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New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale

Patrick Halkett | 23.02.2016

It would be difficult to describe the success of the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales Series as anything short of phenomenal with key indicators shattering those set in 2015. Even Andrew Seabrook, managing director for New Zealand Bloodstock, admitted that trade had surpassed his expectations.

“We came into this year’s Sale confident that we would have a good week but we have exceeded our own expectations,” said Seabrook. “We have grossed nearly NZ$20,000,000 more than last year – to increase by that much is an incredible effort.”

With the aggregate across six days of selling rising by 28 per cent from NZ$67,388,650 in 2015 to NZ$86,193,400 in 2016, it is not hard to see why Seabrook was impressed by the effort of his team at New Zealand Bloodstock.

Among those driving the increase in gross was David Ellis of Te Akau Racing, who was the most active buyer at the National Yearling Sales Series for the 11th consecutive year with 20 purchases totalling NZ$5,067,500. This represented an increase in the amount spent by Ellis after he bought six more yearlings (26 in total) for a considerably lower aggregate of NZ$3,805,000 in 2015.

“The sale this year was very strong with a very wide number of international buyers, probably the biggest number I can ever remember at Karaka, which probably reflected the incredible success that the New Zealand-bred horses have had in the last 12 months,” said Ellis.

“We provide five per cent of the racing population in Australia but win 25 per cent of the stakes races, but in races worth $1,000,000 or more New Zealand-bred horses win 45 per cent of the races, so it is no wonder every international buyer came to New Zealand this year.”

The clearance rate of 80 per cent – a five per cent increase on the previous year – was particularly noteworthy for Ellis and he believes that the success of the sale will in turn lead to more investment from New Zealand-based breeding operations.

“The competition on the better horses was the strongest I can ever remember,” said Ellis.

“All the yearlings we bought will stay in our New Zealand stable which is great news for the New Zealand racing industry. The best part about the strong sale is it will enable New Zealand-based breeders to reinvest in more stallions and female stock and this sale will give them that confidence to do that.”

One of the many success stories that Ellis alluded to was that of Premier Sale Lot 445 the first progeny of the highest rated racehorse of all time, Frankel (Galileo), to sell in the Southern Hemisphere.

The colt, out of winning mare Our Echezeaux (Zabeel) which makes him a half-brother to Travis Stakes (Gr 2, 2000m) winner and Group One-placed Dolmabache (Redoute’s Choice), was knocked down for NZ$1,300,000 to Adrian Nicoll of BBA Ireland, who was representing a consortium consisting of Tom Magnier of Coolmore Stud, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, the Niarchos Family and Apollo Ng of Hong Kong.

To Nicoll the appeal of the colt was obvious: “The Frankel colt was to me an obvious one as he had the best pedigree in the book, was a gorgeous individual by one of the greatest racehorses of all time and was sold by a top class breeder,” he said.

“I thought he could have made a bit more and was worried beforehand that we didn’t have enough money to buy him.

“The underbidder Peter Moody is a very good judge and we always knew that there would be plenty of competition for him.”

Nicoll, who formed part of a particularly strong international buying bench, heaped praise on the Premier Sale and complimented the strength in depth that was on offer.

“I thought Karaka was a very strong market and it was very difficult to buy a nice horse,” he said.

“We tried to buy a couple of fillies who were very good individuals with a pedigree and they made a lot more than we had anticipated.

“Overall I thought it was a very good sale which was very well promoted by New Zealand Bloodstock which was underlined by the fact that all the big buyers were there.”

Another leading international purchaser was Chris Waller, who bought eight lots for a total of NZ$1,735,000, and whose bloodstock agent Guy Mulcaster believes that the search for stallion prospects has increased competition amongst buyers.

“We are in the middle of a ‘boom’ one could say, driven by people firstly trying to buy stallion prospects and then everyone else following the trend,” said Mulcaster.

“We saw Magic Millions’ best catalogue ever assembled and they sold accordingly, driven by most of the world’s players not only buying for a great race series but also the longer term.

“Karaka followed suit with great types and a top buying bench.”

Mulcaster also praised the leading sire by aggregate, Savabeel (Zabeel), who stood for a fee of NZ$100,000 plus GST in 2015 at Waikato Stud, and was responsible for 54 lots selling for a total of NZ$12,460,000.

“Savabeel arrived as New Zealand’s new ‘go-to’ horse in terms of big ticket items and with race track results and type to match, almost all people had one on their shopping list.”

Savabeel stands at Waikato Stud who finished the sale as the leading vendor.

“Karaka was a very solid, positive sale right through-out, as was shown by the figures, which demonstrated increases right across the board. The great thing about the sale, was that everybody got a turn,” said Mark Chittick.

“The increases seen at Karaka come off the back of the continued success of the New Zealand thoroughbred worldwide, but especially in Australia, thanks to their dominant exploits over the spring and autumn carnivals.

“I think people recognise they can buy a New Zealand thoroughbred at good value and with the Australian stakes on offer, they can soon see a return on this. That is, they can buy a New Zealand-bred horse for say NZ$100,000 and in a short space of time, they can see them racing for that amount in Australia.”

This demand for New Zealand-bred horses from international buyers was a key factor in the sales series’ success according to Seabrook.

“Although we’ve lost Zabeel our stallion strength at the moment is really strong. Savabeel and Tavistock had massive sales whilst the first season sires Reliable Man, Ocean Park and Power were well sought after.

“The continued success of the New Zealand bred over the last 12 months, particularly at the major carnivals in Australia, was a major reason.

“Winning the Melbourne Cup again was really important as it showed Australians that you didn’t need to go to Europe to buy your Melbourne Cup winner.

“We were really proud of the fact that on the front cover of the Premier Catalogue was Prince Of Penzance, the current Cup winner, which sold for NZ$50,000.

“While on the front cover of the Select Sale was Tarzino, winner of the current VRC Derby, which sold for NZ$45,000.”

International success, such as that achieved by Prince Of Penzance (Pentire) and Tarzino (Tavistock), is a lynchpin for the New Zealand’s breeding operation according to Michael Martin, chief executive of New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.

“We had an excellent year for New Zealand-bred horses in our key markets of Australia and Asia,” said Martin.

“The key reason for the increases seen at this year’s sale are the recent prize money increases in New South Wales and the excellent Victorian support and the continued Asian (including China) demand for well grown quality thoroughbreds reared on some of the best pasture in the world.

“Also, the increased activity of syndicators for shared ownership of quality young horses by some excellent young stallions that are based in New Zealand and the value of the New Zealand dollar compared with the Australian and US dollar.”

Australia was the leading international buying bench at the sale, purchasing 239 horses for NZ$30,487,450, an increase of 25 per cent from their spend of NZ$24,450,500 last year.

The importance of the Australian market in particular is not lost on Martin who said: “New Zealand breeders must produce export quality horses to be able to progress and reinvest in stallions and better quality mares.

“Due to weak domestic prize money in New Zealand, we do not have a strong domestic buying bench to depend on, so our best young horses will always be exported.

“We rely on their success on foreign racecourses to attract buyers to our sales. Our big challenge is to retain local investment in some of our best colts with the potential to win Group One races in Australia and then return to stand at stud here.”

While the international buying bench undoubtedly formed a vital part of the sales, the domestic buyers accounted for 41 per cent of the total spend by purchasing 578 horses for NZ$35,300,950.

In the opinion of leading purchaser David Ellis, the Karaka National Yearling Sales stands shoulder to shoulder with any other international sale and is proud of the work carried out by New Zealand Bloodstock.

“In the last 12 months I have bought horses in Sydney and the Gold Coast, but Karaka has the best facilities by far for people like myself to work at.

“New Zealand Bloodstock is a company every New Zealander should feel proud of.

“Their team go out of their way to encourage young trainers to get involved and the sale was run very professionally again this year.”

Such high praise typifies the success of this year’s National Yearling Sales Series and surely bodes well for New Zealand Bloodstock’s future.

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