Cesar Loya, who was first introduced to Thoroughbreds as a kid when his father worked for Dr. Pug and Susie Hart, will offer his first consignment at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale next week and it seems fitting the star of his five-horse draft may well be a filly by Mitole (hip 738) that Loya and his wife Danielle Jones-Loya raised on behalf of the Harts on their Ocala farm.
“My dad worked for Dr. Pug and Susie Hart. I grew up at their farm from when I was seven years old,” Loya said. “I’ve known Dr. Hart for 30 years now. I have this horse for them and they’ve given me an opportunity to go out on my own. So it’s all come full circle.”
Despite his early immersion in the Thoroughbred world, Loya initially had other career plans.
“I did a stint in the military,” Loya, who was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, explained. “I did four years in the military.”
After four years, Loya decided it was time for a new direction.
“When I got out, I went to work for [Ocala horseman] Steve Venosa,” Loya said. “He pretty much took me under his wing. He gave me the opportunity. That’s when I knew that I loved the horses.”
In addition to Venosa, Loya said he gained valuable experience from his late mother-in-law, Brenda Jones, who passed away in 2018.
“Brenda Jones was a great, great horse buyer and pinhooker,” Loya said. “Getting to be around her taught me a lot.”
Loya spent 16 years working for Venosa before deciding to head out on his own last year.
Asked what had prompted the decision, Loya chuckled and said, “I had a newborn.”
He continued, “We have a farm here in Ocala. So we can train and be self-employed. My wife travels to the sales, too, so now I can travel with her. And I can spend more time with my family.”
As he headed into the under-tack show last week, Loya admitted to some anxiety.
“I think there is always nerves when you do anything you love and are passionate about,” Loya said. “But it was more excitement, I would say. Especially about this filly.”
“This filly,” is the daughter of Mitole out of Olive Branch (Speightstown), a graded-stakes placed mare and half-sister to graded winner Moonlight d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro). Loya had to wait until the fourth and final session of the under-tack show to unleash the filly, who worked a furlong in :9 4/5 last Friday.
“We raised her,” Loya said of the filly. “I was very high on her since the farm and my expectations [for her Friday] were very high. She has a great disposition. She is very light on her feet and she is an athletic, smart filly.”
Of the filly’s work, Loya said, “She proved me right. To myself.”
Loya’s connection to the Harts and their faith in him make the filly’s stellar work even more meaningful.
“When I decided to go on my own, they were the first people to say, ‘We will give you a horse,’” Loya said. “And they gave her to me.”
The sales scene is nothing new to Loya. But what was it like to have horses working under his own name?
“I did it for 16 years for Steve–and he had a lot of fast horses– and you have expectations about what it’s going to be like. But to hear your name? It’s definitely different.”
Looking back at his first under-tack show as a consignor, Loya said, “I think I had a very good breeze show. They all showed up and did what I thought they would. And I thought their gallop outs were excellent.”
For his first sales season, Loya expects to concentrate on the upcoming OBS sales.
“We own our own horses and we take outside clients,” he said. “I will end up traveling, but this being my first year, I will have horses at April and a few in June.”
With two days left before sales time, Loya has been pleased with the activity at the OBS sales barns.
“I think it’s very vibrant,” he said. “All of the top people that you can think of are here on the sales grounds now. There is just a really good feeling in the air.”
The OBS March sale begins Monday and continues through Wednesday with bidding commencing each day at 11 a.m.