Inglis’ $5 million cash splash aimed at maidens

Xtra Bonuses worth $100,000 latest initiative in sales houses’ war for share of $600 million yearling market 

Inglis will splash a stunning $5 million in bonus prize-money at the base of a booming Australian racing industry, with 50 maidens across the nation’s eastern seaboard to be worth at least $100,000 in a significant opening of the war chest by the company as it competes for the lion’s share of the lucrative $600 million domestic yearling market.

Announced on Sunday evening, on the eve of Inglis’ season-opening Classic Sale in Sydney, the massive $5 million Xtra Bonus injection has been labelled as a “game-changing” investment by the auction house and will see owners of graduates of the thoroughbred seller’s yearling sales eligible for a lucrative cash windfall if they win one of the suite of maiden races nominated each year by company.   

As part of the Inglis Xtra Bonus Series, 50 maidens will be selected to carry the $100,000 bounty with a focus on races in New South Wales and Victoria as well as Queensland and they will run almost every week of the year at major country carnivals, midweek metropolitan and provincial race meetings from the 2024-25 Australian racing season.

The Xtra Bonus maidens, eligible to horses born in 2021 and beyond and who are paid up for the Inglis Race Series, will range from 900 metres to 2000 metres and be open to horses aged three years old and up.

Inglis Bloodstock chief executive officer, Sebastian Hutch, said that the auction house had constantly been reviewing aspects of its thoroughbred sales business, including its race series, before determining the $5 million course of action.

“Something we’ve consistently been looking at is trying to create a scenario where more people win more often,” Hutch told ANZ Bloodstock News.

“We’ve had a variety of ideas over the years and months and probably never felt that we’ve quite landed on the right one and then this idea manifested itself and we troubleshooted it through a few different scenarios.

“Regular feedback we get, from trainers in particular, is that it would be fantastic for their owners if a maiden win could be extremely lucrative.

“With prize-money and the various breeding schemes available, there are good incentives for winning maidens, but the average prize-money for a maiden that we looked at is around $20,000 to $21,000 to the winner, so by adding a $100,000 bonus on top of that we are effectively adding five times the value of the prize-money to these designated maidens. 

“We think that is a fantastic opportunity for people across a variety of locations, race distances and race profiles, etc.”

Incorporated into the Inglis Race Series – which features the $2 million Inglis Millennium (RL, 1100m), the $1 million Inglis Sprint (RL, 1200m), the $500,000 Inglis Banner (RL, 1000m), the $500,000 Inglis Nursery (RL, 1000m), the $250,000 Inglis Bracelet (1600m) and $200,000 Inglis Challenge (1100m) – the Xtra Bonus Series initiative will see the total prize-money pool jump to $12.55 million on offer to paid up Inglis graduates in the 2024-25 season. 

Prime Thoroughbreds’ Joe O’Neill, who purchased Group 2-winning filly Rubisaki (Rubick) for $85,000 from the 2018 Inglis Classic Sale and last year sold her for $1 million as a breeding prospect, welcomed the initiative.

“At the moment our prize-money in the two big states, in particular, is fantastic and anything like this and anything that can put money back into the owners’ pockets is good for the industry.

“People don’t get just one horse to race, they like to get a few over a period of time, and this encourages them to stay in the game.

“For us, the average purchase price of our yearlings is about $80,000 – and it used to be lower than that, it used to be $45,000, but the prices of horses has gone up – so to get $100,000 on top of your maiden win goes a long way to paying off the purchase price of the yearlings that [our clients] are in.

“We’ve put a lot of money into races like The Everest and the Golden Eagle, but all those races are doing is putting money in the big stables’ pockets and the big owners generally.

“You need to have [aspirational] targets for people to aim at, but really the bottom end is the guts of the industry.”

Fellow syndicator Nathan Bennett, who trades under Bennett Racing, was also a fan of the new Inglis scheme.

“A lot of horses might only win their maiden, so if they win their maiden and owners have got their purchase price back, say, a $100,000 horse with a $100,000 bonus, then the horse is paid for and whatever happens after that is a bonus,” Bennett said. 

“I think it would get more people into the industry and I think it’s a great idea.”

The bonus prize-money arms race between Inglis and rival Magic Millions has ramped up over the past few years, as the competition has intensified between the Australian auction houses for breeders’ best horses and for the attention of the diverse buying bench, including trainers, agents, owners and syndicators.

Four weeks ago, 12 months after announcing a $500,000 The Debut (900m) for unraced two-year-olds and a $1 million The Syndicate (1200m) restricted to Magic Millions graduates, the Gold Coast-based auction house upped the ante by announcing a series of enhancements to its own race series, including the addition of a $1 million National 2YO Classic (1000m), to be run from May 2024 at the Gold Coast, and a $3 million slot race to be added to its January programme from 2025. 

The Magic Millions 2YO Classic (RL, 1200m) and 3YO Guineas (RL, 1400m) have also had prize-money increased from $2 to $3 million each from 2024. There was $630 million spent on yearlings at Magic Millions and Inglis yearling sales in 2022.

Hutch said Inglis’ own $5 million purse was an appropriate way to reward owners and trainers who supported the auction house’s sales and that the company deliberately chose to avoid adding to the rich races already supporting talented juveniles.

“First and foremost, it’s about selling good horses and we pride ourselves on consistently selling good horses and that’s the biggest advertisement for our sales that we could ever have, but then you look to try and enhance that with various incentives to owners,” Hutch said.

“We’ll have prize-money in the region of $4 million for our two-year-old races this [season] … It’s a lot of money for two-year-old races and we wanted to see how we might further incentivise some horses beyond the age of two, so the series starts for three-year-olds and we think that’s a good way to participate in our sales and generate returns to owners.

“We’re not trying to imitate anybody, we’re trying to identify needs that we think will work well for us based on the feedback that we get from our clients and this is something that we feel correlates well with feedback we’ve had from people over many years.”

A schedule of maiden races, venues and dates will be determined by Inglis once the calendar of race meetings for the 2024-25 racing season has been released by the respective principal racing authorities.

On-site inspections at Riverside Stables for the Inglis Classic sale, to be run across three days from February 12 to 14, start tomorrow.

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