Stars align for special horse
Big money, educational value
Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 9:43 p.m.
Sometimes, not often, the stars line up just right in the thoroughbred business.
During the Ocala Breeders' Sales recent spring auction, one of those alignments happened.
A 2-year-old colt by Ocala Stud stallion High Cotton, whose main purpose was to help further nutritional and physiological research at the University of Florida/IFAS Equine Sciences Center in Lowell, instead sold for $600,000 — one of the highest prices paid for a horse at the yearly sale.
The sale was the highest ever paid for a UF-bred horse and the second-highest priced horse that Ocala Stud has ever sold at auction in its venerable history.
"Our program's mission is education, research and extension in the equine industry," said Chris Cooper, coordinator of research programs and farm manager. "We're building a bigger, stronger, faster horse. We do research on nutritional supplements, feeding amounts, reproductive efficiency and exercise and muscle repair."
Breeding a big, strong, fast horse that makes horsemen drool is not necessarily the goal, but that is what happened. The farm has five thoroughbred mares and relies on donated stallion season (semen) from Marion County farms to breed the mares and continue its research.
Ocala Stud donates several seasons each year.
"They have a very good program. It's for education and for the betterment of the thoroughbred industry," said David O'Farrell, Ocala Stud farm manager.
High Cotton seasons sell for $7,500 each.
When the foal was born to the mare Keikik on March 2, 2011, Cooper knew there was something special about the baby.
"When he was born he hit the ground, stood up and looked ready to run," Cooper said.
George Burrows, a longtime Ocala Stud trainer, urged O'Farrell to buy the colt as a yearling from the farm.
"If it wasn't for George, I wouldn't have gone out to look at him. You know, he was out of a mare that didn't have a very deep pedigree, but he was just an outstanding individual," O'Farrell said.
Typically, the university sells the foals produced on the farm as yearlings that fetch between $10,000 to $25,000.
The High Cotton yearling, however, was put into Ocala Stud's training program and kept getting stronger.
"He grew up right and turned into a really nice individual the further we got along. He showed a lot of ability. Two months ago, when we first started letting him do a little bit more, he moved very well on the racetrack. He just really continued to improve. He caught a lot of people's eye well before the sale," O'Farrell said.
While O'Farrell estimated the horse would sell at between $200,000 to $300,000, the bidding opened at $200,000.
"It was at $500,000 before you knew it. We really didn't expect that. We knew he was a nice horse, but we didn't feel like he'd be a big-time sales horse. A lot of people liked him. He was easy to like," O'Farrell said.
St. Elias and West Point Thoroughbreds went to $600,000 to get the colt.
"We actually fell in love with him. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones as we had a few people who really liked him as well," said Terry Finley, founder and president of West Point.
The price was the highest ever paid for a High Cotton progeny at public auction. For Ocala Stud, which has been breeding and selling thoroughbreds since the 1950s, the colt was second only to the $1.2 million that Chapel Royal brought as a 2-year-old in 2003.
"Chris Cooper does a great job at the farm and we're very happy to keep giving them stallion seasons. We hope they will play a role in making High Cotton achieve his next big horse," O'Farrell said.
Unfortunately, Keikik was killed last year when she was struck by lightning.
"You know what they say, it's hard to keep the good ones alive. I was really sick about it. She was only 13 years old and every one of her foals kept getting better and better," Cooper said.
Keikik also was a donation to the farm, which relies on donated mares to make up their broodmare band.
The foals born at the farm are featured on the University of Florida Foaling Practicum Facebook page, which includes photos, videos and updates.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.