The Thoroughbred auction business finally got what it wanted and needed with the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March select sale of 2-year-olds in training. Like previous juvenile auctions this year, the sale showed increased strength at the top of the market, but it also delivered what the others didn't - enthusiastic buyer demand at all levels of the market.
The average and median prices both rose from a year ago, and the buy-back rate dropped dramatically.
The reduced size of the OBS March catalog helped, bringing supply back more in line with the demand. But the OBS February and Fasig-Tipton Florida select sales also had smaller books, and that didn't seem to pump up demand in all segments of the market.
According to New York-based trainer Rick Violette: "Maybe people needed to get their feet wet in February or earlier in March to see where things were going?"
Another reason why not is that the earlier sales, especially the Fasig-Tipton Florida auction, are considered more elite events that offer the best pedigrees and attract the wealthiest buyers, which makes them intimidating for middle market shoppers.
While the quality of the horses at the OBS March sale has increased lot in recent years, there still is plenty of stock for buyers in the middle and lower ranges. It makes sense that those types of shoppers would wait until then to play.
Both Violette and Patrice Miller of EQB said buyers have gotten touch with them and expressed interest in buying horses at the huge OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training. Violette also has heard from buyers interested in the Fasig-Tipton Maryland juvenile auction.
But Violette remained cautious about the future, saying: "The economy and people's wealth has changed almost daily in the last couple of years, so you can't get comfortable right now. The (OBS March) sale could have been an anomaly, and the market isn't as good as the sale indicated. We're not going to know for sure (about the health of the market) for a while. I hope we're on the road to recovery, but I personally think we've got a ways to go."