A long road
It’s a long way from scraping a living out of selling yearlings at Claudelands’ Waikato sales for a $1,000, sometimes less, just to put food on the table, to a sale topper for $1.6 million.
The writer well remembers the old Claudelands ring and the auctioneers’ rostrum which stood about five feet above ground. During the early 1980s, Hallmark Stud was selling a yearling and when the bidding began to escalate beyond its reserve an excited Denny Baker reached up and grabbed the trouser cuff of auctioneer Joe Walls and shook it vigorously, then kept repeating: “Go boy, keep going! Keep going!”
Hallmark Stud was established by the Bakers across the road from Kinross Stud, which many will remember if they’ve driven the old Great South Road though Te Kauwhata. Kinross was renowned for standing champion sire Summertime (Precipitation) and after Summertime passed and the stud sold, there was a sign outside which read: “It’s home to Summertime mares.” They were that good.
Starting small, Hallmark stood a few stallions and somehow stayed in the game. The stud now occupies the original Kinross Stud and Baker is ever thankful that the stud’s proprietor, John Malcolm, who he still calls “Boss”, gave him his first opportunity.
Therefore it is understandable why emotions came to the surface as seen in a video recorded for ANZ Bloodstock News’ January 29 issue. An old truism ends the video, that no one knows from where the next good horse will emerge. And for that reason the sale topping filly was just one of the draft, treated equally and not fussed over leading up to the sale. That was something that mentor Malcolm instilled into him from day one and he has never forgotten.
Son Mark Baker held his composure but was highly aware of the stud’s achievement. “I dreamt of a million a couple of times, then put that straight out of my head. Someone will wake me up soon.”, adding that it was great for everyone, the family, the stud, the staff and the sire.
One of the many congratulations offered to Denny, Mark and family was from Queensland trainer, Liam Birchley: “It’s been a long road Denny but such a great result for your family.” Birchley was referring to a battle that many studs and breeders experience along the way.
Our New Zealand industry is very close-knit and just about everyone knows everyone. The camaraderie is clear and when results such as this take place there are only handshakes and cheers and even a few hugs. This is what keeps the industry going and keeps the dreams alive of those involved.
A look at the filly’s pedigree reveals that her damsire is Don Eduardo (Zabeel), himself a sale-topper. In fact, Don Eduardo still holds the New Zealand auction record at $3.6 million.
That’s not all. Don Eduardo’s dam, Diamond Lover (Sticks And Stones), was broken in and given her early education by none other than Denny Baker himself.
A similar glow was present before the sale over at Rich Hill Stud’s marquee where Kiwi Chronicles caught up with Alan Galbraith KC, the stud’s co-founder.
Galbraith was knocked out by the high interest in the stud’s Proisir (Choisir), Satono Aladdin (Deep Impact) and Ace High (High Chaparral). The stud enjoyed prominence when Pentire (Be My Guest) was in his prime, but this was at another level altogether. Galbraith was pinching himself about the stallions’ results on the track.
Those results did not go unnoticed by buyers, and Proisir topped the averages for New Zealand-based sires at $274,444, just edging the venerable Savabeel (Zabeel) by $3,000.
Outside of the shareholders, breeders who supported Proisir would have been laughing all the way to the bank as that average was off of a $12,500 service fee.
Third in this category was Rich Hill’s Satono Aladdin, whose average of $234,643 also saw excellent returns on the same $12,500 fee as Proisir. His filly from Inthespotlight was the second top–priced lot of the sale, making $900,000.
Results matter and one hint that Proisir would be in strong demand can be found in his Book 1 representation. Just two years ago, nine Proisir lots were catalogued. That number jumped to 19 in 2023 and to 35 this year, a huge rise in acceptance – yet fully merited.
As for Savabeel, the living legend, his fabulous contribution to our industry seems to know no bounds. The leading sire on aggregate went into this year’s sale with a profound performance from his top-class filly Orchestral. The way the filly bounded clear over the final 150 metres of the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (Listed, 1600) was the highlight of Ellerslie’s pre-sale Karaka Millions meeting.
As if we needed reminding, mid-sale he sired the winner of the Waikato Guineas (Gr 2, 2000m) when Ascend The Throne became stakes winner 139. At this time last year, he equalled Sir Tristram’s (Sir Ivor) 130 and there is no reason to believe that his numbers will slow.
Savabeel has been so strong and so consistent over the years that some might take him for granted, so it was pleasing to see buying support maintained. He is a once in a lifetime sire. He won’t be around forever and buyers are realising that.
Breeder Graeme Hunt first became interested in the bloodstock world when his father took him along to the 1960 dispersal of Koatanui Stud, Wanganui, home of the famous Eulogy line. Hunt was just a primary school lad at the time but it sparked a lifetime interest and a hobby.
Very late on Day 3 of Book 1 his Satono Aladdin colt fetched $460,000 through Dave Duley’s Landsdowne Park draft.
The colt’s dam, Cold Shoulder (Volksraad), died while foaling. The half-sister to Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) winner Efficient (Zabeel) had already produced Group 1 winner On The Rocks (Alamosa) but the foal, her twelfth, had to be fed by bottle until a foster mare could be found.
Geoff, Sue and Sarah Broughton of Mystery Creek Stud broadcast the request, but the response was confined to a warm-blood mare. The foal took to her without any problem and he was particularly well fed. The mare produced so much milk that the stud nicknamed the mare after the dairy corporation Fonterra.
Hunt was an early fan of Satono Aladdin and raced Kabugee from the stallion’s first crop, believing that the son of Deep Impact (Sunday Silence) would combine well with our New Zealand mares.
Day 1 of Book 1 was a cracker when compared with the same day of 2023. The $8 million increase in aggregate gave great hope to the remainder of the sale. Perhaps the industry was indeed about to take a turn for the better? Perhaps the money injection from Entain was having an immediate effect?
By the end of Day 2 the aggregate had jumped by $12 million to a shade below $30 million per day. Day 3 however brought us back to earth a little when $20 million was traded for a Book 1 total of $79.58 million. The hectic pace of days one and two could not be sustained. Although there were 40 fewer lots that day, to maintain the pace the turnover needed to nudge $25 million.
Day 1’s average of $195,000 eased to $176,000 at the end of day two and eased further to $168,000 by the end.
One surprised vendor was Eion Kemp of Kilgravin Lodge whose operation enjoyed a massive Ready To Run Sale result last November. “We concentrated on the Ready To Run sale thinking that the yearling market might be a bit soft due to the economy, but it has turned out to be way better than that. If you have the right horse by the right stallion you were going to have a good sale,” said Kemp, after selling a Proisir filly for $600,000 right at the end of Day 2.
Cambridge Stud’s CEO Henry Plumptre found it necessary to make an early adjustment to their reserves. “It hasn’t been easy yet there is a willing buying bench but based on the overall economy those whose loan interest rates have doubled are not in the market. So, Cambridge Stud had to be realistic and set reserves accordingly which has meant a 100% sell through.
The stud offered 35 lots and met the market for all 35, their top lot ($425,000), the Hello Youmzain-Steer By The Stars colt, was purchased by Chris Waller and Guy Mulcaster
“The stud is happy with Almanzor and even happier with Hello Youmzain. Good luck to those who have bought one. We too are buying back into his stock to support the stallion.,” ended Plumptre.
Cambridge Stud bought three, all fillies by their young sire: Lot 675 from Cote D‘Or (Makfi) out of the Pencarrow Stud draft for $300,000, Lot 145 from Ipanema Girl (Iffraaj) out of the Haunui Farm draft for $260,000 and Lot 561 from Alamer (Alamosa) out of the Kilgravin Lodge draft for $180,000. It looks like Cambridge Stud means business.
After the sale ANZ Bloodstock News’ Tim Rowe interviewed NZB’s MD Andrew Seabrook, who mentioned that next year’s catalog might need some tweaking. That is no easy task, trying to balance getting as many eyes on as many lots as possible in those first three days.
It must be a logistics nightmare to juggle the number of lots with the number of boxes. There is no chance that more boxes will be built. That is plainly uneconomical and any tweaking can only be to adjust the final selections.
The fact that the sale faded on Day 3 supports those who wished to return to a two-day Book 1. Then again, while eyes are on site, put yearlings in front of them. That is the auctioneers’ main responsibility on behalf of vendors and breeders.
As for Book 2, the Te Rapa race day was accommodated by the auctioneers and hopefully that action was appreciated. Next year the Waikato Guineas will move to February and perhaps the raceday will also move and not clash with the sale.
Again, although logistics rears its ugly head again, if Book 2 was two days instead of three, that might please vendors and create some worthwhile savings.