Week in Rowe-view

‘I think the expectations out there are a bit greater than what’s really happening at the moment’

Long-time Australian owner and breeder Max Whitby says he’s never seen anything like what he witnessed at the Inglis Easter sale this week – and he’s not referring to the $10 million daughter of Winx (Street Cry).

Whitby sold three yearlings through the North draft at the Easter sale: a $350,000 Ole Kirk (Written Tycoon) colt out of Melbourne stakes winner Wayupinthesky (Snitzel); a $180,000 Street Boss (Street Cry) half-sister to stakes-placed Inhibitions (Zoustar) and Lubrication (I Am Invincible) out of Workdrinks (Fastnet Rock), and a Star Turn (Star Witness) filly out of Adelaide Listed winner Vienna Miss (Snitzel) for $100,000.

While happy to sell his yearlings at overall satisfactory results, Whitby couldn’t believe the number of horses being passed-in at “$700,000, $800,000 and $900,000” at Riverside this week.

“I think the expectations out there are a bit greater than what’s really happening at the moment [in the overall economy],” Whitby told us.

“I’ve been involved for 40 years and I don’t think I’ve seen it [the market] so stupid, to be quite honest with you. 

“Stupid is relative in terms of who is the vendor and who is the seller, and if they’ve got plenty, but there’s going to be a lot of horses put into the market with the phones ringing all night and day. 

“‘Can you do something with this, do you want a bit of that?’”

Arrowfield Stud’s John Messara – whose Easter draft grossed almost $16 million, about $4 million below his pre-sale prediction – voiced his concerns about the perceived health of the industry in the lead-up to the two-day Easter offering.

The Easter sale, which has a large proportion of the best-bred yearlings of the 2022-born crop of 13,064 foals, did achieve turnover of more than $150 million and a record average of $429,786, a mark which would have been the case even without Winx’s filly fetching the $10 million price, so it was far from a disaster 

But, in speaking to this column prior to the Easter sale, Messara cautioned about the wider demand for horses at the 2024 sales season. The lower end of the market has taken the biggest hit, as anyone selling stock would know first-hand.

Messara believes that the distribution of prize-money, and he’s referring to NSW in this case, is skewed too heavily in favour of the elite races and that the divide is disincentivising reinvestment from owners.

The knock-on effect is that it will impact on the number of mares being bred in 2024 and beyond.

“I know that a lot of prize-money is being distributed, much of it at the top end, about 47 races now account for about 25 per cent of the prize-money in NSW this year and that’s a big part of the prize-money pool,” Messara says. 

“What’s happening as a result is that we’re not getting more production or even more horses in training, so it’s a funny situation. 

“We’re supposed to be going really well, so why are people not breeding more or racing more horses? It’s a bit of a contradiction.” 

He continues: “I think we’ve got to look towards making racing more sustainable in the middle levels, so people stay in the game, otherwise they won’t buy horses. 

“If they don’t buy horses, the breeders won’t breed them and it’s one of those things, while the top end is strong, you need more than the top end to keep an industry going.”

And that’s not to say that racing doesn’t need aspirational races, such as this weekend’s rich Queen Elizabeth (Gr 1, 2000m) or Golden Slippers and so on, but Messara argues that the prize-money available should be spread more widely.


Peter Tighe may have sold his share of Winx’s filly to Debbie Kepitis, despite wishing to retain an interest in the daughter of Pierro (Lonhro), but he still has plenty of horses in training across Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

During last week’s press call, the final official media duty for Winx’s owners before Monday’s extraordinary event comprising an unprecedented build-up, the two-minute selling process and the more than 20 minutes of media interviews that followed, Tighe revealed he was as passionate about racing as he ever has been.

As well as supporting Winx’s trainer Chris Waller, Tighe has horses with Paul Shailer at the Gold Coast, Tony Pike at Cambridge in New Zealand and horses with James Ferguson at Newmarket in England.

“Last December, my wife and I moved to the Gold Coast on a full-time basis, so I go to the stables and get a job any time I like sweeping floors and mucking out boxes,” Tighe said. 

“I like to be a bit involved, so that suits me, and I can do that at Chris Waller’s or Twiggy Shailer’s now, so it’s all good.”

The UK syndicate involving Ferguson was organised by Waller’s right-hand man, expatriate Englishman Charlie Duckworth some years ago. James’ father John, a former operative for Godolphin, is the syndicate’s bloodstock adviser.

The foray has already netted El Bodegon (Kodiac), who won a Group 1 race in France as a two-year-old for the syndicate. In seven starts in Australia he has been placed just once, a third to Anamoe (Street Boss) in the 2022 Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m).

But after an extended spell, the five-year-old gelding is back in work at Waller’s Rosehill stable.

“On Wednesday night [last] week we had a winner in the UK in the first three-year-old race of the season and we had two starters for a first and a second,” Tighe said. 

“If they can prove themselves worthy to run in some good races over there, we’ll keep them going and then the object is to bring them to Australia if they’d measure up out here.

“It’s an industry that you can’t get on top of, it gets on top of you. It’s just enjoyable. I love the horse racing industry as a whole. I’m starting to get into a bit of breeding, I do like a punt, I like to race them and the social side is great as well. 

“It’s not just about racing horses, it’s the social activities and the people you meet in Australia and around the world. It’s a great activity and I can highly recommend it to anyone.”


It’s hard not to be cynical about its timing. 

Not more than about 2.5 hours after all eyes were on Riverside Stables on Monday, and it was assured what mainstream and racing media were going to be focused on with the $10 million Easter sale result, the Australian Turf Club provided an update on the Rosehill sell-off proposal.

Talk about trying to avoid scrutiny.

In an email to members, ATC chair Peter McGauran confirmed that the club has now lodged an ‘Initial Submission and Preliminary Assessment’ with the NSW Government.    

“This submission is the first step of the formal Unsolicited Proposal process. It is a non-binding process and does not prejudice any future decision by ATC Members,” McGauran wrote. 

Members will vote on the proposal, which has been widely criticised by prominent identities such as trainers Chris Waller and Gai Waterhouse.

According to McGauran, the next steps are:

  • The NSW Government forms an Assessment Panel which may request additional information from the ATC.
  • If this first stage is approved by the NSW Government, the next step is the formation of a ‘’Detailed proposal’’. This step will take some time, during which we will undertake Due Diligence involving a range of financial and planning experts, members and racing stakeholders. Racing NSW will support the cost of the Due Diligence and will undertake their own analysis.
  • The concept of a new premium racecourse, a new training centre of excellence, improvements to training and racing infrastructure, and ATC Members and spectator facilities will be central to the Due Diligence.  

Privacy Preference Center


Cookies that are primarily for advertising purposes



These are used to track user interaction and detect potential problems. These help us improve our services by providing analytical data on how users use this site.

_ga, _gid, _hjid, _hjIncludedInSample,