$2.2-Million Gun Runner Colt Powers Day Three as OBS Spring Sale Stays the Course

by Jessica Martini & Christina Bossinakis

OCALA, FL – For the third straight day, the team of Bob Baffert and Donato Lanni, acting on behalf of Saudi businessman Amr Zedan, made the highest bid of the session, this time going to $2.2 million–top price of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training sale so far–to acquire a colt by Gun Runner from the de Meric Sales consignment as the Spring sale continued to produce figures largely in line with its record-setting 2022 renewal.

Through three of four sessions, OBS has sold 519 juveniles for a total of $67,661,000. The cumulative average of $130,368 is down 3.7% from the corresponding end-of-day figure from 2022 and is down just 1.8% from the average of $132,821, which includes post-sale transactions from a year ago. The median of $65,000 is down 7.1% from a year ago.

“We were very pleased with the March sale and it seems like that momentum has carried on through April,” said OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski. “We set records last year and here we are bumping up against those records this year. It feels good and it is a testament to the strength in the marketplace.”

Zedan topped the sale’s opening session with a $1.45-million son of Arrogate and added a $900,000 son of Frosted Wednesday.

“He’s come with a big budget and that’s helpful to the consignors,” Wojciechowski said of Zedan. “It probably pushes horses that he gets and hopefully, it moves buyers to other horses and they look for other top prospects that they can settle on as well.”

With 128 juveniles reported not sold after the final horse went through the ring Thursday, the buy-back rate was 19.8%. it was 16.5% at the same point a year ago.

While the figures remained stronger, consignors continued to see a polarization in the marketplace.

“I had so many people on that horse who just had to have him,” Jesse Hoppel of Coastal Equine said after selling a colt by Blame for $700,000. “But if you don’t have the flavor of the week, they don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

Hoppel said the absence of a select sale like the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale has buyers scrambling to make sense of the new sales landscape.

“I think the buyers are confused,” he said. “They don’t know where to go. The 2-year-old sales market now lacks a select sale. It doesn’t give you direction–where are these middle market horses going to be, where are the expensive horses going to be. Right now, they are scattered. The public doesn’t have an idea of where to go for the right horses.”

Still buyers found plenty of competition for the top lots.

“People are saying it’s a little bit spotty, but at the same time anything we followed up seemed like it’s made plenty of money,” said Hunter Valley’s Fergus Galvin after signing for a $575,000 daughter of Into Mischief. “I don’t think it’s overly strong.”

Donato Lanni | Photos by Z

Bloodstock agent Donato Lanni, who has made the highest bid of each of the sale’s first three days, said, “It’s really strong for the top, top horses. The middle market looks like it is holding pretty strong. Everyone is here, so it’s very strong for the top-end horses. The market was very strong here last year and we’re seeing that again this year. Hopefully it continues that way.”

The OBS Spring sale concludes with a final session Friday. Bidding begins at 10:30 a.m.

Guns Blazing at OBS Day 3

The storms that barreled through the Ocala area Wednesday night seemed like a mere breeze compared to the gale force that swept through the OBS sale’s ring midway through Thursday’s session. In the moments leading up to the entrance of Hip 782 into the ring, several of racing’s biggest names lined up to duke it out for a juvenile colt by Horse of the Year Gun Runner. With several separate interests clashing, including agent Donato Lanni–accompanied by trainer Bob Baffert in their customary perch in the media box–and fellow Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who trained Gun Runner during his illustrious campaign, it was Amr Zedan’s potent team that outlasted the rest to land the colt for a cool $2.2 million.

Hip 782 | Photos by Z

“That was ‘wow’,” said Lanni. “Amr Zedan absolutely loved him and he really wanted the horse. He was not going to go home without that horse…Bob really loved him too. The whole team did.”

Outlining some of the factors that led to the team extending to the sale-topping price through three sessions, Lanni offered, “He performed very well and had a great gallop out. He was really fast for a such a large-sized horse. He looks like he wants to go a Classic distance and has gears.”

“It’s nice to see a horse with that much size by Gun Runner who looks like a two-turn horse but also has the speed. He showed it here.”

The Mar. 20 foal is out of Perfect Wife (Majesticperfection), the dam of the colt’s full-sibling GSP Runaway Wife.

“Every day when you have one like that in the barn, you’re kind of sweating bullets and you’re worried you’ll walk into the barn and find him with his legs up in the air or colicking,” said Nick de Meric. “But he’s been a wonderful horse for us. Tristan and Val [de Meric] take the credit for producing him like they have.”

Bred by Fern Circle Stables, the bay brought $430,000 at Fasig-Tipton last July. Consigned by de Meric sales at OBS, the colt breezed in :10.1 last week.

“It was a ton of pressure,” continued de Meric. “Frankly, that [yearling price] was out of our comfort zone. We just all felt so strongly about him and we had a couple of partners on him, so we didn’t have to shoulder the whole load.

“He affected all of us [when we first saw him] and we thought he could be something special.”

Tristan de Meric was equally enthused with the colt.

“The way this horse moved, his balance and the way he just kept it up all day long [stood out],” he said. “He always did everything right. He’s a horse with a great mind and did everything right from the get-go.”

Reflecting on the colt’s purchase last term, he continued,

“We definitely stretched well beyond our comfort zone, but when we were signing the ticket on him, it felt right. I am happy it all worked out. We were just lucky to have him.”

In regard to the colt’s illustrious sire, who led all second-crop sires and ranked sixth on the General Sires list in 2022, the junior de Meric explained, “We started out just trying to find some nice Gun Runners because we believed in him and he had a nice run with his first crop. It was amazing what he did with his first crop.”

With the relief evident after hitting it out of the park following months of intense preparation, the elder de Meric could breath a sigh of relief now that the colt was going to get every chance under the care of the Hall of Fame trainer.

“All of us in this business know it doesn’t work out like that every time. You need one of those every once in a while and that was outstanding. We couldn’t be happier.”–@CBossTDN

Hoppel Plays the Blame Game

When Jacob West signed the ticket at $700,000 to obtain a colt by Blame (hip 786) on behalf of Repole Stable Thursday at OBS, it marked an impressive pinhooking score for consignor Jesse Hoppel, who purchased the youngster for $70,000 at last year’s OBS October sale.

Hip 786 | Photos by Z

“He was a very sleek horse that looked like he needed to grow up a lot,” Hoppel said of his early impressions of the colt. “I still think he has growing up to do. There is no telling how good he will be when he is finally there because he’s not there yet. He’s going to keep coming.”

The colt is out of the unraced Petunia Face (Congrats) and is a half to graded winner Jalen Journey (With Distinction). He worked a quarter-mile last week in :21 flat.

Of the colt’s final price Thursday, Hoppel said, “I was thinking in the $400,000 to $500,000 range, but this market is really polarized. I had so many people on that horse who just had to have him. If you don’t have the flavor of the week, they don’t want to have anything to do with you.”  @JessMartiniTDN

Uncle Mo Draws Fire Early at OBS

After a filly by Uncle Mo brought a $675,000 final bid during the first day of selling at the OBS Spring sale, a colt by the Coolmore sire (Hip 682) realized the same amount Thursday afternoon. Consigned by agent Gene Recio, trainer Keith Desormeaux signed the ticket on behalf of Dallas, Texas-based Benjamin Gase, founder and CEO of the shipping technology company R2 Logistics.

“He didn’t have as much as a quick cadence as most of these eighth-of-a-mile breezers but his movement was fluid, and he still went in :10.1,” said Desormeaux. “That’s what we’re looking for, a horse with speed but most importantly the distance.

“I hate to use the same old cliche but he ticks every box.”

Echoing the sentiment, Recio added, “He showed himself well and just has a lot of class. He didn’t turn a hair the whole time. He did all the right things.”

The colt was offered at Keeneland last September, bringing $250,000 from Lynnwood Stable. The Apr. 26 colt was offered by a partnership that included the breeder, Breed First.

Gene Recio | Photos by Z

“I fell in love with him when I saw him at the yearling sales,” explained Recio. “I didn’t really think I was going to be able to buy him, I thought he was going to bring more than that.”

The juvenile is out of the unraced Bodemeister mare Mezinka, a half-sister to dual Grade I-winning Pioneerof the Nile, who also finished runner-up in the GI Kentucky Derby.

“The breeder is a good friend of mine, so I am happy for them. They stayed in for a piece. I’m happy when it all works out like that.”

The Desormeaux and Gase axis has already produced results, highlighted by a win in this winter’s GII Rebel S. with Confidence Game (Candy Ride {Arg}), who was unearthed for a mere $25,000 at Keeneland last September. Confidence Game currently stands 12th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 57 points.

Clearly looking to mine another Classic-bred jewel with a long-term view on next season, Desormeaux enthusiastically outlined the colt’s list of attributes.

“The horse has Classic pedigree, great lines, awesome conformation and a good foot,” he said. “He was as good as you get from head to toe.”

He continued, “One of the added values is that he has great sire value, being by Uncle Mo and with Pioneerof the Nile [under the second dam]. We know he’s got speed and Classic distance on the bottom.”

With the Classics still a year away, Desormeaux’s ambitions in the shorter term appeared to be no less lofty.

“He’s going to go to California and prepare for the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.”–@CBossTDN

Into Mischief Filly to Qatar Racing

Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar Racing, which enjoyed top-level success along with partners with Caravel (Mizzen Mast) in last year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, continued to build its U.S.-based string with the purchase of a filly by Into Mischief (hip 777) at OBS Thursday. Fergus Galvin of Hunter Valley Farm made the winning bid to acquire the filly for $575,000 from the Wavertree Stables consignment.

Hip 777 | Photos by Z

“We actually haven’t come up with a trainer for her yet, to be honest,” Galvin said. “She will definitely stay in the U.S. She is a lovely, big filly. Ciaran [Dunne of Wavertree] recommended her well and we are very happy to get her.”

The bay filly is out of the unraced Pearl River (Quality Road) and from the family of champion Sweet Catomine and multiple Grade I winner Life Is Sweet. She was bred by Pam and Martin Wygod.

Marc Tacher purchased the 7-year-old Pearl River, in foal to Nyquist, for $50,000 at last year’s Keeneland November sale.

In addition to Caravel, Qatar Racing was also partners on Shedaresthedevil (Daredevil), who was purchased for $5 million at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton November and whose 2022 campaign included a win in the GII Fleur de Lis S. The partners returned the mare to the sales ring at Fasig-Tipton last November where she sold again for $5 million.

Caravel has already started 2023 a winner, recently winning the GIII Shakertown S. at Keeneland.

“We just have to keep our run going,” Galvin said. “Sheikh Fahad is keen to establish a string here in the U.S. We’ve had a lot of success with turf horses and now we are trying to aim a little bit more on the dirt side.” @JessMartiniTDN

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