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Andrew Seabrook looking to the future on eve of ‘most important sale in 25 years’

Steve Moran | 24.01.2018

Andrew Seabrook, New Zealand Bloodstock’s managing director, yesterday revealed plans for an international hotel to be built at Karaka amid outlining his enthusiasm for the 2018 Karaka yearling sales which begin this Sunday.

Seabrook said that he was also hopeful Winston Peters, New Zealand’s deputy Prime Minister, would make an announcement of significance to the industry before the first lot goes under the hammer on Sunday in a revamped sales session.

He conceded that the New Zealand industry “needs a short in the arm” especially in the wake of the spate of abandoned race meetings due to unsuitable track conditions.

Nonetheless, he is confident about next week’s proceedings which he describes as the most important sale in his 25 years with NZB and the industry at large not to mention the hitherto undisclosed plans for the sales complex south of Auckland.

“Without wishing to pre-empt the Minister, we are hopeful an announcement is imminent and it would be great if track renovations and increased prize money were on the agenda.  It would indeed be very timely if an announcement was made before the sales,” Seabrook said.

“There is a sense of a looming call to action with the general feeling that there are too many racecourses and everyone is tired of the number of abandoned meetings. The domestic racing scene is tough and needs a fillip.”

While New Zealand trainers have been driven to despair by the recent meeting cancellations, Seabrook does not believe it will negatively impact on a significantly revamped Karaka sales schedule.

The most significant change is that Book One, or the premier sales session, has 700 yearlings catalogued – a rise of some 250 on last year. This is augmented by a dramatically improved Karaka Millions raceday at Ellerslie, switched from Sunday to the Saturday, with the sale of the first 100 lots opening the sale on Sunday night.

“There is a slight risk in expanding the premier session but given that so many good horses over the years have come out of K2 we believe it’s worthwhile, especially if we can attract international buyers to stay an extra day and we think that will be the case,” he said.

“Invariably, in the past, the K1 and K2 sales have mirrored each other. The first up, so too the second. However, last year, K1 was steady against the record figures posted in 2016 and yet K2 was down so we had to respond and we’re hopeful this move gives 250 quality horses more exposure.”

Seabrook believes all the indicators are positive leading into next week.

“A good barometer is always accommodation bookings and they’re really strong. Obviously the Gold Coast was strong and we are usually able to follow suit and our record Ready To Run Sale last year means that’s not just a back stop but a real target for domestic vendors and buyers.

“This is one area where we differ from Australian sales as our Ready To Run sale is always so strong. It helps the middle market and, in part, drives the success of the yearling sales.

“We’ve also had the Auckland Racing Club right behind us and Saturday’s race meeting really adds something to the week with four group races and the first running of the Karaka Million for the three-year-olds. Early ticket sales suggest the crowd will be double last year. I’d say the stars are aligning,” he said.

While acknowledging the importance of domestic buyers headed by the likes of Te Akau Racing and Go Racing and anticipating huge support from Hong Kong, the Jockey Club and others, Seabrook notes that Australia remains the key market.

“Australia has been our most important market since 1927 (*) and will remain so for the next 100 years. The Australian spend on New Zealand yearlings has risen from 22 to 26 to 30 to 36 million dollars over the past four years. I think there’s a swing back to the view that you can buy your staying horse here rather than In Europe and you can certainly buy your Oaks and Derby horses here which you can’t do overseas,” he said.

In that regard, NZB is able to boast that New Zealand horses have won seven of the past ten Australian Derbies; six of the past ten Victoria Derbies and four of the last five Australian Oaks.

Waikato Stud’s Savabeel (Zabeel) has ably demonstrated his capacity to get a classic winner and he dominates Book One with 75 sons and daughters catalogued.

“They’ll be sought after of course,” Seabrook said. “I think we could sell as many as offered given how well his colts and his fillies are doing in Australia and New Zealand.”

The offspring of Tavistock (Montjeu), Reliable Man (Dalakhani), Ocean Park (Thorn Park) and Iffraaj (Zafonic) will be popular along with an impressive crop of first season sires arguably headed by Charm Spirit (Invincible Spirit) and Sacred Falls (O’Reilly).

Hotel to be built at Karaka

Seabrook says that while NZB is still going through planning processes, it is hoped that construction of the hotel will be begin in June or July this year and that it would be ready for operation by the 2019 Ready To Run sale.

“It will be great to be able to host clients on the sales grounds and this area, which is ever expanding, needs a quality hotel so it will be sustainable,” he said. NZB plans to oversee the build and engage a partner in running the hotel.

POSTSCRIPT: * 1927 was the first National Yearling Sale, held at Trentham, where Phar Lap (Night Raid) was sold for 160 Guineas.

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