Is OBS February as Good as It Gets?

Following the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. February select sale of 2-year-olds in training, OBS general manager and director of sales Tom  Ventura warned not to look at the sales results and assume they will be the  trends for the rest of the juvenile selling season. He did have a good point because only 154 horses were offered at the auction.


Unfortunately, the OBS sale, with its setbacks of 29.3% in gross, 33.7% in average price, and 28.0% in median price, may be as good as it gets in 2009 for juvenile auctions. In this latest downturn, the small, boutique sales seemed to have fared the best, including the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select mixed auction and the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale.


The Fasig-Tipton Florida juvenile auction may have the best chance to do better than the OBS February sale. Fasig-Tipton officials are raising the bar on hospitality, and their efforts will include a tent-like structure on the backstretch where meals are served. Every time you see one of them, they stress that they are beating the bushes harder here and abroad than ever before in an effort to attract buyers. The buy-back rate could be lower because the OBS February sale gave consignors a chance to adjust to the new, tougher reality about the value of their horses. Buyers were in a bargain-hunting mood there, expecting big discounts, and they'll probably have the same sort of attitude at the Fasig-Tipton sale, which means the auction will probably struggle even though it traditionally offers horses of the highest quality in terms of pedigree and conformation.


The Barretts select juvenile sale has only 124 horses cataloged and, with outs, that total could fall below 100. Generally, a sale needs a larger group than that to attract a big group of buyers and to be successful. The OBS March select juvenile auction will have a large number of horses, over 500, and even though it's been one of the strongest sales in recent years, making sure demand exceeds supply will be difficult. The trends will be set pretty much in stone by the time the Keeneland sale, which is the last of the five major select auctions of 2-year-olds in training, rolls around, and it's not likely to buck them even though the size of its book will be limited.


All this is not a good omen for the yearling sales. Yearling-to-juvenile pinhookers buy many young horses, but more importantly, they bid on a lot more and that helps raise prices. If they can't make money early in 2009, they'll cut back on their purchases and will be looking for bargains harder than ever. And, as a result, without a huge improvement in the global economy, the yearling sales will probably experience further downturns after managed to escape the worst of the deteriorating economy in 2008.


I hope I'm wrong.


On a brighter note, the drops at OBS in February weren't as steep as they were for many of the recent mixed stock auctions. That may be a small comfort, but it is a comfort.


Leave a Comment:


I would be interested to see if people agree with my thought that we will see a reduction in entries for the Keeneland September sale this year (other sales also?).  If so, how many less? Will people with lower than average individuals see now more than ever, that it costs more to prep these babies than what they will realise on the day.  Or will they still end up there because they have to find a home for them somehow.  I may be out of line by saying last years catalog could have had 1500 less entries at least, maybe more.  If this were to happen, hopefully we would see more competition for the rest of the group with fairer prices seen.

18 Feb 2009 4:37 PM

Lower auction results are here to stay . Unrealistic and excessive books of 100+ helped push prices way down .

19 Feb 2009 12:07 AM
TouchStone Farms

When the liquidity that has been poured into the system gains traction (I believe by midsummer/09)the economic turnaround as it applies to the thoroughbred markets will begin to climb back with the yearling sales seeing a strengthening on a moderate basis with a continuance in the yearling prices and quality headed upward. The shakeout will see reduced numbers at the sales, and sales companies like Keeneland should be looking to garner support by taking a pro-active stance like removing nomination fees or they just may find the boutique type sales eating their lunch!  

19 Feb 2009 12:49 AM
Ed Zepplin

As a commercial breeder that sells mostly yearlings, I cringe when some pinhookers buy my yearlings because I know they will ask too much of my horses and could break them down and minimize by breeders award income in the future. Our industry has been over producing for the past decade and supply exceeds demand.This will cause a market correction in normal economies but with the world financial meltdown and our  recession, I am less than optimistic for sales prices and any level for the next 3 years. These factors will have more of a negative impact on the Thoroughbred business that thew tax reform act of 1986 did. I bet the foal crop of 2010 will be 30% less or higher than 2009 which will reflect the needed correction.

19 Feb 2009 9:15 AM

CAH: I think the Kee Sep sale will be about the same size. People have to find a home for these horses. The best analogy is the F-T Timonium yearling sale. This was a disaster in 2007, but the number of horses catalogued for 2008 was about the same - and another disaster.

19 Feb 2009 12:28 PM


It seems like there may be an even bigger sale than in years past given that a lot of foals went unsold in the Fall and Jan sales. I just don't think people can afford to hold yearlings out.

Breeders have screwed up and they may take the tact that they have to see it out 'til the bitter end on this crop.

19 Feb 2009 12:41 PM

An interesting sidelight to the downturn is the relevance of fast works to high sale prices.  I have always believed that the vast majority of 2-year-old consignors are highly professional and the proof is that sale juveniles outperform every other category on the racetrack, including horses with no sale history.  With that said, nearly everyone is uncomfortable with sub-10 and sub-21 second workouts.  The OBS results would seem to indicate that buyers have generally discounted the times and now focus on other factors as well.  With the brass ring getting smaller this may be an opportunity for the industry to slow itself down.  Consignors may not get it all on one horse, but may make a decent profit on the larger group. The question is...just how many pin-hookers will want to play the game under the new economic rules?

19 Feb 2009 2:09 PM

I think it is going to get worse at all sale in 2009- The only horses bringing good money are those in the upper range, where people with alot of their own money can afford to buy AND race- If you purchase a horse for less, how can you even race them at 60 to 100 a day for training? It doesn't make sense- the horse market is going to fall like the house market,- many trainers will be out of business, and those selling inexpensive horses without any pedigrees are going to be stuck with them---- but in the long run, I agree with the comment above, there was too much 'junk' being sold as is, the only people getting rich is the sales company and the vets.

19 Feb 2009 2:24 PM

Breeding numbers will be down this year for sure mirroring sale prices.Sales will be soft till this years resulting foals hit the sales and correct our over produced product

02 Mar 2009 7:55 PM

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