Debbie Kepitis Secures Winx Filly for Record-Breaking Price

The AU$10-million Winx filly Inglis

by TTR Aus/NZ

Drama. Emotion. History. Arguably the most highly anticipated offering ever seen at public auction delivered all that and more as the Pierro (Aus) filly out of wondermare Winx (Aus) (Street Cry {Ire}) brought a jaw-dropping AU$10-million (US$6.6-million) in front of a packed Inglis auditorium.

There had been much speculation about how much the blue-blooded, Coolmore-consigned youngster would make, and an opening bid of $2-million duly foretold an utterly unprecedented price. The bid board struggled to keep pace with the scale and speed with which the increases came in. The bidding leapt from $3-million to $5-million in one fell swoop and continued to bound upward in seven-figure increments as an offer of $6-million was superseded by a play of $7.5-million.

As proceedings reached the business end Inglis's managing director Mark Webster, taking instructions on the phone from ebullient American owner John Stewart, signalled a bid of $9-million. However, within mere seconds that hand was gazumped when the Woppitt Bloodstock team around Debbie Kepitis, one of Winx's co-owners, delivered the $10-million knockout blow.

In the weeks leading up to the sale, Stewart had been promising on X to buy the horse. “We're 100% buying the Winx filly,” he said. After the sale, he Tweeted, “I am so happy for Debbie. Well played. Lots of respect.”

“These opportunities do not come along very often,” said auctioneer Jonathan D'Arcy as he tried to coax another increase from the assembled crowd. “Once in a lifetime.” But with no further bids forthcoming, a visibly emotional Kepitis had seized the moment.

Kepitis raced Winx in partnership with Peter and Patty Tighe's Magic Bloodstock and the late Richard Treweeke. In continuing her association with the star mare by buying out her partners in the filly, Coolmore's Tom Magnier said Kepitis had helped to write “the perfect story”. Kepitis explained that she had not set out to secure the filly when the decision was made to bring her to market, but said she had a change of heart as the date with destiny neared.

“I didn't come here to buy this horse originally,” she said. “We put her up for auction and then in the last few weeks, all of the family, we started to miss our daughter, granddaughter, so we just decided as best we could, if we could get her we would. I'm privileged to be able to secure this filly on behalf of my family to be able to see if she can get to the racetrack. If she can't get to the racetrack she'll be an amazing mum.

“She's Australian forever. She's going to be just fabulous. Hopefully she'll do a Winx, but it doesn't matter if she doesn't. Thank you to everybody around the world who has taken this on board. It's been thrilling to watch it and we're lucky enough that we came out winners.”

Kepitis confirmed that Winx's trainer Chris Waller would oversee the racing career of her daughter. She also expanded on the rationale behind bringing the filly to the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, saying: “Inglis were amazing. Along with Magic Millions, they are two amazing companies that do a fabulous job of presenting horses for sale in the Australian market. The ownership group had a big decision to decide when and where to sell her. She was always going to be a little bit of a later horse so leaving her until the April sale was really the major thing in our consideration.”

 

Winx rates as arguably the greatest racehorse to grace the Australian turf. Her completely unparalleled race record features no less than 37 victories, the last 33 of which were gained in consecutive fashion. Those successes include a world record tally of 25 Group 1s and saw her career earnings exceed AU$26-million in prize-money.

She is perhaps best remembered for being the only horse in history to win four runnings of the prestigious Cox Plate, while she also claimed the Horse of The Year title on four occasions.

Unsurprisingly the filly's price totally eclipsed the sum her celebrity dam fetched when she came under the hammer, as Winx was signed for by Guy Mulcaster at 'just' AU$230,000 at the 2013 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.

Winx has endured a challenging start to her breeding career having lost her first foal, by I Am Invincible (Aus), in October 2020. Magnier not only heaped praise on those who helped nurse Winx back to full health, but reiterated how close the story came to ending in complete tragedy.

“It's no secret that Winx lost her first foal and she nearly died,” he said. “To be fair to Paddy Sheehan (foaling manager) and all the team at Scone Equine (Hospital) they did an unbelievable job in saving the mare. To think that we have this mare today, who's had a foal, now a yearling, by Pierro, and such a good-looking filly, the behind the scenes of what we went through to get here today, it couldn't happen without the most understanding owners. They've been so patient and so understanding and the team at the farm have done an unbelievable job.”

Reflecting on the pressure of selling such a high-profile yearling, a relieved-looking Magnier said: “I think I have a little bit of an idea about the pressure Chris might've felt in some of those races!”

He continued: “The Kepitis family grew up beside us because our farms are next to each other in the Hunter Valley so I've known Debbie since I was young. They've been so good to us and they keep their horses at Coolmore. They won the Derby last week and I thought 'God, how do we beat that?!' and then we've come here today and done this. It's really fitting that this filly is going to the Kepitis family and it's just the perfect story. That was the most important result for me today so I'm just thrilled. I just want to say thanks to Paddy Sheehan and all the staff at Coolmore. To save the mare and get the foal, it's just a dream story.”

Coolmore Australia's Tom Magnier | Coolmore Australia

When asked whether the record-breaking price matched his expectations, Magnier said: “John Stewart was in Australia a couple of weeks ago and he was very confident of getting the filly, but when you come up against Debbie you want to have will and determination! I knew she was going to make a very high figure because someone is buying history. This is like a classic and a collector's item.”

“There's only one person who deserved today and that was Debbie and Paul and the whole family. I don't think you can put a value on a filly like that, especially to someone like Debbie who really wanted this filly. We've been through so much on this journey to get here today. It's just incredible.”

The filly's price was exactly double the previous record for an Australian yearling, with BC3 Thoroughbreds giving AU$5-million for the ill-fated Redoute's Choice (Aus) half-brother to Black Caviar (Aus) (Bel Esprit {Aus}) at the 2013 Easter Sale.

Among those on hand to witness the record-breaking transaction was another of Winx's co-owners, Peter Tighe.

“It was pretty exciting for everybody, not just me!” he said. “It's good for racing, good for breeding, there's no losers here. It's something you couldn't imagine. People want something and they're prepared to pay for it. If they can afford it, then good luck to them. It's great for Debbie Kepitis and great for the ownership group who'll benefit from the sale, we're really happy.”

He continued: “Winx is pregnant again so we're keen to get a nice healthy foal at the end of the year and see where that takes us. There's no guarantees that we'll sell or keep (that foal), we'll just take it as it comes. We do it because we love the sport and we love our horses. It's a funny thing to say but we didn't come here today for the money, we came here for a purpose and I think we've achieved that with getting the horse out into the breeding world. I'm looking forward to many more years of great stories that all stem from Winx.”

Inglis's CEO Sebastian Hutch also shared the sales company's view on proceedings, saying: “It's fantastic and a real privilege for our company to have the opportunity to offer a horse of this magnitude. Obviously Winx is an iconic figure in Australian sport, not just in racing. To have had the opportunity to bring her daughter to market was fantastic. For it to play out the way it has, and to facilitate the scale of interest we've had, has been incredible.”

Winx was bred by John Camilleri under the banner of Fairway Thoroughbreds from the Listed-winning Al Akbar mare Vegas Showgirl. This makes the mighty mare a half-sister to El Divino (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}), who did his bit to uphold family honour by dead-heating with Astern (Aus) in the Group 3 Kindergarten S.

The presence of Winx's daughter wasn't Camilleri's only involvement in the Easter Sale as he was the client behind James Harron when the agent secured day one's top lot, the Zoustar (Aus) filly out of Prompt Response (Aus), at AU$2.2-million. Sunday's session-topper held the record of most expensive yearling filly sold at Inglis for less than 24 hours.

The Winx filly becomes Pierro's most expensive yearling to date by some margin. The stallion's previous best came at last year's Easter Sale when Mick Wallace and Gandharvi signed at AU$1.75-million for the half-sister to Learning To Fly (Aus) (Justify {USA}).

Pierro, who was crowned leading first- and second-season sire during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns, stood the most recent breeding season at a fee of $82,500 (inc GST). The son of Lonhro (Aus) is the sire of six Group 1 winners.

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