By Jessica Martini
OCALA, FL–Trade continued to be steady during the second session of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s June Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale in Central Florida Thursday, with numbers ticking up from the auction’s corresponding 2018 figures as horses continued to find new homes at the last juvenile auction of the season.
Through two sessions, OBS has sold 399 juveniles for a total of $13,635,200. The average of $34,173 was up 4% over the 2018 figure, while the median rose 20% to $18,000. A total of 535 horses have gone through the OBS sales ring so far, with 136 failing to sell for a buy-back rate of 25.4%. It was 27.7% with the addition of post-sale transactions at this point a year ago.
David Davila of Backstretch Farms made the highest bid of the week so far, going to $445,000 to acquire a filly by Ghostzapper (hip 653) from the de Meric Sales consignment Thursday. The filly is one of 12 to bring $200,000 or over through the two sessions.
During Thursday’s session, 202 horses sold for a gross of $7,359,700 and an average of $36,434. The session median was $17,500 and the buy-back rate was 25.7%.
“I think it’s a much better sale today and I think it’s a really realistic sale for some of these horses,” said consignor Pat Hoppel. “Some of these horses, we’re moving them on and getting them sold, getting them into different hands. And that helps the business. You’ve got to have big trade. If you keep the big trade going, you’ve got it. It’s when things stall out and we can’t trade horses it’s bad, but they are seeming to get horses moved–some for a lot and some for not much, but it lets everybody get a new start.”
The OBS June sale concludes Friday with a session beginning at 10 a.m.
Ghostzapper Filly to Davila
Ocala attorney David Davila made one of his biggest equine purchases to date Thursday at OBS, going to $445,000 to secure a filly by Ghostzapper for his Backstretch Farms. The bay, out of graded stakes winner Palanka City (Carson City), was consigned by de Meric Sales.
“She is the perfect specimen for a filly,” Davila said of hip 653. “She is very balanced.”
Asked if it was the biggest ticket he’s signed, Davila, still relatively new to ownership, admitted, “This is close. It was a little bit higher than we wanted to go, but she was worth it.”
Davila owns 75-acre Backstretch Farms in Central Florida. His War Bridle (Shakin It Up) was fourth in this year’s Pasco S.
The juvenile will ship to Saratoga to be trained by Jorge Abreu.
De Meric Sales purchased the filly, who worked the furlong in a co-bullet :9 4/5 last week, for $190,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale. She was withdrawn from the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale earlier this year.
“We are thrilled with the price,” Tristan de Meric said. “We knew she was a top filly. That’s why we took her to Miami in the first place. She just missed the boat down there, but we always believed in her. We gave her another chance here and I’m glad they found her. She is a very special filly. And we wish the best of luck to David.”
Hines Strikes for Graydar Colt
Nick Hines, who has been busy shopping at all levels of the June market, made his biggest purchase of the auction when going to $260,000 to acquire a colt by Graydar on behalf of an undisclosed client.
“He was probably the most athletic horse, pound for pound, by an underrated stallion,” Hines said of hip 672. “His work (:10 flat) was effortless, his balance is indisputable and his soundness goes without saying. I think he is a class individual. He is correct, he is very forward, but he obviously knows how talented he is. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for him.”
The gray colt is out of stakes placed Pink Diamond (Mineshaft) and is a half to graded placed Zulfikhar (Bodemeister). He was consigned by Costanzo Sales and was purchased by South Paw for $57,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale.
Hines said the June sale offers something for buyers at all levels.
“It’s been difficult [to buy] on the higher end,” he said. “I think in the six-figure range, it’s very difficult. This is that type of sale. It’s June. I am buying horses for $10,000 and I’m signing tickets for $260,000, so that’s a pretty broad range. As a scout and a bloodstock consultant, I think you have to be very open-minded. There is a horse here for everybody.”
Uncle Mo Colt to Heiligbrodt
Bill Heiligbrodt, still basking in the glory of Mitole (Eskendereya)’s win in Saturday’s GI Met Mile, added a son of Uncle Mo to his racing stable when going to $255,000 to acquire hip 572 from the Wavertree Stables consignment Thursday in Ocala.
“I loved the way he looked,” Heiligbrodt said of the colt, who will be trained by Steve Asmussen. “He’s breezed twice now and really well. I’ll give him a little time and see how good he is.”
The dark bay colt is out of Grade I placed Modification (Vindication) and is a half to multiple graded placed Sawyer’s Hill (Spring at Last).
Asked if he thought he might have found another Mitole, Heiligbrodt said with a laugh, “You don’t find Mitole. That’s a once in a lifetime. I hope this horse will be good, let’s put it that way. We’ll give him some time and see how he does.”
Wavertree Stables consigned the colt on behalf of Hoby and Layna Kight, who purchased him for $350,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale. He RNA’d for $485,000 after working a quarter in :20 3/5 at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale. He was re-routed to the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale, but missed that engagement with a sore shin.
“Maybe I paid too much for him, but he was a runner,” Kight said. “That’s the most I’ve paid for one in a long time, but I thought he was as good a horse as there was in Book 1. He went :20 3/5 at Gulfstream and I couldn’t sell him and then he had a little bit of a shin, so I didn’t have him quite ready for Maryland, that’s why he was here.”
Kight said the colt was hampered by a less-than-ideal vet report.
“The vets beat me up a little bit on sesamoiditis, that was it,” he said. “I probably shouldn’t have been able to get him bought
in September if he had vetted really good, but that [sesamoiditis] never stops them and it didn’t stop him this time.
He continued, “We really loved him and we just needed to sell him because we had so much in him. We were prepared to race him, but Steve [Asmussen] loved him, too.”
Ryan Strikes for More Than Ready Filly
Bloodstock agent Mike Ryan, often busy filling orders for clients, found a filly he plans to race himself and bought out pinhooking partners to secure the daughter of More Than Ready for $225,000 early in Thursday’s second session of the OBS June sale.
“We’ve had a lot of success with More Than Ready–he’s no secret,” Ryan said. “And we liked her from the get-go. She’s a medium-sized, quality filly who showed plenty of pace. She is very clean, she’s ready to go on. I think she could run in six to eight weeks in Saratoga. That’s what we bought her for.”
Consigned by Niall Brennan Stables, hip 457 is out of stakes winner Knit One Purr Too (Tale of the Cat). The dark bay filly worked a furlong during last week’s under-tack preview in :10 flat. Bred by Jamm, which acquired the mare with this filly in utero for $400,000 at the 2016 Keeneland November sale, the juvenile was purchased by Hades Bloodstock for $150,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale.
“I bought out Niall and the other partners,” Ryan said. “We bought her as a yearling and I liked her all along. So I bought her for myself and I might take in a partner.”
Ryan, whose successes with More Than Ready include e Five Racing Thoroughbreds’ multiple Grade I winner Rushing Fall, has between 15 and 20 horses in training himself.
“I’m in the breeding business as well,” Ryan said. “If they run well, we will retire them and breed them. It’s part of our portfolio. We like the whole process–racing, breeding and selling. But if you want to try buy quality fillies who have shown something on the track, they are hard to come by. So if she turns out to be a useful filly, she’ll certainly be a nice broodmare. She’ll be a good outcross being by More Than Ready.”
Tiznow Colt Joins Bourbon Lane Partnership
A colt by Tiznow (Hip 438) will be joining the Bourbon Lane Stable partnership after bloodstock agent Mike McMahon made a final bid of $210,000 to acquire the juvenile Thursday in Ocala. Ian Wilkes will train the youngster, who was consigned by Randy Bradshaw.
Out of multiple graded stakes winner Juanita (Mineshaft), the bay colt’s half-brother Wings of Dawn (Medaglia d’Oro) is a two-time winner since the catalogue.
He was purchased by Bradshaw for $210,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale and was making his second trip through the sales ring this year after RNA’ing for $205,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream following a :10 4/5 furlong work. He worked a quarter-mile in :21 2/5 last week.
“We are big fans of the sire, he is known as the big-horse sire for a reason,” McMahon said. “We like the update to the mare’s page–that was a positive over Miami. The horse trained solidly for a guy we respect and trust a lot and that was a real positive. We have horses at Hidden Brook. Our trainer Mark Roberts and Randy share the track, so he’s a horse we’ve known about a long time. There weren’t a lot of negatives. We were just hopeful we could get him.”
Of the colt’s appearance in Hallandale, McMahon said, “We didn’t bid on him at Gulfstream. He galloped well there the whole week, he prepped well. He just kind of turned in a flat work there. But it was early in the year and Randy had a lot of faith in him.”
Founded in 2010, the Bourbon Lane Stable managed by McMahon and Hill was on the Triple Crown trail this spring with graded stakes placed Bourbon War (Tapit).
Hoppels Double Up at OBS
Jesse Hoppel’s Coastal Equine enjoyed pinhooking success Thursday in Ocala when selling a filly by Jack Milton (hip 586) for $110,000 to Team Casse, agent. Hoppel purchased the dark bay for $12,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale. Not to be outdone, and just some 20 hips later, Hoppel’s father Pat sold a colt by Raison d’Etat (hip 609) for $180,000 to Larry Zap, as agent for Joseph Ciaglia, Jr. through his Hoppel’s Horse and Cattle Co. consignment. The elder Hoppel had purchased the dark bay for $10,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic October sale.
From the first crop of Grade I winner Jack Milton (War Front), hip 586 impressed Jesse Hoppel last September.
“The filly had a great walk and a great way of moving,” he explained. “She looks precocious, she looks fast, she looks like she could make someone happy real soon. She’s a bigger version of the filly I bought. She was a little rough, but you’ve got to look through that. She’s a May foal and she’s only going to get better for those guys as time goes by.”
Of the youngster’s $12,000 price tag last fall, Hoppel said, “I try not to spend a lot of money when I buy my horses. I try to emphasize physical and then hopefully I can find something on the paper that is exciting that coincides with the physical I need. I was glad to get her and now I’m really happy I had her.”
After outdoing his son’s result with hip 609, Pat Hoppel deadpanned, “I’m older. I ought to do better.”
Hip 609, out of Neith (Dynaformer), worked the day’s quarter-mile bullet time of :20 4/5 last week.
“When I first bought him, I was just hoping he’d come the right way,” Hoppel said. “You’ve got to check all of the boxes and everything has to be right. And he did. He never slowed up. We struggled with the sire, he’s a little bit unknown, but he’s out of a Dynaformer mare and he worked really, really well. We’ve had a lot of horses work well. This horse worked as good as our really good horses. I thought he would get over $100,000 and then it was a matter of how bad they wanted him.”
Rengifo’s Golden Rock on the Rise
Keiber Rengifo lived out his dream of becoming a jockey, riding some 18 winners on the Midlantic circuit in 2015, 2016 and 2017, but now the Venezuelan native is dedicated to building up his Golden Rock Thoroughbreds, which will send 18 horses through the ring at this week’s OBS June sale.
“I have had Golden Rock for almost two years,” Rengifo said. “About five years ago, I started breezing horses for Hartley/DeRenzo. I breezed horses for them for four or five years and then after that, I rode races in Maryland. I did that for a while, but it was a little tough after I lost my apprentice, so I made the decision to come back to Ocala. Randy [Hartley] and Dean [DeRenzo] gave me the opportunity to breeze for them again.”
With the backing of his family, Rengifo made the decision to branch out on his own.
“Last year, I made the decision to buy some horses for myself–nothing too expensive because I just started and I didn’t have any big clients,” he explained. “So I did it for myself and my family–I have the support of my mom and wife and two babies and my dad. So it’s a family business. I am trying to build it up and find clients.”
His graduates are already succeeding on the racetrack. One of the graduates from his consignment at last year’s OBS March sale is the stakes placed Dunph (Temple City). Sold for $27,500 a year ago, the sophomore has earned over $165,000. Another graduate, Ta (Rattlesnake Bridge), sold for $40,000 at last year’s OBS June sale and is now stakes placed for Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt and trainer Steve Asmussen.
In addition to purchasing about 16 pinhooking prospects himself at last fall’s yearling sales, Rengifo has been supported by clients like Jose Camejo, Alexandro Centofanti and Nick de Caro. He is also training several horses for Evelyn Benoit’s Brittlyn Stables.
“This year, I had a great sale in March and April, in Maryland and now in June,” Rengifo said. “It’s a big market and I’m still doing great. I just try to keep working hard–I think that’s the key.”
Rengifo’s top seller at the June sale so far is hip 548, a filly by Ghostzapper, who sold to Randy Bradshaw for $62,000.
Of his initial introduction to racing, Rengifo said, “My uncle was a rider in Venezuela. That’s how I got into the horse business. When I was young, I wanted to be a jockey. When I came here from Venezuela, for a while I did ride. I didn’t do very well, but my dream came true. Right now, I’m so blessed to be in Ocala with my family.”
Walden Bloodstock Debuts at OBS June
Ben Walden, along with his wife Elaine, have been camped out in the OBS sales pavilion overlooking the back walking ring while deep in study of the June catalogue. The couple is reinventing their involvement in the industry a year and a half after dispersing their bloodstock at the 2017 Keeneland November sale and have chosen the June sale to unveil their Walden Bloodstock.
“We’re establishing, late in life, a different twist to our vocation,” Walden explained. “We are shifting our focus to buying and selling horses. Of course, we’ve done that for many years on our own account, but it’s a different world. And with the farm sold and most of our horses sold, we wanted to stay in the business. We thought very seriously about getting out, but we couldn’t reconcile it in our hearts or our minds.”
The new direction for the former owners of Vinery, as well as ventures from Gracefield to Hurricane Hall and Pauls Mill–was kicked off this week in Ocala.
“This was the first sale on the calendar that came up chronologically after we’d come to this decision,” Walden said. “We are just going to approach it like we have approached the business in past, whether it be stallions or selling yearlings or consigning horses. At this sale, we are trying to stumble on a few young horses that are sound and look like they can run and that we like at decent value like we’ve always tried to find.
He continued, “We have a handful of clients that we’re looking for. We haven’t struck yet, but we have one that we’re going to try to buy later [Thursday]. The cupboard is a little bare in that [client] department, but we’ve got our old Rolodex and we’ve made some phone calls to old partners and old clients.”
After looking for race prospects for clients at the June sale, the Waldens will shift their focus to the yearling market, which opens next month with the Fasig-Tipton July Sale and continues with the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale in August.
“At this point, I don’t have a plan specifically other than we’ll look for young horses for a couple people we are trying to find racehorses for here, we’ll transfer over to yearlings,” Walden said. “My brother [WinStar president Elliott Walden] has given me some partnership ideas and we’ll maybe put a little filly partnership together. We’re starting to give that some thought. After this sale, when we get home we’ll have a little bit of time before July and Saratoga.”
Walden is also eagerly looking forward to the bloodstock sales in Kentucky in November.
“The broodmares have always been our strength, as far as buying mares, finding those mares with deep pedigrees who started out a little slow–the pedigree has a way of seeking its way out. So I really look forward to the fall and I think I can really bring something to the table for some folks who might be trying to build on their broodmare bands. And we’ve always pinhooked weanlings and we might get into that again. Right now, we’re just starting out and we don’t really have it all mapped out yet.”
The Waldens’ 21-year-old daughter Hope, an advanced eventer and talented artist, has developed the new initiative’s logo and her interests will also provide an additional outlet for the bloodstock agency.
“We’ve learned to love the event world,” Walden said. “We don’t know much about the hunter/jumpers, but there are a lot of good people in eventing and we’re going to have an arm in the bloodstock agency where we try to buy event prospects, whether they be advanced, intermediate, novice, or young rider prospects. Elaine and Hope are going to head that arm. So there will be a crossover into the sport horse world and we’ll just see if we can develop that end of it.”