By Brian DiDonato
The seemingly ever-recent market trend of strength at the top and hit-or-miss results in the middle and lower segments continued during the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, which concluded Wednesday.
Gross receipts for the two-day auction were $42,592,000 compared to $56,510,000 in 2017 when a catalogue with 104 more horses saw 47 more sell. The 2018 cumulative average was $167,685, down 10.7% from last year's record of $187,741, while the median rose by 15.8% to $110,000 from $95,000. The RNA rate was 30% for the sale, compared to 27.3% last year after all post-sale transactions were added into the 2017 numbers. Because of OBS's policy of updating statistics to include subsequent private sales, the RNA rate and other statistics are something of a moving target and are therefore somewhat inexact to compare year over year. Tuesday's buyback rate, for example, had already dropped from 38% to 30% since the prior evening.
The average price Wednesday was $174,444 and the median was $120,000. The RNA rate was 29.2%.
A pair of $775,000 juveniles were tied for Wednesday's priciest: a Strong Mandate colt consigned by Wavertree Stables, Agent V, and purchased by Carolyn Wilson; and an Uncle Mo filly picked up by agents Solis and Litt on behalf of LNJ Foxwoods out of the Eddie Woods consignment.
Wilson, Rivelli Hoping to be BC-Bound Again…
Owner Carolyn Wilson and trainer Larry Rivelli's trips to OBS in 2016 and 2017 translated into starts in the Breeders' Cup, and they're hoping to be heading to Churchill for the 2018 world championships with hip 447. The member of Grade I-winning juvenile Strong Mandate (Tiznow)'s first crop was consigned by Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables, Agent V and cost $775,000 after a very flashy :9 4/5 co-bullet breeze (Click for ThoroStride video).
Wavertree also sold Wilson her prior Breeders' Cup starters: 'TDN Rising Star' Wellabled (Shackleford), a $340,000 OBS April grad who took the 2016 GIII Arlington-Washington Futurity S. and competed in that year's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf; and The Tabulator (Dialed In), who cost $460,000 last March and went three-for-three in the GIII Iroquois S. before most recently finishing fifth in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
“He was the best-looking horse in the sale, In my opinion, no doubt,” Rivelli said. “It was the most athletic breeze–it looked like he did it about as easy as you could do it. These past two years we've made the Breeders' Cup with two that we picked who were pretty nice-priced horses, so we're hoping now we can win one.”
Hip 447 was a $37,000 Keeneland November weanling and $47,000 OBS Winter Mixed Sale buy-back. His four-time-winning Majestic Warrior dam is half to juvenile stakes winner Tiz Blessed (Tiznow).
Of paying that much for a horse by a popular, but still unproven sire, Rivelli said, “He's a son of Tiznow, so you're hoping that some of that rubs off. If you had to pick out an individual in terms of looks–I've seen a million horses in my time–[hip 447] was a beauty. He looks like a 3-year-old.”
Rivelli noted the number of RNAs at this sale overall, and hypothesized that it could have been due to how much pinhookers had to spend for yearlings last year.
“It's kind of the same at this sale,” he said. “The good ones go for a lot of money and the other ones kind of fall through the cracks. There have been a lot of buy-backs, too. I think that the yearling sales were nuts last year with what they were giving for horses.” –@BDiDonatoTDN
LNJ Back for 'Mo'
Agents Alex Solis II and Jason Litt did their bidding while standing by the wall on the left side of the ring.
“She worked fantastic,” Solis said. “Eddie's had her all winter and he kept on telling us how good of a filly she was.”
Hip 459 was bred in Kentucky by Atlas Farm and Conor Doyle. The half-sister to GSW Southern Honey (Colonel John) and MSW Cali Thirty Seven (Eskendereya) is out of the unraced Carson City mare Mama Tia. 'TDN Rising Star' and last term's GI Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity winner McKinzie (Street Sense), disqualified from first and placed second in a wild renewal of last weekend's GII San Felipe S., appears on the page under the second dam.
“She had a nice update in McKinzie,” Solis said. “I watched her work on the farm and she worked phenomenal on the dirt. We're excited. She's a May foal–I think she'll grow up a lot. She's a nice filly.”
A decision on a trainer will be made later, per Solis.
White Birch Adds'Quality' to the Stable
Peter Brant of White Birch Farm, back in the game in a big way after a long hiatus, continued his recent shopping spree at OBS March Wednesday, landing a Quality Road filly for $750,000.
Brant, of course, campaigned 1988 homebred champion sprinter Gulch before shifting his attention to polo. He bought 13 yearlings at Keeneland September alone for gross receipts of $6.46 million in 2017, including a $1-million colt by the aforementioned Lane's End stallion in partnership with Coolmore.
“That was going to be our absolute max–she's quite a nice filly,” said trainer Chad Brown after signing the ticket out back.
Hip 439 was consigned by Eddie Woods, Agent XVI, on behalf of Bradley Thoroughbreds. Bred in Kentucky by Three Chimneys Farm, the :20 4/5 breezer RNA'd for $175,000 at KEESEP. Hip 439 is the first foal out of the winning Not For Love mare Love This Kitty, a half-sister to GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile turf hero Hootenanny (Quality Road). This Edward P. Evans family also includes GI Prioress S. heroine Cat Moves (Tale of the Cat).
Recent impressive 3-year-old filly debut winner at Santa Anita Well Hello is also by Quality Road out of a Not For Love mare.
“We've had a lot of luck getting horses off Eddie [Woods] last year,” Brown said. “Mr. Brant bought a nice filly named Significant Form [winner of last year's GIII Miss Grillo S.] off him [for $575,000] at OBS April. We really liked this horse and Eddie has a lot of confidence in her. She's going to fit right in with what Mr. Brant is looking to do–race at a high level and also build a really good broodmare band for the future.”
More Than Ready Filly Heading to Asmussen…
A More Than Ready filly (hip 420) consigned by Ocala Stud will be heading to Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen's barn after the Phoenix Thoroughbreds team scooped her up for $625,000. The :20 3/5 breezer was bred by the Heath family's Centaur Farm and bought back for $77,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.
“We know a little bit about [More Than Ready], Steve loved him and he's trained about a hundred of them,” said Phoenix's U.S. director of operations Tom Ludt, who was president of Vinery when More Than Ready stood there. “She's very racey and we're hoping to get lucky.”
Out of graded stakes-placed juvenile La Song (Unbridled's Song), who Centaur purchased for $225,000 in foal to Animal Kingdom at KEENOV '14, hip 420 hails from the female family of Grade I-winning 2-year-old Currency Swap. The More Than Ready–Unbridled's Song cross has produced the likes of Asmussen trainee and 'TDN Rising Star' Copper Bullet, who won last year's GII Saratoga Special S.
Ludt said that he hadn't paid much attention to the market overall, but was pleased with how Phoenix had fared: “We stopped on one, so we're three for four. We're happy.”
The Dubai-based Thoroughbred investment fund picked up two other fillies Tuesday for an overall outlay of $1.9 million to be top buyer. –@BDiDonatoTDN
'Real' Big Pinhook Score for Hoppel…
Patrick Hoppel of Hoppel's Horse & Cattle Co. enjoyed one of the biggest pinhook scores of the OBS March Sale when trainer Mark Casse went to $675,000 to acquire hip 479, a big-striding :21 2/5 breezer from the first crop of multiple Grade I-winning grasser Real Solution (Kitten's Joy). Hoppel purchased the Ken and Sarah Ramsey-bred May 4 foal for just $32,000 at Keeneland September. The bay is a half to GSW Noble Beauty (Kitten's Joy) and MSW Adorable Miss (Kitten's Joy). His second dam is Grade I winner Favorite Funtime (Seeking the Gold).
“He'd gotten a lot of action–we thought he'd sell well–but to say we expected that, no. We thought he'd be in the $300,000 range,” said Hoppel. “He was just all frame and a raw horse [as a yearling]. I knew there was a lot of run there. If we could keep him in one piece, he could do that.”
Real Solution began his stud career in Kentucky at Calumet Farm, but was leased out for the 2018 breeding season by Blue Star Racing in Louisiana, where he's commanding a $5,000 fee. Real Solution's 2017 yearling average was just $18,733, but he wasn't a one-hit wonder at OBS March. Hip 285, another colt who breezed in a snappy :20 3/5, was purchased by Klaravich Stable for $325,000 during Tuesday's first session. That Top Line-consigned, $60,000 Fasig-Tipton Turf Sale pick-up by Zayat Stables is kin to another Kitten's Joy graded stakes winner in Kitten Kaboodle.
“It made me know that at least they were looking at the sire,” Hoppel said when asked if seeing how hip 285 sold gave him added confidence. “No doubt this was a surprise, but he's real special, that horse. We've always known that. My son Cody trained him most of the winter.” –@BDiDonatoTDN
Mixed Results for Ocala Stud, Among Others…
“The market carried her,” David O'Farrell said after hip 420 sold. “She's a really nice filly. She breezed exceptionally well, showed herself with class, vetted. A lot of the elite buyers who are here were interested in her. We set a low reserve and the market carried her from there. We're very happy with the result. We sold her for some of our best long-term clients. They had originally entered her in the Keeneland September sale. She was immature, she didn't get sold, she came to the farm, and from that day forward she went the right way. She's blossomed into a nice filly and she can just flat out run.”
Like hip 420, hip 385 is also out of an Unbridled's Song mare in Peter Blum's multiple stakes-winning turf sprinter Inspired. Already named Picasso, the Tapit colt was bought back by Blum for $735,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale.
“It was disappointing,” said David O'Farrell. “Here's a horse who was bred really well by Peter Blum. He got an outstanding individual who had a solid work, a super gallop-out and a perfect set of X-rays. Peter bred everything on the page. He believes in the horse. He didn't want to give him away and he's happy to take him and go racing. The horse means more to him than anyone else. He tested the market, the market spoke, and hopefully he proves them wrong.”
O'Farrell, like plenty of others on both the buy and sell side, noted that market dynamics seemed to be a bit off at March.
“It's been a little bit of a tricky market,” he said. “[Hip 420] was a really nice sale and we sold a nice City Zip yesterday [hip 2, for $250,000]. It's kind of an all-or-nothing deal. People are enthusiastic and looking for the better horses, but the reality is it takes a really good horse and the good Lord has only put so many on this earth.”
The March sale was switched from a select to more open format for 2015, while the larger OBS April sale has risen in popularity and prominence during that same span.
“The April sale is the sale that everyone really wants to be in,” O'Farrell said. “It gives you more time. When we enter these horses in the March sale it's December. You really don't know what you have. You know what you think you like, but you really don't know what you've got. They're just galloping at that point, and you're taking a wild guess. They've got to have sire power, enough pedigree on the bottom side, and they've got to be a nice physical, but you don't know if they can run or not yet. These horses were entered early on in their training career and you don't find out what you have until the weeks leading up to the sale. So you better bring a horse you think can cater to the top end of the market. That's why the April sale is so popular, because not only do you get a broader depth of buyers, but you get another six weeks to train your horses…. It's just a safer sale. They had to de-select the March sale to attract more entries, but if you look around here, these are buyers here for the $250,000 – half-million-dollar horse and there's a small percentage that can achieve that type of figure.”
'Mar' to Come from Boden Thoroughbreds…
Charlie Boden–the longtime former Head of Sales at Darley–received a timely update for his fledgling bloodstock company when Maraud (Blame) delivered a narrow tally in Gulfstream's GIII Palm Beach S. earlier this month. He signed the slip on the Treadway Racing Stable colorbearer for $375,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.
Boden was back at it during the two-day OBS March Sale, purchasing five juveniles for a total of $1.325 million ($265,000 average) on behalf of undisclosed clients.
“Things are good,” Boden said. “We've had some early success and I really think the world of Maraud–he's done everything right.”
Boden's OBS March purchases include:
After a year at Calumet Farm as racing manager and stallion director, Charles H. Boden Thoroughbreds was launched in 2016.
“There is plenty of money at this sale,” Boden said. “This isn't a one-man job–Gary Young and I are working together. He clocks horses on the frontside and I'm on the backside watching these horses come on and off the racetrack and also listening for any anomalies. I also watch for any behavioral things that might be negatives, too. We look at the videos and head back to the barn to see what we think of the physicals. I saw plenty of nice horses here.”
Boden concluded, “When I get done here, I'll head back to Kentucky, then flip it around and come back to Miami [for Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream] and OBS April.” –@SteveSherackTDN