The first two major select auctions of the juvenile selling season sent mixed messages about the health of the marketplace.
Based on the results, the top end of the market is enjoying a little bit of a rebound. At the Ocala Breeders's Sales Co. February sale, three horses sold for $400,000 or more apiece, surpassing the 2009 top price of $340,000. The highest price at the fanciest sale of 2-year-olds in training, the Fasig-Tipton Florida auction, soared to $2.3 million from $1.6 million last year. The sale's average and median prices posted increases, with the median rising an impressive 33.3%.
But below the very top, the pickings have been slim. The gross, average, and median for the OBS auction, which offers more middle-market horses than top-end prospects, all declined for the second year in a row. The buy-back rates at both the OBS and Fasig-Tipton sales didn't change much, and numerous horses were scratched, suggesting that even with smaller auction catalogs, consignors still are having trouble finding buyers for their stock.
The market is desperate for any positive sign and an improvement at the top is welcome. But it would be nice to see a rebound in the middle and lower parts of the market as well.
The quality of horses at the upcoming OBS March select sale has improved in recent years, but many of its offerings remain the type that appeal to middle market shoppers. But if the performance of the previous 2010 sales of 2-year-olds in training is any indication, we'll see the top price grow and a handful of horses will bring a whole lot of money, maybe more than their consignors expect.
A much greater number, perhaps the vast majority, will not make money if sold, will be bought back, or will be scratched. And that's nothing new.