The influence and importance of the annual sales of juveniles in training have become paramount in racing. Some of the best young athletes are reserved for these sales, and every season, a notable proportion of the most important performers come out of the in-training auctions.
Most recently, Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice was bought out of the 2011 Keeneland September sale by veteran 2-year-old sales professionals Mike Ryan and Niall Brennan for $25,000, then resold by them as a progressive juvenile in training at the 2012 Keeneland April sale for $200,000.
Those are the sorts of returns that the pinhooking pros hunt for at the yearling sales, and they find more than enough of them every year to keep their operations profitable. They also have changed the way people approach sales and breed horses.
The resellers have done so well for so long that “there are now Kentucky breeders that spot some of their yearlings every year for the 2-year-old sales,” said veteran Florida breeder Mike O'Farrell. He said, “They find some of their nice young horses that aren't quite ready to hit the right spot at the yearling market, send them into training, and cut out the middle man. Why wouldn't they? It's good business sense.”
O'Farrell has a long view on the juvenile sales market, having been in it all his life. His father was one of the pioneers in creating the sales of horses in training, and he continues the family tradition by breeding, training, and selling sizable drafts of homebreds, primarily at the annual sales of 2-year-olds in training at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's auctions in March, April, and June.
O'Farrell said that “just like Keeneland's September sale has become the place to buy a yearling because it offers horses for everyone, the April sale has become our go-to auction here in Florida. It wasn't that long ago that people pointed for the February sales with their premium 2-year-olds, but now those are gone, and a good horse can bring a lot of money in April, at the same sale where other people will find very inexpensive bargains.”
As a venue for one-stop shopping, the OBS April sale is the in-training companion to the Keeneland September auction, where thousands of young horses trade annually.
On Tuesday, the OBS June sale, which last year sold 2013 Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents, will ring down the sales season for the in-training auctions, and just on Saturday, one of the graduates from the 2013 OBS March auction of juveniles won the Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes at Hollywood Park.
In his official racing debut, Kobe's Back broke slowly and raced last through the early furlongs of the Proctor, then smoothly raced through traffic and drew off to win the stakes by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:05 2/5 for 5 1/2 furlongs.
Bred in Kentucky by Joanne Mummert, the gray colt is by the A.P. Indy stallion Flatter out of the Well Decorated mare Well. He sold for $60,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale of yearlings, then was pinhooked for the juvenile sales, bringing $480,000 at OBS March three months ago out of the Niall Brennan consignment.
In Ocala yesterday, I spoke to Brennan about the colt, and he said Kobe's Back “was a man among boys at the October sale. Among the horses I looked at, I thought he was the best horse in the sale, and I couldn't believe we got him. I thought surely one of the end users would snap him up for racing, but sometimes you're there and you get lucky.”
The gray son of Flatter put himself on the short list of nearly every major buyer at the March sale with a work in :10 1/5 to speed through his work at about 44 miles per hour with a stride length of more than 24.5 feet. After an intense bidding battle, the colt was purchased by Lane's End Bloodstock (David Ingordo) for CRK Racing, and the gray is expected to progress through the summer stakes in southern California as his immediate objectives.
With the immediate gratification of purchasing a colt like this and getting to see him in action not long thereafter, more buyers are taking a hard look at purchasing horses at all the sales of 2-year-olds in training.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is a private consultant to breeders on pedigrees, matings, and conformation. He is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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