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$1.9 million Snitzel colt sets tone for Magic Millions Yearling Sale

Caution thrown to the wind as buyers show confidence in thoroughbred industry at the Gold Coast  

Not for the first time, a stunning appetite to be involved in the Australian racing industry was witnessed on the Gold Coast yesterday as buyers defied outside influences to produce results many stakeholders dared not predict in the days preceding the opening session of the 2021 Magic Millions Yearling Sale. 

The 180-lot first of seven sessions belied any pre-sale pessimism which was expressed, with not only the top end predictably remaining strong, but the middle to lower-end of the market also remaining robust and the majority of horses finding new owners.

The remarkable figures were spurred by a stunning ten-minute burst in which Widden Stud sold an I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit) filly for $975,000, only for her to lose the highest-priced horse honour two lots later as their Snitzel (Redoute’s Choice) colt realised $1.9 million.

By the end of the session, 144 horses had changed hands at an average of $246,783, a median of $170,000 and, most importantly, a clearance rate of 86 per cent.

Magic Millions managing director Barry Bowditch warned pre-sale that it may not be possible to match previous years’ figures given the Covid-19 pandemic and the fact some key buyers were unable to attend the auction, but he believes there were a number of drivers behind yesterday’s strong demand for new stock.

“I think the confidence we have here in our industry is something that you can’t underestimate. There’s outstanding prize-money to be won in Australia and this sale, in particular, gives you the best chance to race in the best race series in the world and buyers have got confidence in that,” Bowditch said.

“They are getting in behind these horses; they are setting a benchmark that is pretty significant in my mind. We have confidence in our catalogue but it is a relief that the market is seeing it the same way.”

Powerhouses clash before Coolmore land knockout blow

The highlight of the day was witnessing a global thoroughbred heavyweight and the combined clout of two Australian-based stallion syndicates going toe-to-toe in an auction ring duel worthy of a marquee title fight. 

At one side, believed to be the James Harron Bloodstock partnership and the newly formed Victorian Alliance syndicate led by Rosemont Stud, bids were fired in without a shadow of trepidation before rival Coolmore, somewhat theatrically, left onlookers hanging before each signal to go again.

Flanked by brother MV, Mick Flanagan and other trusted Coolmore figures, Tom Magnier’s $1.9 million bid was enough to secure the colt, the latest acquisition in a considered long-term plan to add high-class bloodstock to the outfit’s massive portfolio.

“All the top people seemed to be on him. You saw what we had to pay for him, but he was a nice colt and we’ve a great group of people to race the horse with,” Tom Magnier said.

“We are going to need some luck, but we are in a great country to do that. It’s just great to be able to go to the Gold Coast and fair play to the Magic Millions, they’ve got all the people here and there are a great bunch of horses.”

Chris Waller will train the Snitzel colt, who is the first foal out of Listed winner Bonny O’Reilly (O’Reilly). He was offered as Lot 115.

“There were lots of people who admired the colt and wanted to buy him, but it came down to two big teams with a fair bit of conviction,” Widden Stud’s Antony Thompson said. 

“Coolmore obviously is the biggest stallion player in the world and their support of Australia is well-known, so for MV Magnier to quarantine with Mick Flanagan to be down here with his brother Tom to support the Australian industry the way they have, I think the whole Australian industry owe them a huge debt of gratitude for taking that time out over the Christmas period to isolate in a hotel to be part of this sale.

“It says a lot about their commitment to the industry.”

Thompson, in conjunction with David Redvers, paid $1.2 million for Bonny O’Reilly carrying the session-topping colt at the 2019 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale, a year after being underbidder on the former Bjorn Baker-trained mare at the same Gold Coast auction, where she realised $800,000 in 2018. 

“The first time she went through the Magic Millions off the track, I was under bidder at $800,000 and she made $825,000, and I regretted the fact that I didn’t keep going,” Thompson revealed. 

“I thought about it for a while and, luckily for me, we got a second opportunity when she came back through the sale 12 months later in foal to Snitzel and we had to go a bit further. 

“We paid $1.2 million for her then but I didn’t want to miss her the second time. At the time it was a lot of money for her, but she was just a stunning mare. It’s such a family and those blue hens are hard to come by, so I was delighted when I was able to buy her.”

Bonaria’s $975,000 filly heads to Victoria

Only two lots earlier, Widden sold an I Am Invincible filly on behalf of Victorian breeder Robert Anderson, who raced the yearling’s Group 1-winning dam Bonaria (Redoute’s Choice), for $975,000.

The third foal out of the former Pat Hyland-trained mare, the filly was purchased by Cranbourne trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young. She was catalogued as Lot 113. 

“She was bred by a very good client of ours, Robert Anderson. He has really enjoyed racing Bonaria, winning a Group 1 at Flemington over the carnival, and I think it was a very special moment for everyone. I know for Robert it was one of his finest moments on a racecourse,” Thompson said. 

“She’s such a magnificent mare with a family that just gets better every day which is, of course, the family of Merchant Navy and there’s so many other lovely fillies in that family.

“She’s an absolute queen and I am sure Trent has got himself a real star of the future.”

On the prevailing day one market, Thompson added: “It’s been a lot of work from the buyers who are here and even the guys who even aren’t here to make it all happen. 

“Across the board, it’s really pleasing to see the optimism of horse people and the can-do attitude to make sure things happen. It’s a great effort from Magic Millions.”

I Am Invincible colt first of 2021 batch for Waller-trained syndicate

The start of the sale, often the hardest time as vendors and buyers tread warily trying to determine values, exceeded many observers’ expectations and it provided a positive signal to overall market demand, particularly when agent Guy Mulcaster and trainer Chris Waller, with the backing of a colts syndicate featuring Coolmore Stud, went to $800,000 for the half-brother to Group 1-winning filly Qafila (Not A Single Doubt).

The I Am Invincible colt, who entered the ring as Lot 7, was bred by NSW Southern Highlands-based operation Woodpark Stud and consigned by Attunga Stud on their behalf.

As the price tag indicates, the colt’s physique matched his pedigree, being the fifth foal out of the French-placed mare Zighy Bay (Tapit).

“As they say, and you hear it every time there is an interview done, but he is a lovely, nice-moving horse. I Am Invincible is such a great sire, I didn’t think he was going to take too long and the mare’s done a good job,” Mulcaster said.

“The other one out of the mare (Qafila) was a winner from 1000 to 2500 metres, so she is very versatile, and this colt will tell us where he ends up.”

The Waller-trained colts syndicate made its mark at last year’s yearling sales series and those involved are already starting to see a return on investment, with the group sweating on promising juvenile Ranch Hand (Fastnet Rock) gaining a start in Saturday’s $2 million Magic Millions 2YO Classic (RL, 1200m).

The twice-raced two-year-old, a $260,000 purchase from Turangga Farm at last year’s Gold Coast sale by Coolmore’s Tom Magnier, is first emergency for the race after a narrow last-start third at Eagle Farm on January 2.

Mulcaster said: “We are very happy with the group we bought last year and we’ve only had two or three of them step out, but we’ve got some nice ones to come in the next few weeks.”

Woodpark Stud’s Jean Dubois was delighted that Zighy Bay had continued to reward her owners with desirable offspring.

“We bought the mare as a yearling a long time ago in America. She was bought by my good friend Hubert Guy,” Dubois said. 

“She was just OK as a racemare, but the purpose was to have her as a broodmare because Tapit is such a stallion and broodmare sire now. 

“Unfortunately, she missed (in 2019) so she doesn’t have a foal but she is in foal to Exceed And Excel.”

Coolmore also paid $625,000 for a Written Tycoon (Iglesia) colt, the first lot offered by Silverdale Farm under vendor Steve Grant’s own banner. Offered as Lot 27, he is the fourth foal out of Fastnet Rock (Danehill) mare Alcatraz, already the dam of the Group 1-placed Kubrick (Shooting To Win).

Grant uses agent Suman Hedge to oversee the pinhook venture and the colt provided a sizable return to him and his partners.

“We bought him out of the paddock as a foal (from Two Bays Farm) and they stayed in as well,” Grant said yesterday. 

“We bought into him and we took him through his yearling prep. We had him down at the farm very early. He had 55 inspections (on Sunday), 56 (on Monday) and then again this morning.” 

James Bester also signed alongside Coolmore for the son of Written Tycoon and he was not surprised by the competition on the colt.

“He’s a fast-looking colt in the mould of Capitalist, those Written Tycoons that win the Golden Slippers and Magic Millions 2YO Classics, with a pedigree too. His half-brother by Shooting To Win was second in the Group 1 Atkins and probably should have won it. He’s just an early, precocious, fast-looking animal we thought,” Bester said.

“No stallion has had a better 12 months (than Written Tycoon) and we’ve targeted them for this job of getting fast, precocious two-year-olds out and running, and this fella fitted the build perfectly.”

A trainer for the colt has not yet been decided.

Maher and Eustace go large for Vinnie filly

Meanwhile, training goliaths Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, who have enjoyed elite success with Loving Gaby (I Am Invincible) and Kenedna (Not A Single Doubt) in recent seasons, found a filly whose pedigree featured both sires of those multiple Group 1 winners too much to resist. 

As day one passed the halfway mark, it was Maher and Eustace who used their collective buying power to purchase Lot 100, an I Am Invincible filly out of stakes-winning mare Bidii Babe (Not A Single Doubt), for $800,000.

The filly was sold by Yarraman Park Stud, the home of her star stallion.

“She is by a dominant sire out of a Not A Single Doubt mare and I’ve had a lot of success with those stallions,” Maher said. 

“Obviously, I’ve got a very high opinion of her and she looks very sharp and early and she can hopefully get to the track as an early two-year-old.

“Yarraman are great breeders and they keep producing horses year after year. I saw this filly on the farm three months ago and she’s one of the fillies of the sale. It was a little bit more than I expected, but when you’re buying quality like that, you always have to go a little bit higher.

“She’s got enough strength, size and muscle so that she can be back here next year turning $800,000 into $2 million.”

Te Akau make mark with three high-priced recruits

A border closure did not deter Te Akau Racing principal, New Zealander David Ellis, from being active on day one. He secured three lots, with the assistance of agent Andrew Williams, for a total of $1.925 million.

The spending spree on the yearlings, all to be trained by Te Akau’s Jamie Richards, was led by Lot 163, a $825,000 son of Fastnet Rock. They also paid $600,000 for a Fastnet Rock filly, the same sire as the stable’s star Avantage, from Coolmore. She was catalogued as Lot 109. Finally, the duo went to $500,000 for an I Am Invincible filly from Yarraman Park Stud, who was Lot 159.

“I am very grateful to be asked and I’ve got a lot of respect for David and the Te Akau team in particular. There were a few videos that went through plus the videos online,” Williams said. 

“It’s a credit to him and the team. He stumped up and they bought three really nice horses.”

It was more coincidence that Ellis and Williams were so strong on day one rather than an indication that there are more bullets to fire in the coming days.

“To be honest, there were three horses that we really liked and ones that we wanted to target,” Williams said.

“It’s quite interesting that they all fell on day one and two of them within four lots, so sometimes that’s just the way it is.

“We were active on one very early in the sale and got absolutely demolished. The good horses are making money and they deserve to do so.”

Sale statistics – day one

2021  2020
Catalogued 180 262
Offered 168 245
Sold 144 (86%) 203 (83%)
Aggregate $35,290,000 (-27.3%) $48,565,000
Average $246,783 (+3.2%) $239,235
Median $170,000 (-5.5%) $180,000
Top Lot $1.9 million $1.1 million