Strength at the Top as OBS March Concludes with a Million-Dollar Munnings Filly

Hip 558, the $1-million Munnings session topper | Photos by Z

by Jessica Martini & Christina Bossinakis

OCALA, FL – With plenty of activity at the top of the market, the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training concluded its three-day run with increases in average and median over last year's two-session renewal and five juveniles selling for seven figures, led by a co-record $2-million son of Good Magic.

“I thought it was a really good sale and it held strong all the way through,” said OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski. “There were quality horses on each day and we sold five horses for over a million dollars. The gross was up substantially, which you would expect because we had a lot more horses, but still there were a lot of good horses. Consignors continue to bring quality horses here and they get rewarded for it.”

Through three sessions, OBS sold 449 horses for a total of $70,399,500. The average was $156,792–up 17.5% from the two-day 2022 figure. The median rose 6.7% to $80,000.

A year ago, 371 horses grossed $49,498,000 for an average of $133,418 and a median of $75,000.

A filly by Munnings, just the second horse through the ring Wednesday, was the fifth of the auction to top seven figures when selling for $1 million to bloodstock agent Donato Lanni, bidding on behalf of Frank Fletcher. She was the second million-dollar horse from the Tom McCrocklin consignment

A total of 24 horses sold for $500,000 or over this year, double last year's total, while the five million-dollar juveniles in 2023 was one more than the 2022 number.

The buy-back rate remained well over 2022 levels throughout the three sessions, concluding at 23.2%. It was 13.7% a year ago. From a catalogue of 833 horses, 585 went through the ring, with 248 outs and 136 buy-backs.

The 2023 catalogue had 198 more head than last year's auction, but only 78 more horses sold.

Asked to assess the strength of the middle market, Wojciechowski said, “There was some middle market here. There always seems to be a flight to quality to the upper end of the market, but I think there was some strength all of the way through.”

Buyers noted the strength of the top end of the market, but were more critical of the middle market.

“The perceived good ones are making all of the money and there is no middle market, there is no money for the others at this sale,” bloodstock agent Marette Farrell said, adding she expected to see a broader buying bench next month at the OBS April sale.

Bloodstock agent Lauren Carlisle agreed with Farrell.

“It was tough,” Carlisle said of the market in Ocala this week. “I've been outbid mostly. I got one yesterday. The colts are very tough. I got a filly yesterday. That's probably the only reason I could buy her was because she was a girl. It seems like people are focusing in on the boys and the really top horses. And if people don't like them, there is a drop-off. Maybe in April, the middle market will come back, there might be more middle buyers.”

And yet demand remained high for those horses who jumped through all the proverbial hoops.

“I think you get rewarded,” said consignor Ciaran Dunne. “The breeze show is the be all and end all and if you perform on the racetrack, you get rewarded and rewarded handsomely. And if you miss, it's like any endeavor, if you play soccer and you miss the goal, you don't get paid.”

De Meric Sales was the leading consignor at the March sale, with 38 head sold for $6,255,000. Mike Ryan was the auction's leading buyer with eight purchased for $2,210,000.

Munnings Filly Produces Fireworks Early at OBS March

Hip 558 | Photos by Z

It didn't take long for the fireworks to begin during Wednesday's third and final session of the OBS March Sale. Digging in for only the second juvenile through the ring, agent Donato Lanni, bidding on behalf of Arkansas businessman Frank Fletcher, extended to $1 million to secure Hip 558, a filly by Munnings. Trainer Chad Brown, bidding from the other side of the pavilion, was the chief underbidder. Offered by Tom McCrocklin, the filly breezed a quarter in :20 4/5 last Thursday.

“She was an exceptional filly, said Lanni, who was flanked by Bill Mott during the bidding. “She worked great and came back good. She was a picture–just a really cool filly.”

According to Lanni, the Hall of Famer will train the filly. Mott also is responsible for Fletcher's MGSW and millionaire Frank's Rockette (Into Mischief), winner of her two recent wins at Gulfstream–the GIII Sugar Swirl S. and GIII Hurricane Bertie S.

“Frank is on a roll and has had a very good winter,” said Lanni. “He loves the game and is good for the business.”

Bred by Springhouse Farm, the bay brought $450,000 from McCrocklin, who signed on behalf of Michael Sucher's Champion Equine after purchasing the bay at last summer's Saratoga Select yearling sale.

“She was an expensive filly going in and is just a beautiful horse,” said McCrocklin. “The idea all along was to put her in a 2-year-old in training sale. It's not conventional, it's a lot of money. But she has really lived up to the expectation. Just a classy filly. She trained well and is very sound. She breezed extremely well and galloped out fast. And she had all the right people on her.”

The Apr. 26 foal is out of In Full Compliance, a daughter of Smart Strike. This is the family of Grade I winners Chaposa Springs and You and I.

According to McCrocklin, the vetting activity surrounding the filly had been swift all week, signaling what was to come on sale day.

“She is a very classy, legitimate filly and I was not shocked she brought a million but you don't ever expect it. But she acted the part,” explained McCrocklin. “I thought she could bring a million. But you have to be a mind reader at that point. What are they thinking. Sometimes with these more expensive horse, somebody just wants the horse. Period. So I was not surprised. But I definitely wasn't counting on it. We had a $599,000 reserve. That's where we were at.”

Explaining the decision to pursue the filly, Lanni added, “Munnings has become quite the sire. And she was just a very elegant filly, so I'm glad we got her.”

McCrocklin enjoyed a banner March sale run, highlighted by a pair of seven-figure juveniles. Tuesday's session saw a colt by Arrogate (Hip 489) bring $1.05 million, in addition to a filly by Arrogate (Hip 526) that realized $950,000. He also sold a colt by Catalina Cruiser (Hip 66) on Day 1 for $400,000. @CBossTDN

Quick Double for Wavertree

Marette Farrell and Wavertree's Ciaran Dunne | Photos by Z

The Wavertree Stables consignment had a pair of high sellers in quick succession during Wednesday's final session of the OBS March sale, as Hideyuki Mori went to $900,000 to acquire a filly by Twirling Candy (hip 600) and just a few hips later, bloodstock agent Marette Farrell went to $925,000 for a colt by Practical Joke (hip 626) on behalf of Speedway Racing. Both juveniles worked in :9 4/5.

Hip 626 is out of Louisiana Voodoo (Big Brown), a half-sister to Grade I-placed Givemeaminit (Star Guitar). Wavertree consigned the colt on behalf of Cypress Creek, which purchased him for $220,000 as a weanling at the 2021 Keeneland November sale.

“He is the first we've had for them really, so it was a bonus out of the blue,” Wavertree's Ciaran Dunne said of the colt. “The horse was started in Louisiana and came to us in December. He couldn't have trained any better than he trained. He was very simple and straightforward, a plain brown wrapper. He showed up every day and went from strength to strength to strength.”

After signing the ticket on the colt on behalf of Peter Fluor and K.C. Weiner's Speedway operation, Farrell said, “He's a really, really athletic horse with a gorgeous presence. He was very light on his feet. So we loved him on the frontside and Tescha [von Bluecher] loved him on the backside. We saw him at the barn and he used himself very well.”

Farrell hopes the colt follows in the footsteps of Speedway's champion 2-year-old colt Corniche (Quality Road).

“They are looking for a two-turn horse that could be a top-class colt who can go down the path of Corniche and continue on,” Farrell said.

Hip 600 | Photos by Z

Hip 600 is a daughter of stakes-winner Laudation (Congrats), who is out of multiple graded stakes winner Rite Moment (Vicar).

Paul Reddam and Dunne's Red Wings Enterprises pinhooking partnership purchased the filly for $265,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.

“From day one, we thought she was very, very special,” Dunne said of the juvenile. “Thankfully we weren't the only ones. She was a beautiful yearling when we bought her, as reflected in her price. She has been a good filly all year. We had high expectations and that obviously exceeded them. If they perform on the racetrack and show up at the barn, the sky is the limit.”

Adding to a big hour for the Wavertree consignment, a filly by Into Mischief (hip 639) sold for $550,000 to agent Ben McElroy, bidding on behalf of AMO Racing. The filly had been purchased by Lehigh Bloodstock, the pinhooking partnership spearheaded by Three Diamond Farm's Kirk Wycoff, for $240,000 at Keeneland last September.

Later in Wednesday's session, Wavertree sold a filly by Omaha Beach (hip 752) to Kerri Radcliffe. The juvenile had been purchased by West Bloodstock for $300,000 at Keeneland last September.

With seven horses sold Wednesday for $3,517,000, Wavertree was the session's leading consignor and was the auction's second-leading consignor with 18 head sold for $6,147,000.  @JessMartiniTDN

Colt Justifies the Wait for Childs

Bill Childs waited all week to bid on a colt by Justify (hip 806), ultimately signing for the Niall Brennan-consigned chestnut for $700,000 as the final hips came through the ring at the OBS March sale Wednesday.

“He is the only one I bought,” Childs admitted. “I've been ready to go for two days now, but we really liked him.”

Out of Rebuke (Carson City), the colt is a half-brother to graded-placed Freedom Flyer (Constitution). He was bred by A R Enterprises and RNA'd for $145,000 at last year's Keeneland January sale.

“Of course, he worked in :9 4/5,” Childs said of the colt's appeal. “We liked his family. We liked his conformation. We like everything about him. He'll be going to Bob Baffert in California.”

Childs admitted he was ready to bid higher for the youngster.

“We tried to buy him before the sale,” he said. “So we were tickled to get him for that price.”

Childs and his son Alex, both of Ft. Worth, Texas, spearhead the CSLR Racing partnership. In their first season racing, the partners campaigned the unbeaten Awesome Strong (Awesome Slew), whom they purchased for $500,000 at the Fasig-Tipton May Digital Sale last year following his six-length debut victory at Gulfstream. The colt went on to sweep the Florida Stallion series and was named FTHA 2-year-old Champion of 2022. @JessMartiniTDN

Omaha Beach Filly Brings $690K on Day 3

Kerri Radcliffe | Photos by Z

Heading the Spendthrift sire's progeny over the three-day run at OBS March, Hip 752 brought a $690,000 final bid from agent Kerri Radcliffe, signing on behalf of an undisclosed buyer. Consigned by Wavertree Stables, the daughter of MSW Pacific Heat (Unusual Heat) posted a :9 4/5 move during last week's breeze session.

“All the 2-year-old guys here in Florida have been talking about the Omaha Beaches and they really like them,” explained Radcliffe. “I saw this filly in January and absolutely loved her. She had an incredible breeze and physically, I think she is the most beautiful filly in the sale.”

Bred by a partnership of Betz Thoroughbreds, D.J. Stables, Brian Graves and Gainesway, the May 15 foal was a $300,000 purchase at Keeneland last September.

“I liked the Omaha Beaches at the yearling sales,” said Radcliffe, explaining the filly's appeal. “She is also out of a stakes mare and her stride length was impressive. She just checked all the boxes for me.”

She continued, “I purchased her for a new client. Sheila Rosenblum would also like a piece of her as well. I have to make a decision where I am going to send her, but most likely she will go to [Bob] Baffert.”

Radcliffe hopes that lightening can strike again while attempting to purchase another Grade I performer from the Wavertree consignment. Radcliffe was part of the team that unearthed Grade I-performing Nemoralia (More Than Ready) for $170,000 at this venue in 2015 and struck paydirt again when purchasing GI Starlet S. winner Dream Tree (Uncle Mo) for $750,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale in 2017. @CBossTDN

All Munnings, All the Time

Hip 598, another Munnings | Photos by Z

The Munnings effect continued later into the sale, with Hip 598, a colt by the Coolmore sire, reeling in a $685,000 final bid from OXO Equine. Handling the bidding duties ringside was agent Christina Jelm, who was on the phone with OXO's Larry Best. Consigned by Eddie Woods, who paid $165,000 for him at Keeneland September, the Apr. 13 foal breezed an eighth in :9 4/5 last week.

“He looks like a sprinter, a horse to have fun with,” said Best via phone.

The colt is out of Laquesta (Lemon Drop Kid), the dam of SW Opus Forty Two (Mendelssohn). This represents the family of GI Santa Anita Derby winner Cupid.

“A very nice horse–not overly big but a stout horse and quick. A real class act,” said Woods. “He's been very easy to be around and has been that way all year. He worked really well and galloped out great. We expected him to sell well.”

Munnings enjoyed a banner day Wednesday, with a filly by the sire (Hip 558) bringing $1-million earlier in the afternoon.

And Woods has already enjoyed success from that source, having sold Munnings' Eda for $550,000 at this venue in 2021. She went on to win the GI Starlet S. later that year.

“He's a great stallion,” affirmed Woods. “He's just gotten better and better. He was at $30,000 early and now is up to $100,000 and you can't get to him. He's a pro. He got Jack Christopher, who is the best miler in the country.”

“He was a very blue collar stallion and now he's gone white collar.” @CBossTDN

Constitution Colt to Carlisle

Bloodstock agent Lauren Carlisle, bidding on behalf of an undisclosed partnership, purchased a colt by Constitution (hip 574) for $675,000 early in Wednesday's final session of the OBS March sale. The chestnut was consigned by Sequel Bloodstock and was purchased by Sequel's Becky Thomas for $200,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale. He is out of graded-placed Jungle Tale (Lion Heart) and worked a furlong in :10 flat at last week's under-tack show.

“We loved him,” Carlisle said after signing the ticket. “He's a big, two-turn type colt. Obviously Constitution speaks for himself. He had a great breeze–one of the top breezes in my opinion, for the colts. We are very happy to get him.” @JessMartiniTDN

Constitution Colt Tops Boardshorts Activity on Day 3

Hunter Rankin | Photos by Z

Coffee mogul Travis Boersma made headlines last fall when paying a whopping $4.6 million for a share in subsequent Horse of the Year Flightline. Returning to the sales scene in the early part of 2023, Boersma's Boardshorts Racing extended to $625,000 for a son of Constitution at OBS Wednesday.

Hunter Rankin signed for Hip 612, who was consigned by Pike Racing after Al Pike purchased him for $165,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale. Out of Grade I placed Libby's Tail (Tiz Wonderful), the Jan. 14 foal breezed an eighth in :10 1/5 last week. A trainer for the colt has yet to be determined.

“We kind of whittled the sale down to 10 or 15 horses and just followed up and hope we get lucky,” Rankin explained. “And we got lucky a few of times.”

Later in Wednesday's session, Boardshorts landed Hip 678 for $450,000. The colt by Into Mischief is out of SW and GSP Miss Southern Miss (More Than Ready). Consigned by de Meric Sales, the Mar. 21 foal is from the family of Grade I winner Cotton Blossom.

“He was a very athletic type,” he said. “He worked great and was a really good mover. And if he is a good horse, he can be a stallion.”

Rankin also signed for a Maximus Mischief filly (Hip 456, $90,000) on Day 2 and Justify filly (Hip 732, $240,000) late in the session Wednesday.

According to Rankin, the operation is looking to expand its presence in Kentucky while maintaining a string in California.

Earlier this season, Boardshorts purchased Ancient Peace for $650,000 at Keeneland January. The daughter of War Front was sixth in her debut for trainer Graham Motion at Del Mar Dec. 3 before rebounding to score in her latest at Santa Anita Dec. 30. Since her purchase, she has been transferred to John Sadler. She posted her latest work at Santa Anita Mar. 20, going five panels in :59.60 (2/14).

“She is doing great,” he confirmed. “We're looking for an [entry level allowance] with her and she will probably run in the next couple of weeks.”

Boardshorts also purchased a Omaha Beach colt out of Daisy from the group of six horses that were re-offered for sale by Keeneland earlier this month.

“He is still in Florida at the moment but he will likely end up in Kentucky,” he said. “In the future we will try to spread horses around.”

In addition to Sadler, Boardshorts employs trainer Quin Howey, who is based at San Luis Rey and expects to add another Kentucky-based conditioner to the roster.

“We're looking to build a Kentucky presence,” he explained. “So we will have some horses in Kentucky and some in California. We're trying to build the stable with nice horses.”

Simultaneously building a broodmare band, Boardshorts secured Empire Hope for $450,000 at Keeneland in January in addition to Lake Garda (American Pharoah) for $600,000 in November. Both mares are in foal to Flightline. @CBossTDN

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