Record-Setting June Sale Concludes

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Friday's topper at OBSJUN, Hip 722 | Photo by Z

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OCALA, FL – The three-day Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's June Sale of 2-Year-Olds more than bounced back from its 2020 pandemic-induced lull, ending Friday with its highest-ever gross and average and with a record-tying median. In all, 560 juveniles grossed $24,492,950 for an average of $43,737–besting the previous record figures of $23,475,500 and $39,722, respectively, set in 2015. The cumulative median was $20,000. With 125 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate was 18.2%.

“The June sale is all grown up now,” said OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski. “I am glad to see that both buyers and sellers are recognizing that June is a good sale in its own right. A consignor who needs to take some time with horses who maybe aren't the most forward, but they are still nice horses, they feel confident that they can give those horses the time and still have a market in which to sell them well. And the buyers are also patient enough that they know they can come here and end up with a quality racehorse.”

In 2020, 498 horses sold for $15,195,300 for an average of $30,513 and a median of $13,000. At the close of business, the 2020 buy-back rate was 20.5%. In 2019, 609 horses sold for $21,493,300. The average was $35,293 and the median was $17,000.

Four horses topped the $400,000 mark during the three-session auction, with a filly by Practical Joke bringing top price of $425,000. Mike Ryan made the highest bid of Friday's session, going to $410,000 to acquire a filly by Frosted from the Silvestre Chavez Thoroughbreds consignment.

“I've been studying the results all week,” Ryan said. “The first day was strong, yesterday was very strong. The money is here for the good ones. It's impressive. It's been a strong year and this is the last go-around.”

While the 2019 record top price of $900,000 and last year's top price of $700,000 were never approached, the top of the June market was competitive with 28 horses selling for $200,000 or more over the three days. Thirteen horses hit that mark in 2020 and there were 15 in 2019.

“It was solid at the top and there was still some good strength below it. It was a good horse sale,” Wojciechowski said. “We're glad that the momentum carried through all three days. We're happy for our consignors. They had a rough go of it last year and their fortitude and their willingness to keep pressing forward paid off for them this year.”

Frosted Filly to Ryan
Bloodstock agent Mike Ryan secured a filly by Frosted (hip 722) on behalf of Jeff Drown for $410,000 during Friday's final session of the OBS June sale.

“I drove down yesterday for two horses,” Ryan said. “I had watched all the videos and yesterday afternoon I looked at them and I had them vetted. And she was a beauty.”

Out of Saratoga Summer (Smart Strike), the gray filly is a half-sister to graded stakes winner Summersault (Rock Hard Ten).

“She's a very elegant filly with a lot of Tapit about her,” Ryan said. “Of course you hear it all the time, but I thought her breeze was exceptional; :10 1/5, but she did it at a gallop. The ease with which she did it was impressive.”

Ryan continued, “We'll give her a little freshening and get her ready and send her to the racetrack in six weeks or so and hope to see her in the fall.”

The filly was consigned by Silvestre Chavez on behalf of David Davila's Backstretch Farms, which purchased her for $115,000 as a weanling at the 2019 Keeneland November sale.

“David Davila gave me a chance to be part of this filly as a deal and of all three horses he gave me, this was by far the best. I appreciate that he gave me this opportunity. She's spectacular, she's going to be a nice, nice filly.”

Chavez continued, “When the filly came to me she was green broke. She was a little backwards, she was going through a growing stage. But coming into the sale, she was working really well on the dirt and she loved the polytrack here. She just glided over it.”

Chavez, who works with his brother Alex, started his consignment last year after spending time learning the business with Niall Brennan and Tony Everard.

“I worked for Niall Brennan–I learned from the best in Niall,” Chavez said. “When I left, he gave me a few clients. He and Tony Everard–I worked for him back in the day–are the best. Another guy who helped put me on the map was Steve Weston of Parkland Thoroughbreds. He's the one who got me started and gave me the big chance to go on my own. ”

Chavez, who is based at the Ocala Horse Complex, continued, “Last year I went out on my own. I had over 100 horses in training on my own this year. It's all about team, if you don't have good help, it's not going to happen.”

Gonzalez Gets His Quality Road
Mickey Gonzalez had already had one chance to acquire a colt by Quality Road out of a stakes-winning mare he had once co-owned, but he made the most of his second chance to take home the bay for $400,000 Friday in Ocala. The juvenile (hip 816) was consigned by de Meric Sales on behalf of breeder Bridlewood Farm.

“I made a private offer of $200,000 for him and they countered at $250,000 and I said no,” Gonzalez said with a rueful laugh. “But I saw the video of him breezing and–I live five minutes from here–and I just decided to come in and buy the horse. I just got in a half-hour ago.”

Gonzalez's M Racing was a partner on the colt's dam, Surfside Tiara (Scat Daddy), who won the 2015 Anoakia S. before selling for $675,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November sale. The mare subsequently sold to Bridlewood Farm, with this Quality Road colt in utero, for $575,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November sale.

The bay colt, from the family of Air Force Blue, was making his second trip through the sales ring this year. He RNA'd for $400,000 following a :10 flat work at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale. He came back to work a quarter in :20 4/5 last week at OBS.

“The horse worked like a real horse in Miami, but it was a tough market there,” said Bridlewood General Manager George Isaacs. “I was a little nervous coming into the sale today. We had solid vettings, but my reserve was a lot more conservative than $400,000. We are very pleased with that price.”

Isaacs continued “The horse has never turned a hair. He's been to two sales and put up two really good works and vetted clean both times. He looks like he was chiseled out of granite. He looks like he's ready to run tomorrow.”

Gonzalez has about 15 horses in training split between Wesley Ward, John Sadler and Peter Miller. He said Sadler will train his newest acquisition.

Tonalist Filly Returns to Evans
When the pandemic shut down racing last year, Robert 'Shel' Evans decided to sell the majority of his yearling crop. One of the casualties of the sell-off was a filly by Evans's Tonalist out of Rapid Rhythm (Successful Appeal) who sold for $25,000 to bloodstock agent Michael Hernon at the Keeneland September sale. The filly blossomed through the spring and, with an eye towards promoting Tonalist, Evans purchased the filly (hip 683) back for $250,000 Friday in Ocala.

Evans's longtime advisor Patrick Lawley-Wakelin flew into Ocala to make the winning bid to acquire the filly from Scott Kintz's Six K's Training and Sales.

“We bought Rapid Rhythm, who was a very fast, almost a come-from-behind sprinter by Successful Appeal and we determined she would be the ideal kind of mare for Tonalist. So we bought her specifically for Tonalist,” Lawley-Wakelin said. “This was her first foal. And she was always a big, scopey filly. She was very clean through her knees with a beautiful face. Shel decided during the pandemic to sell the majority, if not all of his yearlings. I can't remember which book she was in, but it was in one of the later books. Michael Hernon stepped in and bought her.”

Of the filly's yearling price tag, Lawley-Wakelin admitted, “I was truly upset by how little money she fetched.”

Tonalist was represented by his first Grade I winner when Country Grammar took the GI Hollywood Gold Cup last month and his daughter drew plenty of interest at OBS.

“I have a great rapport with Scott Kintz,” Lawley-Wakelin said. “Scott was telling me, 'We love this filly and she's done nothing but improved.' And then of course she went and worked here in :10 2/5 and she galloped out in :46 1/5. I said to Shel at that point, 'We've got a problem.' He asked what I thought. We are still promoting Tonalist–he's had a great month–so for me, she is the ideal type that you want for Tonalist. She's got a great temperament and she vetted clean. So Shel said, 'You better get on the plane.'”

The result was another success for Hernon's fledgling bloodstock agency.

“She was immediately impressive,” Hernon said of the filly's appeal last year. “She was just real class. She stood up, she was proud of herself. She moved extremely well. I looked at her twice and the second time it was just a replica of the first time. I thought she was very composed with a big eye, a kind, genuine filly. And it's the same cross that produced [GI Belmont S. winner] Tapwrit [Tapit], being out of a quality Successful Appeal mare.”

Hernon continued, “At the time when I bought her, I still had a few bids left in my back pocket. So I was delighted to get her for that price.”

Hernon, who during his time at Gainesway was pivotal to the success of Tapit, continued to reap rewards with this filly by a son of the super sire.

“It means everything,” Hernon said of his association with Tapit's legacy. “He's just an amazing horse. I was sitting at home watching John Henderson's Thoroughbred Week show and I saw him win in the Laurel Futurity and I realized I had goosebumps up and down my arms. That's when I first got on him. So it's all interwoven and the story continues to write itself.”

Empire Maker Filly a Score for Navas
Jonathan Navas's Navas Equine, in just its second year of operation, recorded its highest result to date when selling a filly by Empire Maker (hip 791) for $260,000 to D. J. Stable Friday in Ocala. The filly, bred by Gainesway, is out of Starlight Tiara (More Than Ready) and is a half-sister to stakes winner Surfside Tiara (Scat Daddy), whose Quality Road colt sold for $400,000 during Friday's session.

Navas purchased the filly for $5,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton October sale.

“She was not developed at that time, but with patience and a lot of work, I was fortunate enough just to get her to this point,” Navas said. “She always trained very good for me at the farm and she has a good family and good updates with her siblings. And she did her job at the breeze show and I am just fortunate she did everything right.”

Of his career high sale, Navas said, “It was amazing. I am very happy. We are looking forward to do more.”

Fortuitous Find Takes Dunne to Ascot
Pinhooker Ciaran Dunne will trade in his Arsenal baseball cap for a top hat next week when the 2-year-old filly Artos (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) goes postward in the G2 Queen Mary S. at Royal Ascot. He calls his involvement with the filly, co-owned with wife Amy and partners Pat and Phyllis Harlow, John and Jean Wilkinson and Brenda and David Miley, “just pure blind luck.”

“We had bought some yearlings in France and they had gone to Mark Gittins in Ireland to get ready for a 2-year-old sale,” Dunne explained. “So when [daughter] Caitlin and I went back there in October to see the yearlings, by chance they were bringing the foals in out of the field. Mark was telling us who they all were. And he told us the Kodiac filly was out of a half-sister [Shimmering Moment] to Leinster. So we probably had a little bit of an attachment there.”

Leinster (Majestic Warrior) is a horse Dunne knows well. He purchased the bay for $85,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton July sale on behalf of Wilkinson and Miley's pinhooking partnership. When he failed to sell the following spring, the partners put him in training. Leinster is now a four-time graded stakes winner and was third in last year's GI Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

“Mark said she was going through the foal sale in December, but I had half-forgotten about her,” Dunne recalled of Artos. “Over Thanksgiving, with nothing much left to do, I wondered what she had brought. I looked her up and she was selling the next day. So I called Kerri Radcliffe and had her look at her for me and got her vetted. It was pure sentimentality. We bought her and brought her home. Two of the couples that are involved in Leinster came in and took a piece and another friend of ours who has never owned a horse before, the Harlows, took a leg. So we split her up four ways like Leinster. Jokingly at the time, we said, 'We'll win at Keeneland and then take her to Ascot.' Never really thinking we had a chance.”

Of the Harlows first involvement in the industry, Dunne said, “Pat plays golf with us all the time and I think he got sick of hearing David and John talk about Leinster all the time. They have show jumpers and had been on the fence about it. This just seemed like a good opportunity.”

Artos joined trainer Rusty Arnold's string in Florida over the winter.

“Rusty took her to Palm Meadows in February and she's done everything right,” Dunne said.

Artos opened her career with a runner-up effort–beaten six lengths–Apr. 22 at Keeneland.

“She ran a really good second at Keeneland,” Dunne said. “She got left in the gate and ran through the rest of them, but never got close to Wesley [Ward]'s filly. But we kind of thought at the time, if she had broke a little bit better, not that she would have won, but that she would have had more say in it. And Rusty thought she was only 75-80% at the time.”

After that effort Dunne admitted, “I wanted to go straight to Ascot, but Rusty was a little more realistic. He insisted on running her at Churchill. There was a part of me that was afraid she might get beat and we couldn't go. But it was the right thing to do.”

Artos produced a memorable second start at Churchill Downs May 21. The Irish-bred carved out an opening quarter in :22.74, but approaching the quarter pole, she appeared to be going backwards only to re-rally with an eye-catching late move to just get up to graduate by a nose (video).

“It was bizarre,” Dunne said of the race. “I didn't see it live. Caitlin and Amy told me, 'You've got to watch this race, it's unbelievable.' People say stuff like that all the time and you think, 'Yeah, I'm sure it is.' I was sitting at home watching it and thinking what are they talking about. And then wow. She is very game.”

All indications are that Artos is doing well ahead of her tilt at Royal Ascot next week.

“Rusty thinks she's better now than she's ever been,” Dunne said. “She is better than she was at Churchill. She shipped really well. Kerri Radcliffe has her over there at Jane Chapple-Hyam's barn and she's keeping an eye on her. Brendan Walsh was kind enough to allow us to use his rider because with COVID it's all very difficult. We're obviously a fish out of water. But we are there, so it will be fun.”

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