Numbers were already tracking safely ahead in both the daily and cumulative returns by the time a Liam's Map colt lit up the board for $1.2 million near the end of Thursday's session at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, but the seven-figure transaction ensured the upward trend would continue into the sale's final day.
Thursday's $1.2-million session-topper also usurped the overall highest price of the sale through its first three days, secured by Robert and Lawana Low, through bloodstock agent Jacob West.
The gray or roan colt from the first crop of Lane's End resident Liam's Map is out of the unraced Bernardini mare Amazement, who is the dam of one winner from two foals to race. Offered as Hip 898, his second dam is the G1 winner Wonder Again, and Japanese champion Grass Wonder is in the extended family.
Though the Lows have not been averse to swinging for the fences in the auction ring, going to that price point was still a high-pressure situation for West.
“That was the last bid,” he said. “I've probably never prayed more. When I bid $1.2 million, I was praying [auctioneer] Ryan Mahan would drop that hammer.”
The colt was a talking point on the sale grounds in the hours leading up to his time in the ring, and West, not normally one to go overboard in his praise for an expensive acquisition, didn't hold back when expressing his admiration for his latest purchase.
“I don't use the term loosely, he was a freak,” West said. “I loved him from the second I saw him. There was a little buzz before the sale and people knew he was a big horse. When you hear the buzz and they show up on the track and do everything the right way, vet clean, and they're from a good consignor, you get excited about them. Then when I went and saw him, I was totally in love. He was a physical specimen unlike anything I'd seen in a while.”
Like the rest of the Lows' stable, the session-topper will be sent to trainer Todd Pletcher, who conditioned Liam's Map during his racing career.
The colt breezed a quarter-mile in :20 4/5 seconds over the Ocala Training Center's all-weather Safetrack surface.
Wavertree Stables consigned the colt, as agent for Ron and Suzanne Fine. The buzz West described over the colt leading up to the sale was abundantly clear to consignor Ciaran Dunne, especially after the breeze show.
“He was as well-received as any horse we've ever brought through a sale,” he said. “He performed and he looked the part.”
The colt was a $50,000 purchase at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale, making for a considerable return on investment.
“[Ron] and his wife Suzanne have been in the horse business for 30 years, and their dream has always been to sell a million-dollar horse, and this is it,” Dunne said.
At the end of three sessions, a total of 508 horses had changed hands for revenues of $56,088,500, up 7 percent from last year's three-day gross of $51,607,000 from 539 sold. The average sale price tracked 15 percent ahead at $110,410, the median rose 18 percent to $65,000, and the buyback rate sat at 24 percent.
“I don't want to say we're surprised, but we're pleased,” said OBS director of sales Tod Wojciechowski. “We saw the entries coming in, and we saw the quality of horses that these guys were entering, and it was impressive. Based on the horseflesh we've seen in the barns and the pedigrees in the book, I guess in some ways it could be expected, but we're pleased with the outcome and that they're being rewarded for bringing nice horses.”
Thursday's trade saw 160 horses sold for $17,789,000, which was a 10 percent improvement over last year's day-three returns of $16,225,500 from 180 sold. The average improved 23 percent to $111,181, the median rose 13 percent to $62,000, and the buyback rate closed at 20.6 percent.
“It certainly picked up momentum through the day and finished strong,” Wojciechowski said. “We're tracking ahead, and I think there's still a lot of good horses tomorrow. We've heard that on the sales grounds, so we're excited to see what happens.”
Phoenix Thoroughbreds Scores Into Mischief Filly For $750,000
After a rather quiet start to Thursday's session, the fireworks came quickly in the mid-afternoon, led by an Into Mischief filly who sold to Phoenix Thoroughbreds for $750,000.
The bay filly, offered as Hip 787, is out of the unplaced Unbridled's Song mare Unbridled Ridge, whose four winners from five foals to race include stakes-placed Divisor, by Harlan's Holiday, the sire of Into Mischief. Champion Gio Ponti and Argentine G1 winner Salt Spring are in the extended family.
“She just had a great move, she's smooth, she's balanced, everything you want, and you've gotta pay for them right now,” said Tom Ludt of Phoenix Thoroughbreds. “That was my last bid, that's really the truth. We thought she was going to be expensive. I thought we'd get her for $600,000 and she went up to $750,000.
The filly breezed a quarter-mile in :21 1/5 seconds.
“I wasn't here in time to see it, but you watch the replays, and she was beautiful,” Ludt said. “She just seemed like she was really in herself and comfortable. Let's hope that carries on and she's ready to go.”
Ludt said a decision on which trainer would get the filly would be made later.
The transaction continued a successful auction on the high end for the de Meric Sales consignment, which has handled three horses sold for $600,000 or more through the end of the auction's third session, including a $1-million Quality Road filly. No other consignor had more than one.
Consignor Nick de Meric was quick to heap praise upon his son Tristan for conditioning many of the draft's top horses at the sale, including the seven-figure filly and Thursday's pacesetter. The younger de Meric had about 60 horses under his watch over the winter, with some going straight to the races and others pointed toward the sales.
The filly was a $220,000 purchase by the de Meric operation at last year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
“We stuck our neck out a bit and bought more expensive horses than we usually do, and they've all come through in good shape, and we're really proud of them and thankful for our partners,” said Tristan de Meric.
De Meric said the filly was a bit immature during the yearling sale season, understandable for a May 15 foal, but she had size, at 15.2 hands.
“She's grown and just continued to develop the right way,” he said. “She's never gone through awkward stages, just grown all together, and stayed balanced. She's very athletic. She's a very nice filly, and has just done everything right for us.”
Davies Rings The Bell With Ghostzapper Colt
You can't get what you want if you don't ask for it, and that philosophy helped Julie Davies land a Ghostzapper colt in her consignment that sold to Stetson Racing for $600,000.
Offered on Thursday as Hip 789, the colt was an $80,000 buyback for the Gainesway consignment at last year's Keeneland September sale, and Davies had shortlisted him for a client. Davies had never consigned a juvenile for Gainesway, but there's a first time for everything, so she got in touch with the farm's director of public sales, Brian Graves.
“He RNA'd, and I approached them and asked if I could train him,” Davies said. “It was very nice of them to send him to me, from everybody they could have picked. I've worked for Gainesway for a couple sales, and I met Brian that way. I really liked the horse when I saw him, and I figured there was no harm in asking.”
The bay colt is out of the French G2-placed Theatrical mare Underwater, whose foals include G3-placed Investissment and stakes-placed No Joy. French G1 winners Groom Dancer and Falco can be found further down the page.
The colt breezed an eighth in :9 4/5 seconds.
“He has never done anything wrong,” Davies said. “He's been an absolutely perfect horse to train. I knew he could possibly bring that kind of money, but did I expect him to go that high? No, I didn't. It's amazing.”
Twirling Candy Colt Headed To Baffert Barn For $500,000
The first horse past the half-million mark on Thursday was a Twirling Candy colt, who was purchased by Sheikh Rashid Humaid Al Noaimi for $500,000 with plans to send him to trainer Bob Baffert.
The bay colt, offered as Hip 760, is out of the winning Suave mare Tough Market, from the family of G3 winner Heiress and stakes winner Law Enforcement. He breezed a quarter-mile in :20 4/5 seconds.
“Bob was here for a couple days, and he liked the horse a lot,” said bloodstock agent Donato Lanni, who signed the ticket. “We're happy and lucky to buy him. It's been tough to buy horses. He had to jump over all those hoops, and those are some big hoops. When they do that, they bring the money.”
Sheikh Rashid Humaid Al Noaimi rules the emirate of Ajman in the U.A.E.
Wavertree Stables consigned the colt, as agent, after Ciaran Dunne's Owls Bloodstock bought him for $140,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July Yearling Sale.
“I liked all the same things I like about him here,” Dunne said, describing the colt as a yearling. “He's a tall, stretchy colt, he's got a beautiful profile, and he's mover like he displayed on the racetrack. We were fortunate enough that he translated his walk into a breeze. Hopefully he's as special as we thought he was.”
The Fasig-Tipton July sale is the first on the North American yearling auction market, and typically attracts forward, early bloomers. It also means horses bought to pinhook could potentially spend more time in a training program than those bought in a fall yearling sale. Dunne said knowing the profile of a given sale is key when shopping for prospects, but ultimately, a profitable pinhook prospect can come from any sale on the calendar.
“I don't think you can read into it too much,” he said. “What you see is what you get, and the consignors in July are usually pretty sharp about what they put in there. They put in a well-made sort of horse, and if you're buying one in July thinking it's going to turn inside out between July and September, you're probably going to be disappointed. He was expensive as a yearling because he was that kind of horse. We just had to not screw it up.”
Other horses of note to sell on Thursday:
– Hip 856, a Street Boss colt out of the unraced Bernardini mare Woodland Park who sold to Stonestreet Stables for $535,000. Consigned by Ocala Stud, the Florida-bred colt is from the family of G1 winner and sire Wildcat Heir. He breezed a quarter in :20 4/5 seconds.
– Hip 847, a Bernardini filly out of the placed Carson City mare Wilshewed who sold to Narvick International for $500,000. She is a full-sister to G3 winner Gala Award, and a half to G2 winner Stormello, G2 winner My Best Brother, G1-placed stakes winner Cherry Lodge, G3-placed Greatest Game, and two stakes producers. Randy Bradshaw, agent, consigned the filly, who breezed an eighth in :10-flat.
Wavertree Stables was Thursday's leading consignor by gross, with 11 horses sold for $2,429,000. Robert and Lawana Low were the top buyers on the strength of their lone purchase of the session-topper.
To view the full results from Thursday's session, click here.
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