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The OBSC sale gave little cause for optimism for Keeneland November

  PICTURE: Racing Post  

Ocala sale causes gloomy forecasts for Keeneland

WHILE European sellers and buyers were briskly trading fall yearlings at Tattersalls, the two-day OBSC fall mixed sale in sunny Ocala, Florida, began on Monday with trepidation and ended Tuesday with gloomy forecasts for next month's bellwether Keeneland November bloodstock sale in Lexington, Kentucky.

The OBSC sale is the traditional regional opener for the breeding stock sales season, and on the face of it, overall numbers for the two sessions indicated a moderately down sale by average (13 per cent) and median (seven per cent).

But the fall in sale aggregate (31 per cent) told the real story behind this sale and the bloodstock markets in the US in general, which are routinely down 30 to 50 percent.

In stark contrast to the recent rising session aggregates at Tattersalls, due to a larger catalogue from a year ago coupled with fairly minimal declines in average price and median, the comparable Keeneland September yearling sale last month featured a smaller catalogue from a year ago, plus major declines in average and median.

For the record, the two select sessions of the Keeneland September sale were down 48 per cent by gross from 2008, while average fell 30 per cent and median was off 28 per cent. At the corresponding select sessions at Tattersalls last week, average and median were down only six per cent, while the aggregate was up 8 per cent with an 11 per cent larger catalogue.

The shrinking catalogues at US sales are a reaction to the battering that consignors at all types of venues have taken here over the last two years, and it's part of the ongoing and painful correction here to balance supply with demand, exacerbated under the cloud of the global financial crisis.

Once-thriving regional bloodstock markets in the US like Florida, for example, have been particularly hit hard, and just recently leading US owner Frank Stronach announced the relocation of his eight Florida stallions to Kentucky and Canada.

The recent history of the dwindling OBSC fall mixed sale reflects this: in 2007, the sale was a five-day affair, with two preferred sessions; last year, the sale had contracted to three days, with only one preferred session; this year, the sale was down to two days, again with one preferred session. What's in store for next year?  It's a good question.

The downward money trajectory of the preferred sessions at OBSC fall mixed saleover the last two years indicates that stabilization is far from near: In 2007, 256 lots were sold for an aggregate of $6,848,700, for an average price of $26,753; in 2008, 106 head sold for an aggregate of $1,931,600, for an average of $18,223; this year, 132 head sold for a gross of $1,467,900, with the average price only $11,120.

The preferred session average this year was down 39 per cent from 2008, which had been down 32 per cent from 2007.
In fact, the lone 2009 preferred session bore little resemblance to the two 2007 versions, and its average price of $11,120 is 58 per cent less than the $26,753 average over two days from only two years ago.

Overall for both sessions at OBSC this year, 509 horses were catalogued (29 per cent fewer than in 2008) and 301 lots sold (21 per cent less than in 2008), for an aggregate of $2,356,200, an average price of $7,828 and a median of $4,200.Weanlings in general sold better than broodmares, an obvious indication that long-term investment in the factory has little appeal in these financially shaky times.

The most expensive horse in the sale was a weanling colt by Shadwell's Belmont Stakes winner Jazil ($10,000 stud fee) that brought $77,000, and the most expensive broodmare was 7-year-old Lakes Folly, a daughter of Exploit carrying a foal by Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone ($10,000 stud fee) - the sire of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird.

The leading covering sire at the sale was Ashford's A.P. Indy horse Majestic Warrior, with four mares in foal to him selling for an average price of $13,550. A Grade 1 winner at two, Majestic Warrior entered stud this year for a fee of $20,000. The young Ashford sire Lion Heart, who's represented by four Graded stakes winners from his first crop of 3-year-olds in 2009 and who also stood for $20,000 this year, had three mares in foal to him sell for an average price of only $5,333.

Realistically, the quality of stock offered at OBSC, including the preferred session, is generally equivalent to mid-to-back-of-the-catalogue lots at Keeneland November. But these aren't positive signs for this level of the market at Keeneland November - a sizeable percentage of its catalogue.




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