred one of his first of now countless stakes runners in MGSW $1.4-million earner Vyjack.

The price paid for hip 10 was about what Brogden expected.

“The day after the breeze, once we found out she vetted fine, I texted Valerie and said, 'I have a number in my head. What do you think she can bring?'… I said my number was $500,000–the reserve was significantly lower… I also thought the Japanese might be most interested in her. When she's ready to be a broodmare, it's an outcross pedigree, and the whole family works with Sunday Silence and the Halo line. Her half-sister is by Hat Trick (Jpn) (Sunday Silence). Ultimately, I think she fits well as a racehorse and a broodmare for the Japanese market. I'm thrilled and delighted.”

Hasegawa later landed another :9 4/5 breezing, $500,000 Into Mischief filly in the form of hip 224 from Gene Recio, Agent XI; and a Candy Ride (Arg) colt (hip 259) for the same price out of MSW/GSP Supreme (Empire Maker) from Eddie Woods, Agent XXV.

Hasegawa's three purchases for $1.5 million made him the leading buyer for the session. His prior Stateside purchases include a $1.5-million full-brother to champion Unique Bella (Tapit) at KEESEP '19.

Machmer Hall was also involved in another productive sale early in the session–the Brogdens had a piece of hip 50, a daughter of freshman Mohaymen consigned by Paul Sharp, Agent II.

The $40,000 OBS October buy also breezed in :9 4/5. She's a half to MSW Mother of Dragons (First Dude) out of an Indian Charlie half-sister to MGSP Join in the Dance (Sky Mesa).

“I had Join in the Dance as a 2-year-old with Paul and Sarah Sharp,” Brogden said. “He did not vet even a little bit. He went to the [Fasig-Tipton] Miami sale, he worked lights out, he had eight scopes [but RNA'd for $90,000]. So, we ended up racing him because I couldn't get him sold. He ran second at Churchill Downs and then Arlington, then we sold him to Jake Ballis's group through Kim Valerio.”

Join in the Dance ran second in the 2009 GIII Tampa Bay Derby and ran in that year's GI Kentucky Derby.

“He was our first Kentucky Derby horse, and the closest we've ever gotten to winning it–he ran seventh,” Brogden said. “He was one of the first horses who put Machmer Hall and Paul Sharp Stables in the spotlight when he ran in the Derby.”

Machmer Hall bred hip 50's dam Lets Dance Charlie and sold her for $150,000 as a KEENOV weanling.

“Sarah texted me and said, 'Look, I bought this Mohaymen out of Dance Darling (the dam of Join in the Dance)'s family!' Then we all talked about Join in the Dance and how much he meant to us,” Brogden said. “I asked if I could have a leg of the filly, and she said she thought she was already partnered out and they couldn't do it. So I wished her good luck. She called me back about an hour later and said, 'We think it'll be good luck if you have a leg, so you can come in.' We were thrilled. The first day I saw her was yesterday. She's beautiful; looks like her mother. Sarah and Paul did a great job training her, and I'm really appreciative of Sarah letting me have a piece. We've been friends for a long, long, long time.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Success 'Stori' For Unified Colt

Stori Atchison's Dark Star Thoroughbreds sold its highest-priced juvenile to date Tuesday when Spendthrift Farm went to $400,000 to take home hip 110. From the first crop of fleet-footed MGSW and 'TDN Rising Star' Unified, the handsome dark bay was clocked in a co-quickest :9 4/5 with a particularly fast gallop-out.

The Jan. 22 foal was just a $10,000 KEENOV weanling and a $19,000 Fasig-Tipton October yearling buy by Atchison.

“He was very balanced and strong and there was a lot of potential to work with,” Atchison said when asked what she liked about the colt as a yearling. “He's been very easy and forward from day one–a monster on the racetrack, but very passive and cool in the barn.”

Atchison said the price tag far exceeded her expectations. Having gotten her start working for Ricky Leppala right out of college, she has been operating Dark Star for nine years now. Her previous top seller was a $340,000 Honor Code colt at last year's OBS June sale.

Atchison is looking forward to bringing the rest of her juvenile crop to market: “I have a really good group coming this year–really good April horses, and even really good June horses that we targeted for a later sale.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Fast Break for Cruzin' Thoroughbreds

Brayhan Cruz, consigning for the first time under the Cruzin' Thoroughbreds banner, got the new operation off to a blazing start when he sold a filly by Tonalist (hip 40) for $300,000 to Three Amigos in Ocala Tuesday. Cruz purchased the youngster last year for $10,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

“It's a big number, but I really think she deserved that and more than that,” Cruz said. “She is really special. She trains really good and she's really smart, which says a lot. She is a really young filly. That's why I was really impressed with how she's performed because she's a really young filly, but with a really mature brain.”

Hip 40 is out of graded-placed La Grange (Curlin) and is a half-sister to stakes-placed Whiskey Bound (Afleet Alex). She worked a furlong in :10 flat during last week's under-tack preview.

“She's a flashy  horse and she looked really great with a good body and a good attitude,” Cruz said of the filly's appeal as a yearling. “She really grabbed my attention.”

The filly only got better at Cruz's Ocala base over the winter.

“She grew up a lot,” he said. “She got better. At the beginning, she was a smart filly, but now with the time, she's gotten smarter. It was very easy for her to understand what we were asking her to do.”

While the March sale marked the debut of Cruzin' Thoroughbreds, Cruz has been consigning under a partner's banner in recent years.

He purchased a filly by Not This Time for $8,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September sale and reoffered her through J R Racing Stables at last year's OBS March sale where she sold to John Sacco for $25,000. Named Dirty Dangle, she won the Woodbine Cares S. and was ninth in the GII Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

“I am an exercise rider and that's how everything started,” Cruz said of his involvement in racing. “I rode horses and kept thinking about it and then I got involved in the pinhooking and I liked it. I started to learn about how to buy horses and how to break and train them. And I really liked that. It's a lot of fun and you learn a lot every single day.”

While hip 40 is Cruz's only offering at the March sale, he will offer two more juveniles at the OBS April sale and another two at the OBS June sale.

“We hope to get bigger and bigger in the business and continue making smart decisions,” Cruz said. “And at the same time, making sure people are happy with our horses. The horses don't just end here, I think the career of that filly just started right now.” —@JessMartiniTDN

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