Many 2-year-olds in training are still scheduled to go through the sale ring this year, but the five major select juvenile auctions ended their 2010 run in early April at Keeneland after kicking off in February with the first of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s two elite sales.
In general, the results were much more encouraging than 2009's recession-battered statistics. Here are the five best things that happened:
- 1. Pinhookers made more money. The people who resell horses provide the majority of stock for juvenile auctions, and their financial health is important to the success of those sales. Pinhookers' rate of return on investment rose in four of the five major select juvenile auctions, and that means they'll have money to spend later this year at the yearling sales. But don't get too excited. The increases fell far short of pinhooking's glory days, and most resellers said they would proceed cautiously and be very selective.
- 2. Signs of market stabilization. Every major select sale showed signs of improvement in some statistical category or posted a result that was close to last year's figures. The OBS March auction was the most solid of all with healthy increases of 10.6% in average price and 16.8% in median price and buyer demand for horses at all levels of the market. It's too soon to say the market is in the midst of a recovery, but at least the free fall in prices ended.
- 3. The little guys (and gals) hit it big. One-horse consigments produced top prices at two of the major select auctions. The year's highest-priced 2-year-old in training so far, a $2.3-million Distorted Humor colt that has been named Brock, was sold by Two Beaches at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale. Two Beaches' operators are Stacy Yagoda and Jill Julian, two veterans of the pinhooking game who had worked hard in the background prior to this year. Extra points for the name of their consignment, which shows a sense of humor. At the Keeneland April auction, trainer Bill Helmbrecht sold the sale-topping, $625,000 Bernardini colt named Wilburn, who was trained like a racehorse instead of sale 2-year-old.
- 4. More balance between yearling purchase and 2-year-old sale prices. Consignor Niall Brennan and trainer John Ward, a buyer, both mentioned that the market had reached a happy medium, with yearling acquisition and juvenile auction prices both falling to levels where pinhookers could make a profit and buyers had a much improved opportunity to recoup their investment and perhaps make some money racing.
- 5. Less emphasis on going fast. OBS changed the maintenance on its synthetic track to slow down the lightning fast workout times. Prior to the start of the juvenile selling season, Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds and New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace met informally with some consignors and suggested that pushing horses to gallop out fast following workouts wasn't necessary.