by Jessica Martini & Christina Bossinakis
OCALA, FL – The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training completed its four-day run Friday with a new record gross and average and a record-tying median in an auction which closely mirrored the 2022 renewal which set high-water marks for all of those metrics.
Through four sessions, 698 horses grossed $90,805,000. A year ago, 705 horses grossed a record $90,723,000. The 2023 average of $129,907 was up fractionally from $128,685. The median remained unchanged at $65,000.
“It was a great day,” said OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski. “We finished up strong, right to the end of the sale where we sold a horse for $500,000. It was a good day to end with.”
This week's Spring sale had to contend with a more uncertain global backdrop than a year ago, according to OBS President Tom Ventura.
“We're just glad we were able to hold up to a pretty high bar from last year,” Ventura said. “The world has changed since last April. Things have happened that could have impacted the marketplace and it didn't, so that was great to see.”
A colt by Into Mischief topped Friday's session and became the sale's third seven-figure juvenile–and first session topper not purchased by Amr Zedan–when selling for $1.3 million to Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo, bidding on behalf of a new partnership headed by Miami music mogul Rich Mendez.
Five horses sold for seven figures a year ago, when 25 juveniles sold for $500,000 or over. With three million-dollar transactions this year, a total of 28 horses sold for over $500,000.
From a catalogue of 1,222, 840 juveniles went through the ring with 142 failing to meet their reserves for a buy-back rate of 16.9%. A year ago, the catalogue featured 1,231 head and 705 went through the ring with 132 failing to meet their reserves for a buy-back rate of 15.8%.
Consignors continued to comment on the polarized market.
“It's the most polarized market that I've ever seen,” said Clovis Crane. “Everyone keeps saying that it's polar, but I think it's even more polar than ever.”
There was plenty of demand for horses at the top of the market, according to Sequel Bloodstock's Carlos Manresa.
“Over the week, it became clear that the very high end were very desirable and you were also able to sell horses that were closer to the bottom,” said Manresa. “The middle market was very difficult to place. That seemed to be the consensus among the consignors. I think that a lot of the consignors will be changing strategies going into the yearling season.”
He continued, “The guys that gave a lot of money [as yearlings] on the top end, like Dean [DeRenzo] and Randy [Hartley] were handsomely rewarded. Some of Ciaran [Dunne]'s horses, they had a lot of money in them as well. And Nick de Meric and Tom McCrocklin–those were the horses that really stood out here. They had the sires and they worked very well.”
“There was some forgiveness if you had a less commercially desirable sire if there was a really fast work. Ultimately, the prices were directly related to the works. There is a strong correlation between the works and price. There were horses that we gave $50-150,000 for and they were in no-man's land if they didn't work well.”
Colin Brennan agreed the money for the top-end horses was there, but the middle market struggled.
“I think there was great money here for the right horses; the horses who breezed well and ticked all the boxes. We were fortunate to have a few of those and some solid pinhooks. Of course, the lower market struggled a little bit, especially on this last day. Traditionally you would get a little bit more of a middle market with this sale because there is something for everybody. I felt like that $100-$300,000 range was a little quieter. Anyone and everyone you could ask for attended. I think OBS did a good job getting everyone here. They really stepped up their game with marketing this year, with the podcast sponsors and the vidoes they've done on YouTube. I think they did a great job with that. Everyone was here, I don't know if it was the economy or horse or a combination of both.”
But the results were just more of the same to Off The Hook's Joe Appelbaum.
“It's the same market condition that has persisted for several years,” Appelbaum said. “It's reflected at the racetrack as well. If you have the horses that people want to collect like trinkets, you can sell them for any amount of dollars. And after that, there is not a lot of market depth. So much money is flocking to so few horses, there is less to distribute to the middle market. It's simple economics.”
As consignors bemoaned the lack of strength in the middle market, buyers still found plenty of competition in bidding this week in Ocala.
“I got outbid on a lot of horses,” said bloodstock agent Alistair Roden. “There was some value here, but it was hard work to get that value. It's still a healthy market. I know the consignors are not happy, but I suppose they bought them at the top end of the yearling market.”
Chad Schumer was busying buying at all levels of the market this week.
“I think it's a typical 2-year-old market,” he said. “The really high-end horses stood out and brought huge prices. We bought quite a few in different price ranges. We swung on some of the expensive ones and we didn't get them. I don't think I bought a single horse with many bids left in the tank. Almost everything I bought was right at my budget or within $5,000 or $10,000 of what my budget was. So I think it was a fair market. I think a lot of these pinhookers possibly overpaid for the yearlings in September because the market was so strong. And there is a ceiling. Purses are great and that's wonderful, but there is some uncertainty about the economy. I don't know why, it doesn't seem to be bad to me, but a lot of people I talk to keep saying the economy. I guess that might be a factor.”
Also busy throughout the week, bloodstock agent David Meah saw both sides of the ledger struggling.
“There has been a big difference in the last couple of years,” Meah said. “It's been a lot stronger and the middle market seems to have fallen out a bit. It was hard to find the horses in the range we were looking for. We were looking for horses in that $50-$100,000 range, which in the past few years I found a little bit easier. This year, it just seemed very different. For me it was all or nothing. Consignors are struggling to sell them and buyers were struggling to find them.”
He continued, “We were thinking we would buy anywhere from five to 10 and we ended up on the low end with five. We got a lot less than we wanted to get, but we'll go to Maryland [Fasig-Tipton Midlantic] now and see how that goes.”
Wavertree Stables was the auction's leading consignor with 37 sold for $9,041,000 and with his three purchases for Amr Zedan, Donato Lanni was the leading buyer.
Into Mischief Colt Feels the Beat
A colt by Into Mischief (hip 967) became the third seven-figure juvenile of the week–and the first not purchased by Amr Zedan–when selling for $1.3 million early in Friday's final session of the OBS Spring sale. Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo, bidding on behalf of a new partnership of owners, signed for the colt, who was consigned by Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables.
“We are helping these guys do a couple of different things,” Hartley said. “It's a group of guys, but Rich Mendez is the head of it. They are looking for horses like this, that if this horse hits a graded stakes, he will be a stallion. He went :9 3/5, unbelievable. He's a super fast horse and super good-looking.”
The bay colt is out of multiple stakes winner Singing Kitty (Minister Wildcat) and was purchased by the Red Wings Enterprises pinhooking partnership of Dunne and Paul Reddam for $300,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.
“Ciaran has talked about this horse all year,” Hartley said. “And I've talked to everyone on the farm that works there. [Wavertree's] Mark [Edmonds] loved him. They just felt like this was the horse.”
Dunne agreed the team had thought highly of the colt all winter.
“We thought he was one of the nicest horses we've ever had our hands on,” Dunne said. “He trained like a good horse. I thought his breeze was magnificent. To be honest, I think they got a bargain.”
Hartley admitted the group was among the underbidders on the $2.2-million colt by Gun Runner who sold during Thursday's session of the four-day auction.
“We went to $1.8 million on him,” Hartley said. “I loved him, he was a beautiful horse, but I wanted this horse more. To me, :9 3/5 and :10 1/5, it's just a lot faster. I just felt like this horse is going to be more brilliant. I promise you, first time out, they will not catch this horse. We are hoping for good things.”
While no trainer had been picked out for the youngster, Hartley said he had a guess.
“We're not sure where he will go yet,” he said. “If I had to guess, it would probably be Baffert. This guy loves Baffert. If he has to go to L.A. for anything, the first place he goes is Bob's barn, so I am guessing that's where he will go.”
Mendez, founder of the Rich Music label in Miami, is still a newcomer to the sport.
“He has only ever raced one before,” Hartley said. “But he is so in love and he's so enthusiastic about the game. He comes to Ocala almost everyday. He loves the farm and he loves his horses. He just bought a big farm here in Ocala, not to have horses on. He just bought it for his wife and kids to come up here.”
Mendez has assembled a group of other fans to invest in both racehorse and pinhooking prospects.
“He's a big social media guy, so he's got a lot of people who are involved because they see him involved,” Hartley said. “So he has gathered all of this money. One of the guys, his father owns a racetrack in Ecuador. So it's a bunch of guys that are in a group together.”
Hartley expects to be buying for the group in the fall, as well.
“We are going to be strong at the yearling market, for pinhooking and racing. I look for them to spend $25-30 million.” —@JessMartiniTDN
Mendez is “All In” on Racing
Rich Mendez, who said he built his independent Latin music label Rich Music from the ground up, is starting his racing business roughly the same way. The music mogul made his first 2-year-old purchases this week in Ocala, warming up with the $450,000 purchase of a Good Magic colt Wednesday, before taking home a $1.3-million son of Into Mischief Friday.
“I am in the music business and we were able to start from nothing and to, at least, become relevant in the game,” Mendez said Friday. “I have always loved the sport of horses. So that's the plan here, as well. To slowly and surely build the brand and go from there.”
Mendez is a lifelong fan of racing and has strong family ties to the sport.
“Back in the day, I used to always be around the track,” he said. “My uncle was a jockey back in the day and I always knew that I wanted to eventually race.”
Mendez has partnered with Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo, who signed the ticket on the Into Mischief colt Friday.
“I met Randy and Dean a few years ago,” Mendez said. “We've become close friends. And we just decided this last year to partner up on some babies. The guys do very well at picking good horses. I am excited to be part of their team. ”
With Hartley and DeRenzo, Mendez purchased a group of weanlings last year to pinhook this coming fall. In addition to selling, he also expects to be an active buyer at the yearling sales.
“We will do a little bit of everything and try to do it smart. And to do it right, if there is such as thing,” he said.
As for trainers for his new juveniles, Mendez said, “The Good Magic will go to Jose D'Angelo. He's an up-and-coming trainer, everybody is talking about him. And then we are going to see if this colt goes to Bob [Baffert]. I will call him to see if he wants him eventually.”
Mendez's passion with the horse business has extended to the purchase of a farm in Ocala.
“I'm all in,” he said of his involvement in the sport. “When I got into the music business, it was the same, I am all in. But this time I have some good partners and teachers with Dean and Randy.”
He continued, “I am on my way to see the Good Magic colt now,” Mendez said. “And we loved the Into Mischief colt. I am excited about them.”
Nyquist, Half to Oaks Hopeful, to Speedway
A filly by Nyquist (hip 1024), who is a half-sister to GI Kentucky Oaks hopeful Affirmative Lady (Arrogate), will be joining the roster of Peter Fluor and K.C. Weiner's Speedway Stables after bloodstock agent Marette Farrell signed the ticket at $900,000 to acquire the dark bay from the Wavertree Stables consignment.
“We thought she was a tremendous physical, a beautiful, beautiful filly,” Farrell said. “She had an incredible breeze. And it's not just about the speed for us, it's the way she did it and how she galloped out. Tescha [von Bluecher] and Nick loved how she did it. And when we went to the barn, she was a scorpion. She was beautiful and tough. We are excited for Speedway to have her.”
The juvenile, who is out of multiple stakes winner Stiffed (Stephen Got Even), worked a quarter last week in :20 2/5.
The Red Wings Enterprises pinhooking partnership of Ciaran Dunne and Paul Reddam purchased the filly for $170,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.
“She is a queen,” Dunne said. “They don't breeze like that too often. She's going to a great owner. She's a nice filly with a great future.”
The Red Wings partnership was also responsible for Friday's seven-figure Into Mischief colt, who was a $300,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. The group also sold a colt by Bolt d'Oro–who had been purchased for $210,000–for $700,000, and a filly by Omaha Beach–who was purchased for $200,000–for $700,000. An Omaha Beach colt purchased for $160,000 last July, sold Friday for $350,000.
Farrell agreed the team would eagerly be watching the filly's 3-year-old half-sister go to the post in the May 5 GI Kentucky Oaks.
“We will be glued to the Oaks,” she said.
Into Mischief Filly Brings $725K at OBS
Early in Friday's session, a juvenile by Into Mischief drew $1.3 million to lead all colts representing the Spendthrift sire at OBS this week, and later in the session, Hip 1036 led the stallion's fillies with a $725,000 final bid from Rich Schermerhorn, Jay Hanley & 30 Year Farm. Handling the bidding duties from the back ring were agents Liz Crow and Lauren Carlisle.
“Lauren's client, Rich Schermerhorn and my client, Jay Hanley and 30 Year Farm, both individually liked the horse,” explained Crow. “Both of our clients teamed up to get her purchased. She will go to Chad Brown.”
The :9.4 breezer was consigned by Eddie Woods.
As to her obvious selling points, Crow added, “She breezed phenomenal. And she came from Eddie Woods, one of the best consignors here. She is a really beautiful filly and has a really athletic walk.”
Added Woods, “She was a spectacular filly all year. She was very mature in the fall and she was a good filly from the first time we worked her. She's just blossomed through that time.”
The Apr. 9 foal is out of the unraced Succeeding (Smart Strike), a daughter of SW Cascading (A.P. Indy). The third dam Teeming– a half-sister to champion Rags to Riches–is also responsible for GI Hollywood Starlet S. winner Streaming.
Bred by Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings and Stretch Run Ventures, the filly RNA'd for $245,000 at Keeneland last September.
“We don't buy here based on pedigree, but when you have Eddie Woods plus Into Mischief and that kind of breeze, that's what we're looking for,” said Crow.
Asked about her impression of the juvenile market at OBS this week, Crow echoed the sentiments of many buyers and sellers.
“There is a strong market for the top horses and it's really hard to get those bought,” she said. “You have to really reach, which is why our clients lined up together to get that filly bought. The really good horses it takes a strong budget. It's just really hard to buy what is perceived as a really good horse.”
Caliente Hits it Out of the Park in OBS Debut
Saul Marquez had one horse in his first-ever consignment and the colt by Solomini (hip 1109) made it a memorable debut when selling for $700,000 to the bid of bloodstock agent Donato Lanni Friday in Ocala. The colt, who worked in :9 4/5, became the first horse purchased by a group of close friends when they paid $50,000 for him at last year's Keeneland September sale.
“I was selling for myself and a couple of buddies,” Marquez said. “We created a pool together, we all pitched in and he was one of the four we bought. He was actually the first one we bought, so this was very sentimental.”
The chestnut is out of Timberlea (Flatter), a half-sister to graded winner Untrapped (Trappe Shot).
Lanni signed the ticket on the New York-bred colt on behalf of Dr. Ed Allred and Jack Liebau.
“He fit our program,” Lanni said. “We want to buy horses that look like stakes horses. It was very hard to buy yearlings in September. He worked really fast and looks the part. He [breezed well] and then you have to pay for it. He is beautiful and we liked him.”
Marquez, who spent years as a jockey's agent in California before relocating to Ocala in February, admitted to some buyer's remorse after acquiring the yearling.
“Honestly, I thought we overpaid for him,” he said. “We were very anxious. But we loved him since day one. He means everything to me.”
Of the colt's price tag Friday, Marquez shook his head in disbelief.
“Honestly, I was happy with $100,000 two weeks ago,” he said. “And today, I don't even know what is going on. It's mixed emotions. I just want to call my mom.”
Following his one-horse consignment at the Spring sale, Marquez will offer two horses at the OBS June sale.
“I am a fourth-generation horseman,” he said. “I was a jock's agent for a long time. My father was an assistant out in California. A friend of mine invited me to the business and I thought there would be better opportunities here. So here I am. I have been in Ocala since February.”
Crane Soars with Lookin At Lucky Colt
What a difference three years make. Just as COVID-19 was about to upend the world in March 2020, Crane Thoroughbreds experienced one of the worst things that a commercial horse operation could face–a barn fire. Located near Penn National, Crane Thoroughbreds tragically lost 15 juveniles in the blaze. However, with a lot of hard work and perseverance, Clovis Crane and his team rose out of the ashes like a phoenix, culminating with the sale of $500,000 colt by Lookin At Lucky at OBS Friday.
“It is very emotional,” admitted the visibly moved Crane. “This is the first time since that barn fire that we got a drink of water.”
Offered as Hip 942, the bay was secured by West Point Thoroughbreds.
“He's going to the best people and will be in the best hands,” said Crane. “It's really exciting because the horse can really run and it's been obvious for a long time.”
Out of the Forestry mare Shawnee Moon, the Feb. 9 foal caught the eye with a :10 flat breeze last Friday.
“My horse's stride was huge and he did it beautifully,” explained Crane. “But he has been that way that way all winter. Every breeze that he has done had been fabulous. I was just fortunate to be a spoke in the wheel with him.”
A full-brother to GISP Giuseppe the Great, who earned over $500,000 on the racetrack, the juvenile is from the extended family of champions Storm Bird and Northernette.
“The breeze was really over-the-top good,” said West Point's Terry Finley. “These consignors get better every year–you see several sub-:10 times. It's crazy that when you see a :10 flat breeze, you need to really investigate it. But he just did it really well.”
Bred by Buck Pond Farm, the colt was an $80,000 purchase for the partnership of Keep The Ball Rollin at Keeneland last September.
“The Keep The Ball Rollin partnership is with a couple of investors who I can't thank enough for sticking with me through thick smoke and sunny skies,” said Crane of his longtime partners and clients.
Underscoring the seller/buyer connection, Finley made it plainly clear that his respect for Crane and the former jockey and national rodeo champion's horsemanship played a big part of the purchase of the colt.
“He is the type of person that gives you hope for the future because he's such a quality guy,” extolled Finley. “He took as big as a gut punch that anyone can take when he lost all those horses. He just made the best of it.”
He added, “I have the utmost confidence in Clovis when he said he liked this horse all along.”
In addition to Crane, Coolmore's Lookin At Lucky also enjoyed a breakout sale. The two-time champion and Classic winner was represented by a $700,000 colt (Hip 570) sold to Repole Stable on Day 2 of the Spring sale.
In 2022, the sire's top priced juvenile realized $125,000, and he rounded out the season with a juvenile average of $34,714 for 14 head sold. He stands for $10,000 in 2023.
“We always liked him,” said Finley of the son of Smart Strike. “We always thought he punched above his weight. He's had some really good horses [incl. BC Classic hero Accelerate and Kentucky Derby winner Country House]. He's kept at it and people still support him. And most importantly, he produces racehorses. That's what you want.”
Finley continued, “He is the type of sire that really makes this game go. They can't all be $100,000-plus stud fees, you have to have some of those stallions that give people a really good chance to get a really good horse at the sale or on the racetrack [at a reasonable price].”
Added Crane, “No one would have expected Lookin At Lucky to have a breakout year at the sales this year, but all the horses by him that sold well worked lights out.”
Overall, Crane, who brought six head to OBS Spring this year, encountered a mixed bag with his operation's results.
“One horse didn't breeze very well and the owner decided to take him to the races,” he said. “We sold three and one RNA'd.”
In regard to the single RNA, a filly by Kantharos, he added, “I'm not positive why [Hip 619] didn't have more action, honestly. She could have breezed a little better, but she is a nice filly. But that's the way the market has been playing.”
Following the all hits and misses, Crane admits that this week's OBS sale marked a turning point for the operation.
“We lost quite a bit in the barn fire,” he said. “And it's the first time we are coming out with a breath of fresh air.”–@CBossTDN