Million-Dollar Babies Propel OBS to Records

Hip 360 in full flight during her under-tack preview | Courtney Stafford

by Steve Sherack and Brian DiDonato

OCALA, Florida–A number of break-out juveniles, including four who eclipsed the seven-figure mark during Wednesday's final session, helped propel the 2017 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training to records in gross and average.

The sale in its entirety saw 300 head find new homes for gross receipts of $56,627,000 at an average price of $188,757–eclipsing marks set in 2015 and 2014, respectively. The median was $100,000, while the RNA rate was 27.5%.

At the 2016 OBS March renewal, 320 juveniles changed hands for a combined $51,288,000. The average was $160,275 and median was $102,500. The RNA percentage was 25%.
Due to OBS policy of recalculating sales statistics to include subsequent post-sale transactions, year-to-year comparisons are slightly inexact at this time.

“It was an exciting day,” OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski commented. “The session felt real strong all through the day. Then when you add the numbers from [Tuesday], we set a number of records for the sale–record [cumulative] gross and [cumulative] record average. This is also the first sale that we've sold five, million-dollar-plus horses in one sale, too. People that maybe got shut out in other spots came here and played hard.

He continued, “We were very pleased with the catalog that we put out and we were pleased with the horses when we saw them physically. The days leading up to the sale, there was certainly a bevy of activity here on the grounds and that kind of buoyed the spirits of everyone–consignors and us as well.”

For Wednesday's session, 152 juveniles brought a total of $29,791,500 at an average of $195,997. The median was $90,000, and the RNA rate was 26.2%.

Topping the session and the sale was a Congrats filly (hip 360 | :9 4/5) acquired by agent Kerri Radcliffe on behalf of an undisclosed client. The dark bay miss was consigned by McKathan Bros., Agent III on behalf of Zayat Stables. Radcliffe was leading buyer for the sale with three purchases for a combined $2,925,000.

Top-end strength and market polarization continued to rule the day, as it has at virtually every sale in recent memory.

“It's not unlike the things we've seen throughout last year and the beginning of this year–there's certainly strength at the top,” Wojciechowski said. “I think we would all like to see the middle market more robust and we continue to strive for that, but we were glad that we got done what we did.”

There were five million-dollar horses this year, compared to two 12 months ago; plus another three who each brought $950,000, and two more who cost $900,000. Hip 462, a More Than Ready colt who fired the bullet :9 3/5 breeze, was bought back for $950,000. There were 30 horses in 2017 who brought $500,000 or more versus 17 in 2016.

Eddie Woods led the way among all consignors with 23 sold for $8.05 million throughout the two-day sale; de Meric Sales sold 26 for $4.56 million; and Crupi's New Castle Farm rounded out the trifecta with 12 sold for $4.23 million.

“The market was… kind of strange, but very good at the same time,” Woods said shortly after the conclusion of the sale. “It was all top-end–just everyone saying the same thing. But we got a lot of money for some horses and just way beyond evaluations and everything like that. That is what the market deemed they were going to bring. If you were unfortunate to be involved with the others, there was nobody home.”

Woods continued, “There's a top and there's a bottom. There's only money for the good horses and small money for the bad horses. There's no middle market, period.”

Radcliffe Gets Congrats From, and For, Baffert

Agent Kerri Radcliffe, so active at Fasig-Tipton Florida and at Tuesday's OBSMAR opener, continued her spending spree Wednesday, stretching to a sale-topping $1.7 million for a Congrats filly offered by McKathan Bros., Agent III as hip 360.

Just a $60,000 KEEJAN short yearling, the Feb. 13 foal was acquired by Zayat Stables for $250,000 at Keeneland September, and multiplied her value once again after a powerful :9 4/5 co-bullet breeze during the second of three under-tack sessions last week.

The filly was acquired on behalf of an undisclosed new client, and will be sent to Bob Baffert in California. The Hall of Fame conditioner was one of the first to congratulate Radcliffe, and could be heard telling her he was proud of her.

“I'm very privileged,” Radcliffe said, while clearly still full of adrenaline from the bidding war she had just been engaged in. “I loved the filly from the minute I saw her breeze. I thought, 'This is the one I want.' We went to see her, and she was beautiful. She's the standout of the sale, and I wanted her from the start.”

She added, “It's all up to Mr. Baffert now.”

Hip 360 is a granddaughter of GII Alcibiades S. heroine Westerly Breeze (Gone West) and hails from the family of several other solid 2-year-olds, including MGISP Ocean View and her GSW son Officer Rocket (GB).

“She was an outstanding filly in her breeze,” Radcliffe continued. “She'd done it so easily. She's class–she's got everything. She's all class.”

Zayat Sales Experiment Certainly a Success

Zayat Stables made the decision to put six members of their large and promising group of 2-year-olds into this year's Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale, and enter another 10 at OBS March (read more: Zayats Test Juvenile Market), and that decision appears to have clearly paid off.

The three horses who sold at Fasig brought a combined $1.35 million, and the five they let go of at OBS went for a total of $3.385 million, including yesterday's sale-topping Congrats filly and a $1-million Pioneerof the Nile colt (see 'Lows Go High for POTN Colt).

“We appreciate it–we're very, very happy and we've just been trying to stay humble all day,” Justin Zayat said when reached by phone. “We run our operation as a business. We really loved all the horses we had in the sale, and we get very emotionally attached to all these horses, but at the same time we don't want to lose sight of the business. We thought they would all sell well and we knew they'd vet well, and that's happened.”

Zayat was understandably pleased with the auction results, but is also excited for the group of juveniles his family's operation still plans to race.

“We're very happy with the sale, obviously, and hopefully that'll be the start of many,” he offered.” We sold eight horses between Fasig-Tipton Florida and OBS March, and we're at about a 200% ROI, so we're pretty happy with what we sold. We have a crop of 65 2-year-olds at the farm right now, so we still have a loaded crop that we're really excited about–Frankels, Giant's Causeways, Speightstowns, Curlins, Pioneerof the Niles–you name it. So we're very excited for the rest of the crop to come out and shine this summer, as well.”

Zayat admitted he had very high expectations for the $1.7-million Congrats filly.

“I really thought she was going to top the sale, and once she put in the really quick work over there, I was even more confident,” he said. “But at the same time, she's not a Tapit filly. But we knew the competition was there, and it would just be a question of who wanted her the most…Kerry Radcliffe did a great job, and Bob Baffert gets to train her, so I'm sure when I go to California I'll be able to see her…I wish them luck with her–she looks like she's a freak of nature.”

One who the Zayats decided not to part with was hip 79, a full-brother to GI Prioress S. upsetter Lighthouse Bay (Speightstown) who stopped the clock in a co-fastest :9 4/5 last Thursday. The $300,000 Keeneland September grad was consigned by Top Line Sales, and bought back for $675,000 Tuesday.

“Sometimes when these things happen at the sale, they're a blessing in disguise,” Zayat commented. “We've had a lot of horses–Bodemeister, Paynter, Pioneerof the Nile, even [Triple Crown] winner American Pharoah–who we put in sales, but didn't end up selling, so we're very hopeful that happens with this one, too.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

The 'Best' Is Yet to Come

Lawrence Best, seated by himself inside the pavilion, continued his high-profile shopping spree with another pair of well-bred, seven-figure juveniles during the second session of the OBS March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, going to $1.1 million for a Tapit filly and $1.05 million for a colt by Arch. Both were purchased from Tom McCrocklin's consignment.

The newcomer's OXO Equine LLC also acquired two of three highest-priced lots at Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream earlier this month from Cary Frommer's consignment–a $1.5-million daughter of Uncle Mo and a $1.1-million son of More Than Ready. Best, who just began buying horses at last year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale, revealed that Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer would train his OBS March purchases on the West Coast. His Gulfstream buys are heading to the Chad Brown barn.

A native of Boston, Best founded the investment company OXO Capital LLC and he also served as chief financial officer of the medical device company Boston Scientific Corporation.

“I am new to the space, but I'm a person that believes in quality,” Best commented after making his second purchase of the day. “In this space, you need to be disciplined in terms of the quality, and you just have to live with your calls. So far, I've accomplished nothing. I've not even started a single horse in a single race. There's no reason to congratulate me on anything. I've accomplished nothing, but I hope to. With two good trainers, it's now up to them.”

Both of Best's OBS March purchases have plenty of pedigree punch on their pages. The Arch colt was produced by a winning daughter of Heavenly Prize (Seeking the Gold) while the Tapit filly is out of a graded stakes-placed daughter of Azeri (Jade Hunter).

“I was looking for a filly to send out to Jerry Hollendorfer to get a West Coast presence,” Best said. “I liked the Tapit. It breezed very well. I liked the pedigree on the sheet. So, we will see. Jerry blessed it. We'll see what he can do with it.

“On the colt, I watched it throughout the last two days. It's a very good-looking horse. Hard, hard runner. Breezed well. I'm also sending that out to Jerry. We'll see what Jerry can do with a new filly and a new colt.”

Bloodstock agent Mike Ryan was direct underbidder on the Arch colt. “Hell of a horse,” Ryan said before congratulating Best on winning the battle. “He makes the hair stand up on the back of your head.” –@SteveSherackTDN

Pair of Million Dollar 2yos for McCrocklin

Few could've had a better day at the office in Ocala, Florida, Wednesday afternoon than consignors Tom and Sharon McCrocklin.

The couple enjoyed a pair of seven-figure transactions during the second day of trade, selling a $1.1-million Tapit filly and $1.05-million Arch colt. Larry Best's OXO Equine LLC bought both of them.

The McCrocklins were also represented by last year's topper at the OBS April Sale, a $1.2-million son of Broken Vow.

The Tapit filly got things started Wednesday in Ocala. Bred in Kentucky by Robert and Lawana Low, Hip 349, a granddaughter of the legendary Azeri (Jade Hunter), was consigned by Tom McCrocklin, Agent I, on behalf of the Lows. The Mar. 26 foal worked a quarter in :21 2/5 at the breeze show.

“She's always been a really neat little filly,” Sharon McCrocklin commented back at Barn 7 on another unseasonably chilly day in Central Florida. “She's always impressed us. It's just been really exciting to see her come along–it really has.”

The Lows campaigned the Tapit filly's dam Arienza (Giant's Causeway), an $800,000 KEESEP yearling purchase who began her career with a pair of sharp wins and a runner-up finish in the GII Fantasy S. at Oaklawn in 2011. Standouts to race for the longtime owners and breeders include: the brilliant 1996 GI Test S. heroine Capote Belle (Capote) and 2006 GI Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Steppenwolfer (Aptitude).

“Tom has been training and breaking for [the Lows] for around 15 years or so,” she continued. “They have been wonderful–they're wonderful to work for. They always have nicely bred horses and we always like to do well for them. That's really what makes this the most exciting thing is that you've done well for them.”

Arienza is also represented by a 2016 Hard Spun filly and she was bred back to Pioneerof the Nile.

The Arch colt, meanwhile, consigned by Tom McCrocklin, Agent II, as Hip 515, covered a quarter mile in a swift :20 4/5 at the under-tack show.

The dark bay, a $110,000 RNA as a KEESEP yearling, is out of the winning Forestry mare Enhancing, herself a daughter of the great Heavenly Prize (Seeking the Gold). The Arch colt was bred in

Kentucky by Larry and Karen Doyle's KatieRich Farms. This is also the family of Pure Prize (Storm Cat) and Good Reward (Storm Cat). Enhancing has also produced a 2016 Hard Spun filly and was bred back to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“It feels really good and I know Tom is really proud,” Sharon McCrocklin concluded. –@SteveSherackTDN

Lows Go High for POTN Colt

Robert and Lawana Low sold a Tapit granddaughter of Hall of Famer Azeri (hip 349) for $1.1 million Wednesday at OBS March, and immediately reinvested those funds in hip 586, a Pioneerof the Nile colt who cost a cool $1 million. The latter worked in :20 4/5, and was sold by Eddie Woods, Agent XIV, on behalf of Zayat Stables, who acquired the Mar. 12 foal for $240,000 as a KEENOV weanling. Jacob West, director of bloodstock services for Three Chimneys Farm, bid on behalf of the Lows while standing next to Jimmy Crupi.

The bay colt is a granddaughter of SW/GSP Holy Bubbette (Holy Bull), who produced MGSW Cairo Prince (Pioneerof the Nile) and GISP juvenile Nonna Mia (Empire Maker), who in turn is the dam of last year's GI Wood Memorial S. winner Outwork (Uncle Mo); SW Nonna's Boy (Distorted Humor); and two-for-two 3-year-old filly Nonna Bella (Stay Thirsty).

“They've raced some big time colts, love Pioneerof the Nile like everybody, he's got a Classic pedigree,” West said of the colt. “He's got Outwork under the second dam, out of a Forestry mare. The crosses work–he's a lovely horse.”

Todd Pletcher, who trained Outwork and Nonna's Boy and who still conditions Nonna Bella, will get hip 586, as well.

“The rest is up to God and Todd Pletcher,” West quipped. —@BDiDonatoTDN

Claiborne Family Good to Walden & Taylor Once Again

Kentucky horsemen Ben Walden, Jr. and Larry Taylor have made it a focus to seek out mares from deep Claiborne Farm families, and were rewarded once again for their strategy Wednesday when a Medaglia d'Oro colt already named Apostle out of a half-sister to champion Blame (Arch) garnered a winning bid of $900,000 from trainer Eddie Plesa on behalf of Karl and Cathi Glassman, who were seated alongside him and with Plesa's wife Laurie.

The :10 2/5 breezer was consigned to the sale by Stephens Thoroughbreds LLC, Agent I as hip 345. He was bought back by Walden and Taylor for $525,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale.

Dam Apt (A.P. Indy), a descendent of blue-hen Special, who was responsible for Nureyev and the dam of Sadler's Wells, was a decent fourth at Aqueduct first out in her lone start, but was scooped up by Walden's Pauls Mill and Taylor for $35,000 in foal to Afleet Alex at the 2012 Keeneland November sale.

The updates immediately started rolling in, with Apt's previous produce Carve (First Samurai) hitting the board in the 2013 GI Arkansas Derby before making the grade the following season; Apropos (First Samurai) annexing Oaklawn's 2014 American Beauty S. before finishing third in Keeneland's GI Madison S.; and Jeremy Noseda trainee Sloane Avenue (Candy Ride {Arg} missing by a dirty nose to eventual GI Breeders' Cup Mile hero Tamarkuz (Speightstown) in the 2015 G2 Godolphin Mile.

“We've been buying these middle-aged Claiborne, deep-family mares for 25-30 years,” Walden explained. “Every time they show up in a catalog in [Keeneland] November or January, we look for them and try to buy as many as we can. Those families are so deep and precious, and Claiborne has done such a good job developing them.”

Of Apt specifically, he recalled, “We were shocked we got her, because at that time [Calumet Farm's] Brad Kelley was buying up every A.P. Indy mare that came through the ring. I waited for her, and we got her for $30,000, and right before that sale, Apropos broke her maiden pretty impressively at Keeneland. Then she wound up winning a stakes and became Grade I-placed; Carve got on a roll, ran third in the Arkansas Derby and was on the Derby trail for a long time; Sloane Avenue was second in the [G2] Godolphin Mile after winning a listed race in England, and before you knew it, she was a very valuable mare.”

Walden revealed that Apt had visited Uncle Mo earlier this week, and that the unraced Afleet Alex filly who Apt was carrying when she was acquired–named My Hope, after Walden's daughter–was recently bred to Medaglia d'Oro.

He cited Multiply, the eventual dam of MGISW Corinthian, as another Claiborne mare that has been good to him. He purchased her as a short yearling for just $20,000 at the 1994 Keeneland January sale, and sold yearlings out of her for $2.2-million and $850,000.

“I'm just so proud to be a part of some of these mares that Claiborne has had,” he said. “We've got quite a few of them at home that we hope we can continue on with.”

Karl Glassman is president and CEO of Missouri-based Leggett & Platt, a large, diversified manufacturer of various components and products. The Glassmans have already campaigned several horses with Plesa, including last year's stakes winner April Gaze (High Cotton).

“It was a little higher [than we expected to go], but he's a good horse and I think he's worth it,” Cathi Glassman offered. “We just loved his pedigree, the way he looked and how he ran–we really liked him.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Young Grabs Union Rags Colt

Agent Steve Young was the last man standing in the battle for hip 488 Wednesday afternoon. When the dust settled, he was left holding the ticket for $900,000 for the son of the popular Union Rags. A $90,000 Keeneland September acquisition by Hal Hatch, the colt breezed in a swift :10 flat. He was consigned to the sale by Hatch's Halcyon Hammock Farm, which has continued to churn out fast breezers and high prices here in recent years.

“He's a very, very fast horse, and he comes from an old Hobeau Farm family that I like a lot,” said Young, who declined to reveal who he was buying for. “Obviously, when you spend that kind of money for a horse, you've got to like him, but he has unlimited potential as far as we're concerned.”

Savvy bloodstock investor Fred Hertrich III paid $55,000 for hip 488's dam Delightfully So (Indian Charlie) as an unraced 3-year-old out of the Fares Farm dispersal at the 2013 Keeneland January sale, and won twice with her later that year. The Union Rags colt is her first foal, and her year-younger Bodemeister colt brought $130,000 at last year's Keeneland November sale.
Delightfully So is a half to historic Hobeau Farm's MGSW/GISP millionaire Delightful Kiss (Kissin Kris), as well as Canadian champion 2-year-old filly Delightful Mary (Limehouse), who was a $500,000 OBS April grad in 2010 before finishing third in that fall's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

“I had a lot of respect for Delightful Mary, and Delightful Kiss won the Ohio Derby and was a very good horse for Hobeau,” Young added. “Plus [hip 488] stands on his own merit.”
When asked about the market as a whole, Young responded:

“I think the good horses bring a lot of money, and I think there are a lot of good horses here, but there are some horses who have brought a lot more money than I thought they would… But that's what these types of horses cost, so they're not overpaying–the market is what it is.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Servis 'Taps' Into Juvenile Market

Trainer John Servis fought off all challengers to land an $875,000 Tapit colt for an undisclosed client during the second day of trade at the OBS March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

“He's a big, immature colt,” Servis said after being thanked by consignor Nick de Meric out back. “He's got a great walk on him, a great disposition and is very athletic looking–he looks like a good horse.”

Servis was back in the spotlight courtesy of last year's GI Kentucky Oaks heroine Cathryn Sophia (Street Boss). He, of course, also trained the popular 2004 dual Classic winner Smarty Jones (Elusive Quality).

“With that horse, he had everything going for him, especially being by Tapit,” Servis continued. “So, we knew we were going to have to pay for him, but we were willing. We put a price on him and we were fortunate enough that he fell in our price range.”

The Tapit colt, a $300,000 FTKOCT yearling graduate, was consigned by de Meric Sales, Agent XXX, as Hip 425. He stretched his legs through an eighth in :10 3/5 at the breeze show (ThoroStride Video).

“I don't know if I've ever seen a Tapit as handsome as this guy,” de Meric commented. “He's just an eyeful of an horse. He's got a lot of maturing still to do. To me, there's no ceiling on how good this horse could be–we're going to be reading about this guy six months from now. I'm so excited–John [Servis] does a brilliant job and I think he's in excellent hands.”

The Apr. 11 foal, bred in Kentucky by Doug and Felicia Branham, was produced by seven-time stakes winner and Grade III victress Cherokee Queen (Cherokee Run). She has also produced the multiple stakes-placed Entertainer (Malibu Moon) and had a foal filly by Triple Crown hero American Pharoah earlier this spring.

“It was a little syndicate that we formed,” de Meric replied when asked who he was selling for. “The breeder stayed in for a piece of him and we split up the rest. We all had a little piece of him. It was a fun experience for all involved.” –@SteveSherackTDN

Tiznow Colt Lieblong's Pick of the Sale

Arkansas native Alex Lieblong certainly made his presence felt during his two-day trip to Ocala, acquiring five juveniles at OBS March with an $850,000 son of Tiznow leading the way.
Hip 608, consigned by Eddie Woods, Agent XLIX, was produced by the Mineshaft mare I'm a Flake, a daughter of MGISW November Snow (Storm Cat). Bred in Kentucky by Dixiana Farms, the Apr. 16 foal RNA'd for $40,000 as a KEESEP yearling.

The affable Lieblong, along with his wife JoAnn, campaigned the popular 2014 GI King's Bishop S. winner and $150,000 OBS April 2-year-old graduate The Big Beast (Yes It's True) as well as 2015 GI Alabama S. heroine Embellish the Lace (Super Saver). Lieblong fought off two other determined bidders inside the pavilion for Wednesday's Tiznow colt while seated alongside trainer Ron Moquett.

“I watched his breeze from home,” Lieblong, sporting a 'The Big Beast' cap, commented. “I had two horses circled at home that I watched breeze, and when I got here, the other one was a nice horse, but this one really wowed me. If some of the second dam (November Snow) will come through with him… for a Tiznow to go :20 4/5, that's pretty quick.”

Lieblong's other OBS March purchases include: Hip 57, a $140,000 Flatter colt; Hip 146, a $70,000 Anthony's Cross colt; Hip 357, a $200,000 Paynter colt; and Hip 508, a $75,000 Gio Ponti filly.

“Very, very,” Lieblong replied when asked about how competitive it's been while shopping the OBS March sale. “We stuck under $200,000 for everything else. The Tiznow colt was my pick out of the deal and I had him vetted even before I ever left Arkansas.” –@SteveSherackTDN

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