The Brock Talk

Friday, May 10, 2013

Florida stallions help create record trends at OBS

By now most in the thoroughbred business are aware that the folks at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company are off to a darn good year in 2013 with their 2-year-old in training sales.

After experiencing double digit increases and smashing records during their March sale of Selected 2-Year-Olds, the Ocala-based sales company continued that trend during their April sale of juveniles in training as they saw their average go from $43,458 in 2012 to $60,535 this year, an increase of 39.3%. They also set a new standard for the median price at the four-day auction as that measure went from $27,000 last year to $35,000 at this year’s April sale, an increase of 29.6%.

What many may not know however, is how much Florida stallions and breeders contributed to the success experienced so far this year at OBS – especially during the April sale.

Leading the pack in April was Two Step Salsa, a first crop stallion that stands at Manuel Andrade’s Get Away Farm located in Reddick, Fla.

During the April sale, 12 two-year-olds by Two Step Salsa sold for an average of $74,542 and median price of $55,000—well above the averages for the sale. His top seller was Hip Number 483, a dark bay or brown colt out of the stakes-placed Pioneering mare Homesteader who brought a final bid of $420,000 from Conquest Stables LLC. Consigned by Dr. Barry Eisaman’s Eisaman Equine of Williston, Fla., the dark bay or brown colt was one of two juveniles by Two Step Salsa to bring six figures during the sale. The other colt was Hip Number 376, another Florida-bred that dropped the gavel at $120,000.

Also having a banner sale among Florida sires was Wildcat Heir, who stands at Journeyman Stud in Ocala. Twelve juveniles by Wildcat Heir went through the ring during the April sale, bringing $797,000 while averaging $66,417 with a median price of $63,500—both figures also a good bit above the general averages for the auction.

Three 2-year-olds by Wildcat Heir brought six figures including Hip Number 4, who helped kick-off the sale by going for $180,000 from the consignment of de Meric Sales, Agent. A Florida-bred colt out of the stakes winning mare Additional Prayer, by Songandaprayer, the bay colt was purchased by New Farm.

Last year Put it Back just edged Wildcat Heir as the leading Florida sire and the two kept the rivalry going during the April Sale. Standing at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Put it Back saw four of his get bring $206,000 during the April sale for an average of $51,500 and a median of $44,500. His top seller was Hip Number 519, a Florida-bred colt out of the winning mare I See Gold, by Sejm that brought $80,000 on a final bid by Mersad Metanovic Bloodstock. He was consigned by Blue River Bloodstock, Agent.

Another first crop sire from Florida turned heads as In Summation, who stands at Ocala Stud, had 16 offspring bring $1,022,500 for an average of $63,906 and a median of $42,500. His top seller was Hip Number 613, a Florida-bred colt that went for $250,000 to Steven W. Young, Agent. Out of the winning Dove Hunt mare Load Up, the dark bay or brown colt is a half-brother to stakes-placed St. Joe and was consigned by Azpurua Stables, Agent.

Ocala Stud also had success at the April sale with their popular stallion High Cotton, who sold 16 2-year-olds for $966,500 for an average of $60,406 and a median of $20,000. His top seller was the second highest-priced juvenile of the entire sale, Hip Number 548 that went for $600,000 to St. Elias and West Point Thoroughbreds, Inc. Consigned by Ocala Stud, this Florida-bred colt is out of the Aloha Prospector mare Keikik, making him a half-brother to stakes winner St. Louis City.

Other Florida stallions of note during the sale where Graeme Hall, who stands at Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala and had ten 2-year-olds go for $590,000 for an average of $59,000; Journeyman Stud stallion Circular Quay, who had ten get bring $526,000 for an average of $52,600; Journeyman Stud stallion Hear No Evil, who had but two offspring in the sale but one brought $370,000; and Cowtown Cat, another Journeyman Stud stallion, whose nine get had an average of $52,000 and a median selling price of $41,500.

So as the breeding season winds down, and if by chance your mare is still not in foal, Florida stallions once again give you a few thousand more reasons for you to breed your future thoroughbred star in the Sunshine State.

Friday, March 15, 2013


When Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association president Dr. Phil Matthews welcomed the guests to the FTBOA Awards Dinner and Gala at the Circle Square Cultural Center in Ocala on Monday night, March 11, it was no surprise that he began by telling the 350 estimated attendees of the record-setting year Florida-breds and their breeders had experienced in 2012.

“Tweleve Florida-breds won a record 15 Grade 1 races throughout North America last year,” Matthews said. “And among the ten leading states and provinces in North America, only Florida stallions produced more foals in 2012 than in the previous year.” As one who heads an association whose mission is promote the Florida thoroughbred industry, one would expect him to give those comments or other words of similar enthusiasm.

But what one may not expect is for three of the leading trainers in the game to do the same later that same night. But that is exactly what happened when Eclipse Award-winning trainers Bob Baffert and Dale Romans, and prominent Florida conditioner Bill Kaplan did when they addressed the audience in separate speeches.

Baffert was the first to applaud the Florida breeders when he accepted the Florida-bred award as the trainer of Florida-bred Champion Male Sprinter Coil and later Florida-bred Champion Three-Year-OId Filly Eden’s Moon.

“I just want to say how much Florida-breds have meant to me,” Baffert, a trainer of three Kentucky Derby winners (Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002), said. “They have helped make my career from horses like Silver Charm right up to Coil and Eden’s Moon last year. I don’t know what you [Florida breeders] are doing down here, but keep it up.”

A few awards presentations later, it came time to present several awards to the connections of Little Mike as the Florida-bred Champion Turf Horse, Florida-bred Champion Older Horse and Florida-bred Horse of the Year.

After Nick Vaccarezza, the son of breeder Carlo Vaccarezza and owner Priscilla Vaccareeza gave a heart-felt speech about the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) winner named for his brother Mike, Romans made it a point to grab the microphone before stepping off the stage.

“I just want to echo what Bob Baffert mentioned,” Romans said. “As most of you know, I’m a Kentucky boy through and through but I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for what you have meant to me and my career. It was actually you who helped me off to a fast start. When I first got my license as a 28-year-old kid, it was Michael O’Farrell and Marion Lewis who walked around the Calder sale all those years ago and helped me pick out a bunch of Florida-breds – and most of them turned out to be winners. Now I’ve had the chance to train some great Florida-bred stakes winners like Joint Effort and now Little Mike and I have to say, the Eclipse Awards got it wrong and you got it right!”

Just a month earlier, Little Mike missed being named the North American Champion Turf Horse after winning the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, the Arlington Million at Arlington Park and the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Santa Anita, all Grade 1 races and all further than the three Grade 1 turf races won by eventual champion Wise Dan.

Not to be outdone in his appreciation for Florida-breds of course, was Bill Kaplan. Accepting the award for the second consecutive year as the trainer of 2012 of Champion Older Female and Female Sprinter Musical Romance, herself an Eclipse Award winner and Florida-bred Horse of the Year in 2011, Kaplan went right to the point with his comments.

“Musical Romance has meant a great deal to me but so have a lot of other Florida-breds. I’ve trained mainly Florida-breds because – quite simply – I buy only Florida-breds.”

Kaplan’s testimonial may have been the shortest of the three decorated conditioners, but his long history of backing his words by signing auction tickets on horses from the Sunshine State have just an impact if not more.

So the next time you find yourself in the market for a thoroughbred whether at an auction, private sale or through the claiming box, consider the words of three of the most successful trainers in the game and the final comments by Dr. Matthews.

“When it comes to Florida-breds – you can race ‘em or chase ‘em.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Quick Start to another HOY Campaign

Veterinary science definitively tells us that horses are unable to read, despite what many think how Mr. Ed, the talking horse on the 1950s television program by the same name, was able to stay on script. Even if they could read, it is doubtful Florida-bred star Ron the Greek knew he was not being considered as a candidate for Horse of the Year in 2012, or even that he is capable of comprehending the concept of an award.

But on Jan. 19, in the $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park, he ran like he knew his connections had not been invited as finalists to the awards gala, also held at the Hallandale Beach track just hours after race. In other words, Ron the Greek seemed to be running with a vengeance. And if such a thing existed, it may not have been a vengeance against the Eclipse Award voters who snubbed the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) winner and Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and Whitney Handicap (G1) runner-up by not even giving him a second or third-place vote.

It may have been a reprisal against fellow Sunshine Millions Classic defending champion Mucho Macho Man, who had defeated runner-up Ron the Greek by a length and-a-half last year in this race.

Whatever the catalyst for the performance, Ron the Greek put in quite an effort to start his 2013 campaign and another possible run at Horse of the Year.

To those who saw the race in person, on television or on the internet, it was quite the spectacle.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott knew early in the race something was different with Ron the Greek, a son of the Hartley/DeRenzo stallion Full Mandate and the Fortunate Prospect mare Flambe’. At the half-mile pole of Ron the Greek’s three previous races, he was 12, 11 and nine and one-half lengths off of the early pace. But in the Sunshine Millions, he was much closer.

“We had asked [jockey] Jose [Lezcano] if he could, to stay a little closer. But I didn’t expect him to be that close,” Mott said of pace scenario that had longshot I’m Steppin’ It Up and wagering third-choice Fort Loudon running in a relatively quick :23.19 for the first quarter-mile and :46.59 for the first four furlongs while Ron the Greek was just four and-a-half lengths behind. “I thought… …the closest he’d be was 12 lengths.” But any concern Mott may have had, ended with three-eighths of a mile to go when Lezcano gave Ron the Greek the go-ahead to make his move.

By the time Ron the Greek hit the top of the stretch, he was seven lengths in front and still pulling away. Bred by Jack T. Hammer of Ocala, Ron the Greek eventually hit the wire more than 11 lengths in front of Cash Rules in second and Fort Loudon in third in a running time of 1:49.19.

While the time over the sloppy track may not have turned many heads, the 115 Beyer Speed Figure remains the best in North America on a main track at a mile or further this year through Feb. 1. And it was certainly good enough for Mott and owners Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and Mr. Hammer to consider shipping again to Santa Anita in Southern California to defend their title in the Mar. 2, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap.

There Ron the Greek is expected to meet Game on Dude, another older horse with Horse of the Year aspirations after winning the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 2 at Santa Anita.

Yes, I admit it is a bit early to start campaigning for Ron the Greek to be Horse of the Year. There are still more than 10 months to go and as the late Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham said, “Thoroughbreds are like strawberries. They can go bad overnight.”

But if Ron the Greek stays as ripe as he was in the Sunshine Millions, it will be difficult on his adversaries in future contests. And maybe Ron the Greek will get those necessary nods from the voters for the golden trophy given to the Horse of the Year next January.