Easter Amidst Thriving Australian Market

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Golden Slipper winner and Easter grad Estijaab | Bronwen Healy

By Kelsey Riley

Twelve months ago, the team at Nasser Lootah’s Emirates Park Stud truly left Inglis’s Easter yearling sale with the one they wanted, admittedly spending their entire budget on one jewel: a A$1.7-million Snitzel (Aus) filly out of the dual Group 1 winner Response (Aus) (Charge Forward {Aus}). Two weeks ago that filly, Estijaab (Aus), fully justified that decision when winning the G1 Golden Slipper.

That result for the Dubai-based businessman Lootah followed a year on from the fairytale story of A$20,000 Inglis Classic graduate She Will Reign (Aus) (Manhattan Rain {Aus}) winning the Slipper for her large syndicate of many first-time owners.

The scale of what is on offer at all levels of the market at an Inglis yearling sale is clearly evident, and from Apr. 9 to 11 buyers will have the opportunity to get their hands on some of the most valuable Thoroughbreds on the planet at the first renewal of the company’s flagship Easter sale to be staged at Inglis’s new Riverside Stables in Sydney.

“Only in Australia can the world’s richest 2-year-old race be won by a syndicated A$20,000 Classic filly one year and a A$1.7-million Easter filly the next,” said Jonathan D’Arcy, Inglis’s general bloodstock manager. “This is what makes our racing industry so appealing to all levels of ownership.”

D’Arcy, who two weeks ago was in the Hunter Valley conducting the latest round of inspections of some of the 534 yearlings catalogued for this year’s Easter sale, said, “There’s some very nice yearlings out there. Given the success of last year’s sale I think people have been very careful with what they’ve sent to Easter. I think they’ve had an open mind in sending really nice fillies because the filly market was so good last year. I think you’ll see some really top-class fillies in the sale.”

Indeed, regular readers of this space would have noticed the latest ad campaign of Arrowfield Stud, which sold Estijaab last year and this year brings the largest consignment of the sale with 50. The campaign advertises “30 exquisitely bred fillies” under the slogan “a diamond is forever.”

But we’ll return to this later. While these are the kinds of pages that spark dynasties, it’s not all about the girls, as Easter has also been the source this year alone of multi-million dollar stallion prospects Merchant Navy (Aus) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) and Russian Revolution (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}), who were bought at Easter for A$350,000 and A$320,000, respectively. The opportunity to purchase these types of valuable colts, which come on the market year after year Down Under, is a major factor in what has also more recently driven a larger number of international buyers to Australia.

This year’s catalogue numbers 534. There are 38 siblings to Group 1 winners and 31 progeny of Group 1-winning mares, but perhaps the stat that best expresses the sheer quality on offer is that 37% of the catalogue is sired by the current top five active sires in the country: Snitzel (64), I Am Invincible (41), Fastnet Rock (39), Not A Single Doubt (19) and Sebring (34). Sixty-four offerings by the country’s record-breaking, reigning champion sire Snitzel-imagine the opportunity, in the Northern Hemisphere, to at one sale alone choose between 64 Galileos or Dubawis, Tapits or War Fronts.

“[Marketing arm] Aushorse has made the point that Australian breeders sell the majority of their yearlings,” D’Arcy said. “Investors, be they our local investors, or from North America or anywhere else in the world, they have the opportunity to buy the Golden Slipper winner, or the Golden Rose or Caulfield Guineas winner; the top horses are sold here. It’s what makes the Australian market quite unique compared to other parts of the world, in particular England and Japan; the best horses are offered and I think that’s what our investors really appreciate.”

“This is one of most appealing features of the Australian yearling sales series, the fact that breeders offer for sale the best of what they have bred,” said Arrowfield’s John Messara. “It would be unusual to see as many yearlings in Europe or the U.S. from mares of the quality available at this year’s Easter sale. That is because, unlike other Thoroughbred breeding centres, the breeding scene in Australia is dominated by commercial breeders who offer for sale most, if not all, of what they breed each year.”

Eclectic Offering From Arrowfield…

Arrowfield brings the largest consignment with 50, and it is a diverse mix of offerings by its own sires including Redoute’s Choice and his highly successful sire sons Snitzel and Not A Single Doubt, a colt by Frankel (GB), and its now customary sprinkling of offerings by Japanese sires: three fillies by that country’s perennial champion sire Deep Impact (Jpn), a filly by G1 Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia (Jpn), whose eldest Japanese-born progeny are two this year, and a colt by the champion sprinter Lord Kanaloa (Jpn). Arrowfield sold a pair of Lord Kanaloa fillies at the Gold Coast sale in January for A$800,000 and A$280,000 apiece. Arrowfield has a strong relationship and partnership with Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm, which stands all three sires in addition to three others that Arrowfield shuttles, and indeed Yoshida is the breeder of Estijaab.

“Each year we breed a handful of mares to the Japanese stallions we feel will suit them, and Northern Farm will also send mares to join our breeding joint venture that are in foal to their stallions, Southern Hemisphere time,” Messara explained.

The Deep Impact fillies are lot 11, out of the G1 Coolmore Classic winner Alverta (Aus) (Flying Spur {Aus}); lot 70, out of Charming Estelle (Aus) (Redoute’s Choice {Aus}), a full-sister to champion sprinter Lankan Rupee (Aus); and lot 442, a daughter of the listed winner and G1 Australian Guineas second You’re So Good (NZ) (Savabeel {Aus}).

“One horse we’re really looking forward to selling the progeny of is Deep Impact,” D’Arcy said. “We have three fillies and they’re three outstanding fillies. It’s amazing Arrowfield could send four top-class mares [the other being Alinghi, who produced a filly Arrowfield retained] and get these three stunning fillies. From my recollection it’s the first time Deep Impacts [yearlings] have been sold outside Japan. It’s a unique opportunity for Thoroughbred investors anywhere in the world to buy the progeny of one of the breed-shaping stallions of our time.”

Arrowfield’s Frankel colt (lot 21) is one of two set for sale, the other being Cressfield’s lot 6, who is out of a half-sister to Invincible Spirit (Ire). Also among those with potential to feature in the draft are a Snitzel half-sister to Japanese Group 1 winner Aerolithe (Jpn) (Kurofune) (lot 25); a Snitzel filly out of a half-sister to Azamour (Ire) (lot 32); a Redoute’s Choice filly out of a half-sister to Not A Single Doubt (lot 103); a Redoute’s Choice colt out of a half-sister to Hong Kong champion Silent Witness (Aus) (El Moxie) (lot 358); a full-brother to G1 Myer Classic winner and Royal Ascot-bound Shoals (Aus) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) (lot 400); and a Snitzel colt out of a half-sister to seven-time Group 1 winner Dundeel (NZ) (High Chaparral {Ire}).

Arrowfield’s three-time champion sire and dynasty-maker Redoute’s Choice, whose colt out of Secluded (Aus) (Hussonet) topped last year’s sale at A$2.5-million, has 23 total catalogued, and D’Arcy said of his legacy, “Redoute’s Choice has been the king of the yearling sale ring for the last decade and once again he’ll have plenty of competition from his stablemate Snitzel. He has some outstanding fillies in particular coming to the sale. His fillies on the racetrack have been nothing short of brilliant this year so we’re really looking forward to offering them.”

Rock-Solid Coolmore Consignment…

Coolmore was the seller of the aforementioned Royal Ascot contender Merchant Navy at this sale two years ago, and they bought back into him to stand at stud after his win in the G1 Coolmore Stud S. in November. Coolmore this year offers the second-largest consignment of 39, including a handful of potential standouts by Merchant Navy’s sire, its resident champion sire, Fastnet Rock.

“It is generally my nature to be conservative in advance of the major yearling sales, especially in this part of the world where the market is so incredibly competitive, but I feel we are going to this Easter sale with a particularly exciting group of horses,” said Coolmore Stud Manager Jim Carey. “On paper it is an extraordinary draft, with 34 of the 39 yearlings catalogued bred from stakes-performed or stakes-producing mares but, crucially, it is an outstanding group of horses from a physical standpoint. We have hosted a series of on-farm parades in advance of the sale and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, so it’s a very exciting time.”

“I am very reluctant to single out particular lots given the depth of quality in the draft, however we have a number of Fastnet Rock colts that look to have similar credentials to a horse like Merchant Navy and it wouldn’t surprise if one or more of them was to emulate him and develop into a world-class sprinter. Pierro is emerging as a top-class young sire–he sits second on the 3-year-old sires’ list with just his first crop–and there are a number of good yearlings by him in our draft, in particular the colt out of Pontiana [lot 291, the half-brother to G1 Randwick Guineas winner Inference], who is a little bit special. I expect the fillies as a group will find favour with most, particularly those out of Cierzo [lot 72], Estelle Collection [lot 117] and Rezoned [lot 325], who I suspect will rank amongst the best fillies in the whole sale.”

D’Arcy said, “Fastnet Rock has some very nice yearlings coming to the sale. He has had a stunning few months winning the [2017] Blue Diamond and his son Merchant Navy winning the Coolmore Stud S. and subsequently being syndicated for stud duties by Coolmore. We have some outstanding Fastnet Rock yearlings coming to the sale.”

The Invincible Factor…

Yarraman Park Stud’s I Am Invincible (Aus) has been red hot this year both on the racetrack and in the sales ring, his results at this year’s sales thus far rivaling the top-of-the-market superiority in recent years of Snitzel. He sired the top two lots and three of the top five at Magic Millions, while at Classic he sired the second top lot, the topper being by his first-crop son Brazen Beau (Aus). Easter is almost certain to throw up some highlights for I Am Invincible, his progeny including Newgate’s colt out of Black Caviar (Aus)’s half-sister Belle Couture (Aus) (Redoute’s Choice {Aus}) (lot 40); Segenhoe’s full-sister to a colt that made A$1.6-million last year (lot 64); Yarraman Park’s first foal of the five-time winner Danish Spy (Aus) (Dane Shadow {Aus}) (lot 85) and third foal of the stakes-winning Hoss Amor (Aus) (General Nediym {Aus}) (lot 169), who last year provided a A$2.4-million Medaglia d’Oro colt; and Segenhoe’s filly out of the G1 Myer Classic winner Hurtle Myrtle (Aus) (Dane Shadow {Aus}) (lot 171).

Snitzel leads the general sires’ table by wins and earnings, with I Am Invincible second and Fastnet Rock third.

“It’s going to be neck-and-neck at the sales,” D’Arcy said of the Snitzel/I Am Invincible rivalary. “Snitzel has more runs on the board than I Am Invincible, but I Am Invincible is very popular with trainers; they’re easy to train, they get up and run early. We’re very, very fortunate here in Australia to have two top-class stallions that are plying their trade at the same time and have come through the ranks together, I Am Invincible being younger of course. Both of them started at much lesser fees than what they currently stand at now, but they’re starting to see some of the best books of mares they’ve covered and that’s made a marked increase in what buyers are prepared to pay for them in the sales ring.”

Collector’s Items From Newgate…

Newgate Farm also played a part in the Estijaab story, having sold the filly’s dam, the dual Group 1 winner Response, while carrying her to Katsumi Yoshida for A$1.5-million in 2015. Newgate, one of Australia’s youngest yet most powerful studs, has spent plenty with its partners in recent years to acquire some of the world’s best-pedigreed mares, most notably when it made a big splash on mares from the Teeley dispersal in 2014. Newgate offers Snitzel fillies out of two of those mares, Precious Lorraine (Aus) (lot 294) and Your Life Style (Aus) (lot 443) at Easter. Both mares are daughters of Monsoon Wedding (Aus) (Danehill), the five-time stakes producing full-sister to Redoute’s Choice from an absolutely star-studded family, and as such can be described as nothing short of collector’s items.

Those are just a very small sample of the quality that will be on offer at Riverside Stables next week, and of course, as is reiterated year after year by horses like She Will Reign, plenty of quality will also emanate from middle and lower ends of the market. While polarization has been the buzz word at sales of all varieties in America and Europe over the past couple years, Australia’s yearling sales regularly return clearance rates in the neighbourhood of 90%, with vigorous trade in the top, middle and lower tiers. This is no doubt helped by the fact that the country has such a healthy racehorse ownership culture-about one in every 244 Australians is a racehorse owner-and that syndicates are incredibly popular and regulated so as to allow them to not spend more than a half-million on any individual horse.

“We’re very fortunate that we have levels of ownership from syndicates of 50 people that buy a yearling for A$20,000 and win the Golden Slipper, all the way through to the likes of Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Hamdan; wealthy individuals from around the world who invest in Australia because they love our racing,” said D’Arcy. “All the way through, we have trainers who get to the sales and work really hard to find horses at the level their owners want. Syndication is a real key to the strength of the Australian market at the present time. Darby Racing [owners of She Will Reign] bought 24 yearlings at our Classic sale. We’ve had syndicators like Triple Crown who won The Everest last year with Redzel, but in addition to that we have a lot of other syndication companies that do a very good job in bringing new people into racing.”

“When you go racing there is an understanding of what the industry is about,” D’Arcy said. “All our daily papers still carry the fields for our racing. We’re fortunate that we have the support of media that brings racing to a mainstream audience. And as long as you have the fairytale stories like She Will Reign winning the Golden Slipper or Michelle Payne winning the Melbourne Cup, these stories capture the imagination of everyday people in Australia and that leads them into racehorse ownership.”

The positive impact of this buoyant industry on the yearling market has been evident at all yearling sales in recent years, and this year’s Easter sale has plenty of work to do to match last year’s figures, which were well up across the board. Despite a catalogue of 46 fewer yearlings, last year’s gross grew 10.5% to A$109,320,000 for 308 sold (87% clearance). The average was up 25% to A$354,935, and the median rose 30% to A$260,000. The catalogue this year is 50 stronger than last, but D’Arcy insisted the quantity has not come at the expense of quality.

“The Easter yearling catalogue, ever since I’ve been involved with the company, has been selected to a standard,” he said. “Some years we’ve selected 600 yearlings, some years we’ve selected 450. It really depends on the ebb and flow of where breeders see their horses best-placed. This year we have about 50 additional yearlings than last year. Last year’s sale was a phenomenal success, the second-strongest Easter yearling sale on record, so I think that did give breeders confidence to bring more horses to the sale. A lot of money turned up at the sale to buy those horses and we’re hopeful we can achieve the same sort of result this year.”

“We’re lucky with Easter it has that reputation that you have to have a good type, so breeders are very particular about what they offer us,” D’Arcy added. “Our team of 10 bloodstock staff get around the farms and look at them as weanlings, we look at them again prior to entries and we look at them again as they’ve been entered. Hopefully we’ll continue to see the likes of Merchant Navy, Russian Revolution and these sorts of horses go on and ply their trade on the racetrack and become the stallions of tomorrow.”

The Easter sale falls amidst a busy two weeks in Sydney: it begins on Thursday evening with the second renewal of The Chairman’s Sale: Elite Racing Prospects, including smart colts like Siege of Quebec (Aus) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}), Hypnotist (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}), Almighty (Aus) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) and Assimilate (Aus) (Sebring {Aus}). Saturday is Day One of The Championships at Royal Randwick featuring the Doncaster H. The Easter sale takes place Monday, Apr. 9 to Wednesday, Apr. 11, and is followed the next day by The Chairman’s Sale: Elite Breeding Prospects. Day Two of The Championships, featuring Winx (Aus) (Street Cry {Ire}) in the G1 Queen Elizabeth S., is Saturday, Apr. 14. The Inglis Australian Broodmare and Weanling Sale takes place Apr. 15 to 17.

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