by Jessica Martini & Christie DeBernardis
The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, an auction most people seemed happy could even be held following all of the uncertainties of the global pandemic, concluded its four-day run in Central Florida with a pair of seven-figure transactions book-ending the session. Early in the day, Kaleem Shah purchased a son of Quality Road for $1.25 million from the Wavertree Stables consignment and, with only a handful of lots left to offer, Larry Best secured a colt by Speighster for $1.1 million from Tom McCrocklin's consignment. A filly by Not This Time topped the four-day sale when bringing a final bid of $1.35 million from bloodstock agent Gary Young during Tuesday's second session. The sale's three million-dollar juveniles were on par with the 2019 sale.
The April sale had set records for gross, average and median in each of the last three years, but with international travel restrictions and uncertain economic conditions, expectations for the 2020 renewal were tempered. At the close of business Friday, 630 head had sold for $58,701,000. A year ago, 674 horses grossed $72,945,000. The average of $93,176 fell 13.9% from 2019, while the median was down 16.7%.
“Considering what we've all had to deal with and where we were two months ago, I think it was a solid sale,” said OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski. “We saw a lot of the same things we've been seeing in recent times. The top end of the market takes care of itself, but it gets a little dicey in the middle. But we finished up strong today. I think it's just a continuing move of the industry in trying to get back to normal.”
With 149 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate for the sale was just 19.1%, but the catalogue was whittled down with only 779 offered and 536 withdrawn.
Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables was the auction's leading consignor for the second year in a row with 47 juveniles sold for $6,402,000, but the consignor admitted it was a tough week.
“It's really difficult,” Dunne said of the market. “If you sell one that is not in the elite level, that top 10%, you are going to have to call in a lot of favors and make a lot of phone calls, drag people back to the barn and temper your expectations. I felt pretty good about the sale coming in. We've had a lot of traffic at the farm, there has been a hunger for horses. I thought it would be OK, but I think it's been less than that. It's been hard work.”
The April sale's traditional deep buying bench was decimated by the absence of international buyers.
“If you don't have the goods, it's over,” said consignor Eddie Woods. “The Koreans were sorely missed, not only on what they buy, but on the ones they bid on that they don't get. The horses that were bringing $10,000 or $15,000 would normally bring $40,000 or $50,000 and everything has to go above that. That is what creates that good market. We didn't have that this time. There was all the money there for the top horses, like usual, and the rest of them suffered greatly. There were a lot of scratches. People wanted to bring their horses up, but if you didn't have a perfect vetting, you were basically dead. But, at the same time, it was good to see a lot of horses bring a lot of money.”
Eight of the top 10 lots at the April sale had been catalogued for Fasig-Tipton's canceled boutique Gulfstream sale.
“A lot of the horses in this addendum were scheduled to go to the Fasig-Tipton Miami Sale and they ended up here,” said bloodstock agent Jacob West. “They were big, strong horses that got piled in at the end of these days. It is an extremely polarized market, more than any other sale we have been around. Two-year-old sales are always polarizing. There are so many rungs on the ladder they have to climb. When they do, it normally results in high-dollar horses. There were a lot of horses in the addendum that did that.”
Asked for his assessment of the April market, McCrocklin said, “Overall it was brutal. It was a horrible sale. I think it's all the uncertainty. People don't like that. They get scared when they don't know what's going on.”
Bloodstock agent Joe Brocklebank is hopeful the Spring sale is just a first step into a return to normal.
“Obviously the top end of the market is very strong, but the middle and lower end need some life support,” he said. “Hopefully when the confidence is back in the business, things will be a lot better.”
Shah Seeks More Quality
Kaleem Shah has already bought a pair of 2-year-olds by Quality Road who went on to Grade I victories in his colors and the owner is hoping there will be more of the same after he purchased a son of the Lane's End stallion for $1.25 million during Friday's final session of the OBS Spring sale. Shah had been in Ocala earlier in the week, but was gone by the time hip 1018 strode into the sales ring at OBS. He was on the phone as bloodstock agent Ben McElroy made the winning bid on the juvenile who was consigned by Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables.
“Ben McElroy and [trainer] Simon Callaghan selected the horse,” Shah said. “He is a beautiful horse and well put together. I am not at Ocala today, so I was on the phone with Ben. But I've seen the horse and he looks just like Bellafina.”
Shah purchased Bellafina (Quality Road) from the Wavertree consignment for $800,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale. The filly won that year's GI Chandelier S. and GI Del Mar Debutante and added last year's GI Santa Anita Oaks. She was also second in the 2019 GI Breeders' Cup F/M Sprint.
Shah also purchased Klimt (Quality Road) for $435,000 at the 2016 OBS March Sale. The colt went on to win that year's GI Del Mar Futurity.
“I have been lucky with that sire with Bellafina and Klimt in the past,” Shah said. “So with this third one, we had to swing for the fences to get him, and we hope he is the best of the Quality Roads to come my way.”
The Quality Road colt was the second horse to make seven figures at the OBS Spring Sale.
“I was surprised to have to go that high,” Shah agreed. “But once again I was bidding against the Baffert contingent–that is what I was told–so I had to step up a whole lot more than what I wanted to.”
The colt was Shah's third purchase of the Spring Sale. With bidding assistance from his son Arman, he also acquired a colt by Ghostzapper (hip 1250) for $750,000 and a filly by Empire Maker (hip 468) for $350,000.
Bred by KatieRich Farms, hip 1018 is out of False Impression (A.P. Indy) and is a half-brother to multiple Grade I placed Standard Deviation (Curlin). He worked a quarter-mile during last week's under-tack preview in :20 3/5. @JessMartiniTDN
A Hole in One for Partners
Ciaran Dunne was shopping for a long-time group of pinhooking partners at last year's Fasig-Tipton October sale, but was finding it tough to find horses in the partners' normal price range, so he got a budget extension and came home to Ocala with a colt by Quality Road purchased under the name Golf 19/20 for $240,000. The decision paid off Friday at OBS when the colt (hip 1018) sold for $1.25 million.
“Mike Wickham was originally the driving force behind the partnership,” Dunne explained. “He always wanted to be involved in the horse business. He kind of pushed the other two guys, John Wilkinson and David Miley, to do the pinhooking with us. Unfortunately Mike passed the first year we were doing it. Scott Ford of Westrock Stables came in and took his place and we've been doing it for more years than I'd like to think. They just get a lot of enjoyment out of it. John and David come to the farm and watch them grow up and watch them train. They don't do it as an investment. They do it just for a love of the game. They have been very lucky.”
One of the group's early successes was Tom's Tribute (Lion Heart) who was purchased for $60,000 and sold for $310,000 at the 2012 OBS March sale and went on to win the 2014 GI Eddie Read S.
The partners have even had success on the racetrack with Leinster (Majestic Warrior), who RNA'd at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale and won last year's GIII Troy S. in their names.
“They probably get more fun out of [Leinster] than they will this,” Dunne said. “They do it for the love of the game, love of the horses, so it's nice to see guys like that do something like this. For them it won't be dollar and cents, it will just be pride that their horse did it.”
Purchasing the son of Quality Road for the group was an easy decision for Dunne last October.
“Quality Road has been good to us,” Dunne said. “He's my favorite stallion, bar none. We had Blofeld in his first crop, Bellafina and Diamond King. I think we've had at least five graded stakes winners that we've sold by him. So Quality Road is always a no-brainer for us, the only problem is affording them. This is the most that we've ever paid in that group for a horse. I called the guys and said, 'We're getting shut out in everything we want in the range that we normally buy in,' which is $100,000. I said, 'I want to go a little deep here,' and they all said, 'Yeah, yeah.' There was no hesitation. Luckily enough, the colt didn't give us many nervous moments during the winter. He grew like we wanted him to grow, he trained like a good horse, he acted like a professional around the barn. We were really excited to bring him in here and he rewarded us.”
Of his expectations leading hip 1018 into the sales ring Friday, Dunne said, “We were trying to keep our feet on the ground, but it was hard to do. We had everybody who was anybody on him. He showed himself great. We knew he had the work (:20 3/5), we knew he vetted good. So we were trying to temper our expectations, but I was hoping for them that he could bring seven figures.”
The partners aim to pinhook three to four yearlings each year.
“We had one in March that we took a haircut on and then we had one yesterday that we sold for what we had in him or maybe a little bit less,” Dunne said of the group's other 2020 results.
Another pinhooking partnership had success selling with Wavertree Friday in Ocala when a colt by Shackleford sold for $550,000 to bloodstock agent Justin Casse. The chestnut colt (hip 982) worked a quarter in :20 3/5 during last week's under-tack show and is a half-sister to champion Monomoy Girl (Tapizar). The chestnut was purchased for $230,000 at Fasig-Tipton last October.
“He was bought by Paul Brodsky's group [last October],” Dunne said of the colt. “He was a lovely horse. I am never going to say you're disappointed when you double your money, but with his pedigree and his work and his physical appearance, you would have hoped that he could have kicked on. I think at the end of the day, the Shackleford got him. But he's a very, very talented horse. He always has been. I think he's going to be a top racehorse.”
With Steve Venosa, Brodsky pinhooked a colt by Into Mischief for $1 million at last year's Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale. @JessMartiniTDN
Best for Almost Last
Late in the day in the supplement to the supplemental catalogue, the OBS Spring sale got its third seven-figure transaction when bloodstock agent Christina Jelm, bidding on behalf of Larry Best, went to $1.1-million to acquire a colt from the first crop of Speightster (hip 1312).
“Larry and I are friends and he gave me a call just before the
horse went through the ring and asked if I could help him out,” Jelm said after signing the ticket on the colt. “I was here and available and I helped him get his horse bought.”
Out of multiple stakes placed Auspicious (Indian Charlie), the chestnut worked a quarter-mile last week in :20 4/5.
“He's a big beautiful horse that checked every box,” Jelm said.
Hip 1312 was consigned by Tom McCrocklin and his sale Friday was another stellar result for Solana Beach Sales, the pinhooking division of Billy Koch and Gary Fenton's Little Red Feather Racing. McCrocklin purchased the colt on behalf of Solana Beach for $110,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton New York-Bred Yearlings Sale.
“I've got to tell you, I've been asked a lot here, 'How did you buy that horse for $110,000?' He was always beautiful and at the end of the day, I don't know how I got him bought,” McCrocklin said. “He's the only one I have by Speighster, but I started singing his praises as soon as this horse showed the ability he has.”
Now in its fifth year of operation, Solana Beach has recorded some notable scores. Best purchased Instilled Regard (Arch) from the partnership for $1.05 million at the 2017 OBS March Sale and Solana Beach sold Der Lu (Orb) for $900,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale after purchasing her for $130,000 at Saratoga the previous August. The partnership had back-to-back scores at OBS April in 2016 and 2017, turning a $105,000 Broken Vow yearling into a $1.2-million sale topper in 2016 and a $100,000 Creative Cause filly into a $850,000 juvenile in 2017.
Hip 1312 was originally intended to sell at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale, but once that auction was cancelled, McCrocklin hoped to ship him to Maryland for the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale.
“He was a Miami horse and obviously that was canceled and he was redirected to Maryland,” McCrocklin said. “To be honest with you, I am fiercely loyal to Fasig-Tipton and I wanted to sell him there, but we got so late in the game and they were in a position where they couldn't make any announcements because they were waiting for the state of Maryland and the governor of Maryland and the Department of Agriculture. And the horse was doing so well, I had to tell the guys at Fasig, 'I'm so sorry, but I've got to go. Because I'm going to go out of business a lot faster than you are going to go out of business. I need to sell this horse.'”
Of the colt's seven-figure price tag, McCrocklin added, “I was not surprised at the price. When you get up in that stratosphere, those horses can bring $750,000 and they can bring $1.5 million. I do my best to not get exact numbers in my head, but I knew he was going to sell very well.” @JessMartiniTDN
Liam's Map Filly Scores for Berkelhammer
Richard Rigney's Rigney Racing struck in the waning stages of the OBS Spring sale to acquire a filly by Liam's Map (hip 1299) for $700,000. The juvenile was consigned by Cary Frommer and is one of only a few foals bred by Frommer's pinhooking partner Barry Berkelhammer.
“I couldn't be more thrilled with the person who bought her,” Berkelhammer said. “They are just great guys. And I am thrilled that she is going to a quality home that will hopefully have a big winner.”
The dark bay filly is out of the unraced Ebony Moment (Smart Strike), a daughter of multiple graded stakes winner Ebony Breeze (Belong to Me). Berkelhammer purchased the then 5-year-old Ebony Moment for $18,000 at the 2016 OBS Winter sale.
“I really don't have a lot of mares, but I dabble a little bit,” Berkelhammer said. “I just love Smart Strike and I loved her pedigree. She was a good-looking mare with a nice shape to her. And she was young and really hadn't gotten a chance yet. I thought she would potentially make a nice broodmare.”
The filly put buyers on notice with a :9 4/5 work during last week's under-tack preview, but the lights-out drill was no surprise to Berkelhammer.
“She had been working really well at the farm,” Berkelhammer said. “All of us on the farm were excited every time she breezed. But until they come over and prove it, you never know. She definitely stepped up and did what we expected. And she jumped through every hoop.”
He continued, “The filly has been the star of the crop the whole season and we had very high hopes for her. I am glad she showed herself when she got here and the buyers recognized her quality.”
Of his broodmare band, Berkelhammer said, “I have six mares. And I'll sell some foals as yearlings and some as 2-year-olds–just depending on how the stallion is doing and where I think the baby fits.” @JessMartiniTDN
West Wins Out on Chrome Colt
Jacob West hit the ground running in Ocala, purchasing four juveniles by the end of the OBS Spring Sale, but he saved the best for last Friday in a $725,000 colt from the first crop of two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome (Hip 1298). The bloodstock agent purchased the gray, who will be trained by Todd Pletcher, on behalf of Mike Repole's Repole Stable and Vinnie Viola's St. Elias Stable.
“He is a fast horse, who breezed well [:20 3/5] and galloped out good,” West said. “He is big and strong and had good mechanics down the lane. We went back to the barn and looked at him and he is a big, pretty horse with some pedigree behind him. He is out of an Unbridled's Song mare and he looks more like Unbridled's Song than California Chrome. He vetted well and here we are, $725,000 later.”
West added, “We were kind of getting to the end of our rope on him as far as our evaluation was, but that is about what we thought he would bring. It is a team effort when buying horses for Repole and Viola. Eddie Rosen, Jim Martin and Rory Babich all play a big part.”
Four-time Eclipse winner and dual Classic winner California Chrome stood his first three seasons at Taylor Made and was sold to Japan at the end of 2019.
“I have a lot of respect for that horse,” West said. “He was born into obscurity and made a name for himself. I have a lot of respect for Art Sherman and his operation, getting the horse to those races and almost winning the Triple Crown. You've got to respect that horse. He did it the hard way and hopefully he passed that on to his progeny, especially this one.”
Bred by JSM Equine, Hip 1298 is out of the unraced Diva Style (Unbridled's Song), a daughter of GSW Tizfiz (Tiznow) and a half-sister to top GI Kentucky Derby contender and MGISW Tiz the Law (Constitution). The colt RNA'd for $65,000 at Keeneland September and was consigned here by Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables. ––@CDeBernardisTDN
Right Place, Right 'Time' For Davies
Progeny of Taylor Made's freshman phenom Not This Time continued to be in high demand on the final day of selling at OBS Spring Friday, with Marc Tacher grabbing hip 953 out of the Julie Davies consignment for $575,000. The May 7 foal turned in a powerful-looking :10 flat work during last week's preview.
With his first two starters taking maiden special weights on back-to-back days last month, the GSW and GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up has found his way on to many buyers' radars in Ocala. A $1.25-million Not This Time filly (hip 1254) who worked in :20 1/5 topped Wednesday's session on a bid from Gary Young; and a $700,000 colt (hip 1283) went to Donato Lanni for Michael Lund Petersen Thursday.
“Between the winners, and the couple of horses that sold really well already, we were pretty confident that he was going to sell well–he still brought a little more than we were expecting, and that's always a nice surprise,” said Davies.
The chestnut is out of a Tapit daughter of MGSW and MGISP Bending Strings (American Chance). He was an $85,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by Davies.
“We bought him on his physical,” she said. “I actually walked into the barn and saw him standing there for somebody else and was like, 'Who is that?' So I decided that that was the one I wanted to buy. I spent a little more than I usually spend, but he's been a really nice horse from Day 1. He's always trained like a rock star; he's never given us any trouble. He came over here and did what we thought he would do. He breezed well, and I think they got a really nice horse.”
When asked if she had had any opinion on Not This Time heading into the yearling sales, Davies said, “When I bought him, it was just about him as an individual, but having seen others since then, it seems like he's stamping them. There are a lot of very pretty ones out there, and the majority of them worked well here and obviously they're being well received.” —@BDiDonatoTDN
Summer Wind Blows Into Ocala
Jane Lyon's Summer Wind Farm is often seen buying top mares at the November breeding stock sales, but is usually absent from the juvenile market. However, in yet another surprise twist of the roller coaster year that has been 2020, the Summer Wind name made it onto the OBS Spring Sale results when the farm's manager Bobby Spalding, who did his bidding over the phone from Kentucky, secured a $500,000 daughter of Malibu Moon on behalf of Lyon Friday.
“This COVID-19 thing has me not thinking straight,” Lyon joked when asked about her change in tactics. “We got a tout that this was a good filly from somebody we really trusted [consignor Eddie Woods], so we decided, 'Well, what the heck.' I do trust Eddie a lot. We hoped to get her for less because she does have a little chip [in her knee]. Because of that, I was hoping I wouldn't have to go that high, but it got so crazy in the end there with those addendum horses. Hopefully, Eddie is right about her.”
The top breeder added, “I haven't even seen her yet, but she looks like a really pretty filly and I am a sucker for beautiful fillies.”
Bred in Florida by Westbury Stables, Hip 1310 was picked up by Woods's pinhooking partnership Quarter Pole Enterprises for $260,000 at FTKJUL and breezed in a snappy :20 3/5. Her stakes-placed dam Iroquois Girl (Indian Charlie) is a half to MGSW Salty Strike (Smart Strike) and stakes winner Salty Response (Cozzene).
“She was beautiful, spectacular,” Woods said. “Her work was amazing. Her video was amazing. Unfortunately, she had a little damage on x-rays. Even though she brought half a million, you have to think what she would have brought without it.”
The horseman continued, “I didn't think she would bring that given what she has. She has a little chip in the knee. You know, knees are usually unforgivable in most cases. It is tiny, but it is still there. I thought she might bring $300,000 if everyone showed up. Everyone showed up and they played hard.” ––@CDeBernardisTDN
Empire Maker Filly Proves Popular
A daughter of the late Empire Maker (Hip 1060) summoned $475,000 Friday from bloodstock agent Joe Brocklebank, who was acting on behalf of an disclosed client.
“She is oozing with class,” Brocklebank said. “She is by a wonderful stallion out of a mare by a wonderful stallion. She has tons of speed and she has been well prepared. She vetted perfectly clean and, God willing, she will win some big races.”
Bred in Ontario by Dave Anderson's Anderson Farms, the :10 flat breezer is the first foal out of Full Tap (Tapit), a half to MGSW Ventana (Toccet). Consignor Hal Hatch bought the filly for $135,000 at Keeneland September.
The late, great Empire Maker was repatriated from Japan to stand at Gainesway in 2016 and stood four seasons there before his untimely passing in January of this year. He has been represented by sensational fillies, such as champion Royal Delta and MGISW Emollient, as well as MGISW Pioneerof the Nile and, more recently, Grade I-winning sophomore Eight Rings. Six juveniles by Empire Maker sold during the OBS Spring Sale for an average of $341,666, topped by a $700,000 colt (Hip 1258). —@CDeBernardisTDN
Eismans Hit a Home Run With Hard Spun Filly
Barry Eisaman snapped up a daughter of Hard Spun for just $50,000 at Keeneland September last year and his faith in the filly was rewarded Friday when she hammered for $440,000. Working in :10 flat, Hip 1149 was purchased by Belladonna Racing.
“She is a wonderful filly and she did so well here,” Eisaman said. “She performed so well and showed herself beautifully for all of those days. We did not anticipate this kind of number, but we knew it would be pretty good. She was very, very popular.”
Bred by Godolphin and Charles Deters, Hip 1149 is out of High Wire Act (Medallist), who is a daughter of Grade III victor Timely Broad (Broad Brush). High Wire Act is a half-sister to MSW & MGSP Not Abroad (Not For Love) and SW Brushed By Love (Not For Love).
“When we bought her, she was a very pretty filly,” Eisaman said. “But she grew and filled out and all of the things you hope will happen between September and the spring of the 2-year-old year. She did everything well. She was very healthy, had very clean veterinary reports and was fast. It worked out for us that she put her whole game together at the right time.”
When asked if he thought the extra time provided by the two-month delay in the sale due to COVID-19 helped his filly, the veterinarian said, “I think it helped every horse in this sale. Two months is a long time in the life of a 2-year-old so it helped all of them mature just a bit more and get just a bit fitter and a bit smarter. It really benefitted my load of horses. Every horse we took through the ring we sold except one. So we had a good sale especially given the current world circumstances.” —@CDeBernardisTDN