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OBS confirms breeze market down 30 per cent

FIGURES from the OBS March Sale in Ocala, Florida,  the largest select auction of two-year-olds in the northern hemisphere, confirmed on Wednesday night the impression, drawn from earlier sales this season, that the breeze-up market is down by 30 per cent compared to last year.

With 523 horses in its catalogue, a reputation of late as a place where everyone, from low-budget trainers to high rollers, can find a horse to suit, and record figures in 2008 - including a median price of $100,000 - the two-day auction in Ocala, Florida, seemed poised to reveal the true state of affairs for the important US breeze-up market. Some pinhookers even bypassed more boutique auctions in favour of this venue, which they believed would be the most solid in the quavering economic underfooting. As a result, the catalogue was 14 per cent larger than last year's.

The results were as follows: the number of horses sold was down 7.7 per cent, the aggregate was down 38%, the average price fell by 32.8 per cent, and the median dropped by 30 per cent.

The declines match very closely those seen at the three major US breeze-ups earlier this year - the OBS February, Fasig-Tipton Calder, and Barretts March select sales.

The high number of withdrawals and buybacks at OBS this week also mirrored the situation at the other breeze-ups, which yielded a cumulative clearance rate of 43 per cent of lots sold to lots catalogued, and 61 per cent of lots offered to lots catalogued. The equivalent clearance figures from OBS were 41 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. More than 30 per cent of the OBS catalogue was withdrawn before the sale, while another 27 per cent of the catalogue went unsold.

For those who did sell, the market was buoyant enough to record four prices at $400,000 or more (compared to 13 in therecord renewal of 2008). The 29 lots sold for $200,000 or more were knocked down to 23 different buyers, indicating there is still a fairly broad swathe of people willing to spend large amounts on potential racehorses. But it is not as broad, deep, or carefree in its spending as it was before the financial crisis.

The sale-topper, a $450,000 colt by El Prado, was sold on Wednesday to south Florida trainer Eddie Plesa, on behalf of Steve Weizcholz. The colt, bred by veteran Ocala-basedpinhookers Shari and Barry Eisaman in the name of Eico Stable, had breezed two furlongs in 20.8sec in the pre-sale breeze show. The Eisamans bought the colt's dam, the multiple Grade 3 winner Rabiadella, by Dynaformer, for $85,000 at the 2006 Keeneland November Sale.

While pinhookers, having bought in a relatively strong market, were battered in many cases during the auction's run, the country music star Toby Keith enjoyed a great success with a colt by Tiznow, bought by his Dream Walkin' Farm for $120,000 at Keeneland's September sale. Re-offered for Keith by Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds, the colt brought the second highest price of Wednesday's session when purchased by Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables for $410,000.  Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, accounted for two of the other three horses sold for $400,000 or more during the auction.





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