Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Out on a limb for OBS February

The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company holds its Selected Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale beginning at noon today, and I've spent a bit of time combing the catalog for horses that I like on pedigree, hoping to confirm those choices just a bit with the workout times and videos available at the OBS Web site.

Some of the available prospects jump off the page simply due to the marquee names of their sires and/or dams. Hip No. 85, for instance, is a son of A.P. Indy who turned a full 2 years of age on Monday and is the first foal of racing age out of Capeside Lady, a multiple Grade 2 winner of more than $800,000. Anybody can pick him out of the catalog as a prospect on paper, and even though he only ran an eighth in 11.1 seconds (several sales candidates ran 10-flat), if he isn't crooked as a barrel of fish hooks he'll probably bring a good price. After all, his sire stands for $150,000 and has been priced at double that in the recent past.

No, I'm looking for horses that, hopefully, might be had more affordably. And as an observer who has never bought a horse at public auction -- actually, never attended one -- I think from distant study alone that there are two primary kinds of bargains at a 2-year-old sale. The only thing the two have in common: Pedigrees that are less than highly commercial.

The first is the late-bloomer; the colt or filly who, particularly on pedigree, looks like better 3-year-old or 4-year-old performer than a competitive 2-year-old. Some sires simply don't pass along much precocity. Neither do some female lines. These prospects might be a little slow in the 2-year-old breeze-ups, but if they move well and, particularly, if they come from female lines that send very high percentages of foals to the races, you still have a fair chance of getting a runner at 3. ... You'll just have to spend time and money this year waiting for that maturity to occur.

The other potential bargain -- and the one on which most of my focus was directed with this OBS February catalog -- is the horse that is likely to run his best right now, at age 2.

Some sirelines get plenty of 2-year-old runners and winners. Likewise, certain female families just seem to keep dropping foals who make the races at 2. With The Jockey Club reporting that in 2008, fewer than one-third of all registered 2-year-olds made a race-start, simply uncovering the horse that is ready to race now -- well, by June or July anyway -- rather than next spring, gives a buyer a big leg up on earning back that horse's purchase price with his early performance at the racetrack. Frankly, breaking that maiden or placing in a stakes race is only going to get tougher when the late-bloomers join them in the starting gates next year and beyond.

So, where to start? ... With sires who get a better-than-average percentage of 2-year-old runners and winners -- regardless whether they're big-name, big-price tag stallions -- that's where.

One of the first to draw my attention in this book, under these criteria, was Hip No. 57, offered by Ocala Stud. The bay colt is a son of Montbrook, who historically sires about 46 percent 2-year-old starters from all foals, significantly better than the breed average, and nearly 21 percen of all Montbrook foals in his stud career became winners before they turned age 3. Montbrook 2-year-olds also have a lifetime average earnings per starter of $22,377, giving their sire a 2-year-old Average Earnings Index of 2.03, more than double the breed average.

Also on the plus side for this colt is his dam's side of the pedigree. He is out of the mare Valid Invitation (Take Me Out-Valid Silk, by Valid Appeal). While she is unraced, her first foal to race, a filly named Sweet Enticement (Drewman), was a winner at 2 last year and placed 3rd in the Florida Stallion/My Dear Girl Stakes at Calder on her way to earning $61,185 as a juvenile. Second dam Valid Silk didn't race and win until she was 3, but she produced a 2-year-old Arlington Park stakes winner in ROCKY RIVER (Concorde's Tune), and her winning daughter Valid Pro (Polish Pro), also has produced a juvenile stakes winner by Concorde's Tune in RED NATION. Under the third dam, the 3-year-old stakes-winning Silk Stocks (Medieval Man), are additional 2-year-old stakes horses in: son RAZOR (another Concorde's Tune, SP at 2, dual SW at 3); son Silk Broker (Pentelicus, G2 placed in the Saratoga Special at 2); granddaughter SILK CONCORDE (Concorde's Tune again, SW at 2 and 3); and grandson Concorde's Appeal (you guessed it, and SP at 2 and 3).

Hip 57 made a good impression in the under tack show, posting a reasonably brisk 21 2/5 for an eighth and looking relatively at ease doing so, with a sound action and feeling only one crack from the whip as he straightened out from the turn.

A $7,500 stallion for 2010 (who stood for $20,000 five years ago), Montbrook's median 2-year-old among 18 sold last year went for $32,500. The average for a colt was $44,689. Both of those figures are well below the median and average prices of all 2-year-olds to come out of this sale last year ($90K median, $104,481 average) even though the 2009 numbers were dramatic drop-offs from a record 2008. So if this colt goes for a price typical of the Montbrooks last year -- $30,000 to $45,000 -- I'd have a hard time considering him a bargain as measured by my bank account, but he might cost less than half as much as the average horse to come out of this sale in 2010, yet, statistically speaking and on pedigree, have a better chance of actually racing soon, and successfully.

I look forward to seeing his selling price at the end of the day.

So, now that you see the thought process that has gone into selecting this list, I'll be more brief in my assessments of the horses to follow. These aren't in any particular order of preference.

Hip No. 101: The other Montbrook in the book, also offered by Ocala Stud, this dark bay filly has an intriguing page. Her dam, Cutoffs (Notebook-Argos Appeal, by World Appeal), won six times from ages 3 to 5 and earned $166K despite no blacktype placings. The dam is a full sister to SPECIAL REPORT, who was a winner in one start at 2 and won a pair of Calder stakes races at 3. The sisters also have three blacktype half-siblings -- all by the sire of Hip 101, Montbrook, and all winners at 2. Second dam Argos Appeal won three times at age 2 herself. ... The filly ran a 22-second quarter, among the slowest at the under-tack show, but I'm not complaining. ... It will be interesting to see how much all that blacktype drives up the price, and whether she stays in the range of Montbrook's fillies to sell at last year (around $30,600 average) or his fillies of 2008 (a whopping $111,000-plus average).

Hip No. 7: Officer-Purer Than Pure, by Turkoman. I liked this Jerry Bailey Sales Agency offering, a chestnut colt, on pedigree, before I saw that he also breezed 10.1 eighth. He's a half-brother to three blacktype foals, all of whom were winners at 2, including G3-winner PURELY COZZENE and G1-placed ERICA'S SMILE. Officer gets 49.8 percent 2-year-old runners and 22.5 percent of all foals are winners at 2, pretty decent figures for the breed. And while his fee has been as high as $40,000 in the year this foal was conceived, Officer's price tag per breeding has plummeted to $10,000 for 2010, which should influence the price in a buyer-friendly fashion. Still, there's a lot of close-up blacktype here that could keep the price higher than my "bargain" range.

Hip No. 148: Posse-Lotsofdiamonds, by Grand Slam. I would want this chestnut filly to stay pretty cheap, as her dam didn't race until age 4 (and then poorly), and her one sibling did race once at 2 last year, but didn't place and hasn't started since. But the second and third dams (Sister Stones, by Houston, and SEVEN STONES, by Habitony) were 2-year-old winners who produced 2-year-old winners. Posse gets nearly 55 percent 2-year-old starters and 23.9 percent juvenile winners, so for a low price (his fillies last year averaged $41,800; I'd want cheaper, perhaps much) she's worth a chance, especially since her 10.2 eighth was hardly shabby.

Hip No. 59: Wildcat Heir-Vany's Storm, by Storm Creek. Six of eight Wildcat Heir foals are out of this sale, and the first dam on this bay filly's page isn't awe-inspiring; winner at 3 of $45K, dam of five foals, four to race, two winners. However, one of those winners was a juvenile stakes-placed Trippi filly in 2009, and the other was a juvenile winner by Meadowlake. Second dam, stakes winning Lord Vancouver mare Vany, produced two stakes winners and a stakes-placer, and there is 2-year-old performance among her blacktype offspring and grand-offspring. Meanwhile, sophomore sire Wildcat Heir got 60 runners out of a few more than 100 registered foals as a freshman, a stellar figure, and 39 of them won. He stands for just $8,000 at Journeyman Stud in Florida, and while his average 2-year-old in 2009 (of 39 sold) went for under $40,000, it remains to be seen whether all that juvenile performance last year will drive the prices up this season. The filly's breeze was "just" 10.3 for an eighth, but that wasn't the worst at the sale.

Hip No. 157: Smoke Glacken-Minado, by Coronado's Quest. How cheap might this chestnut filly go? Hard to say, but as this sprint champion sire's fee has fallen from $30,000 a few years ago to $12,500 this year, so have the prices of his 2-year-olds, from an average of more than $50K in 2008 to only around $25K in 2009. And yet, historically, half of all Smoke Glacken foals will race at 2, and more than 22 percent of all his foals win as juveniles. The dam was unraced and the sales filly's only sibling raced at 2, but was unplaced. Second dam, Minifah (Nureyev) placed in the U.K. and did most of her producing there, to some success. Most notable is that the third dam here is stakes-winning All Rainbows (Bold Hour), a half-sister to champion CHRIS EVERT and, herself, dam of Kentucky Derby-winning female and 3-year-old champ filly WINNING COLORS. ... The breeze was a brisk 10.1, as well, her stride looked good and she has a big engine.

Hip No. 116: Orientate-Ed's Holy Cow, by Bet Big. First thing to note on this dark bay filly's page; her second dam, Sharon Brown, was the dam of HOLY BULL. That says plenty and -- coupled with the fact that Hip 116 has a full sister who won at 2 and is stakes-placed -- might keep her from being too much of a bargain at this sale, despite her sire's relatively modest $10,000 fee and the fact that her breeze was just a 10.4. Her dam was a 2-year-old winner, also. And, though her time wasn't fleet, I thought this filly moved reasonably well on the track. Orientate gets around 43 percent 2-year-old starters, better than average, and about 16 percent of all his 2-year-olds become winners. His sales prices plummeted last year in a terrible economy that hasn't gotten much better, so this will be another one in the sale whose final price will be of great interest to me.

I might be able to pick another few that I would hope can run -- but not cost six figures, and hopefully much less -- out of this book. But the sale is under way now, so I'm calling it quits with this baker's half-dozen.

Now to see how they sell, and then whether and how well they race.


  1. I won't comment on your specific choices, since I hardly even look at the catalog until I see the horses breeze and then look at the slow-motion video. After that, the pedigree's useful for giving you an idea of the likely price and for some hints as to how sound the horse might be.

    I've been to a lot of 2yo sales, and bought a bunch of horses from them. Some successful, some not. Given the extreme stress that's put on these horses to get them ready to breeze an eighth in 10-flat -- something they'll never do again in their lifetimes -- it's somewhat unrealistic to think that it'll be easy, even with a precocious pedigree, to get them to the races by the summer. Opening week at Aqueduct in the fall is, in my experience, a more realistic target. Now that steroids are banned at the sale, at least you don't have to worry about the horse dropping 150 pounds when you bring it home, but, still, it's a long way from the breeze show to the starting gate.

  2. Steve, I'm probably more leery of the horses that go 10-flat in this sale than the ones who ran 10 3/5 or 10 4/5.

    You're right that it's great the steroids are finally gone. But it's still true, as you note, that a lot of stress has been put on these youngsters to get this far, this fast.

    Still, June and July are still a few months away. Somebody's 2-year-olds are racing then, and certainly by August and September. I'm hoping a fair percentage of these seven will have run by the end of the year anyway. Hopefully more than once.


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