Meet the next big thing
Melbourne has rolled out the red carpet for the Asian Racing Conference this week and yesterday’s morning session discussion was about owners with Inglis’ Sebastian Hutch one of the guest speakers.
I am not a body language expert, but what struck me about Hutch was not so much what he said, but how and where he said it.
With a lectern provided from which to give the presentation, Hutch instead chose to give his speech in full view of the audience from the centre of the stage. As with much of what Hutch does and says, I am sure it was considered and there was a reason for it.
Anyway, amongst an array of statistics about races and prize-money and the allure of racing horses in Australia, Hutch’s anecdote about a prominent owner struck a chord with me.
“What other sport allows one to engage with the main protagonists in the way that racing does? You can meet the trainers, the jockeys, visit the training environment, select your own horse, select their names, pick the colours they race in and then experience the adrenaline rush of the race day,” he told the conference attendees.
“I can love Manchester United, Collingwood, the Dallas Cowboys or the All Blacks, but I will always just be a person sitting in the stand with no scope to engage with the main actors.
“Racing allows you to do that. There is a ‘touch and feel’ element to owning a horse that cannot be experienced in so many other sports.”
It is well-documented the take-up of racehorse ownership – and betting on racing – was turbo-charged during the pandemic and there has been plenty of debate as to why and Hutch said this: “There are the obvious reasons, but another and one that became particularly evident during the pandemic is the opportunity that horseracing presents to meet new people.
“Many people realised during the pandemic that their social network was inextricably linked to their work. No work [or working from home] meant no social life and owning a racehorse, joining a syndicate, changed that.”
Chris Waller also provided an insightful one-on-one interview and Star Thoroughbreds’ Denise Martin, whose syndication company has stood the test of time over three decades, also gave a well-considered and personalised speech.
Interestingly, Martin was pressed on the evolution of syndication and the proliferation of microsyndication.
OTI Racing’s Terry Henderson – a panel member in a Q&A session alongside Hutch, Martin and Justin Vermaak, the head of racing at Cape Racing in South Africa – suggested that microsyndication undertaken by the likes of MiRunners and MyRacehorse was an excellent way of providing an introduction to ownership.
Martin, however, said her business had thrived, firstly with Gai Waterhouse and now Waller as her chosen trainer, by capping ownership in one horse to 20 to ensure her personalised service and race day experience, including speaking to the trainer and jockey, was maintained.
Australia’s fascination and focus on two-year-old racing drives the yearling sale markets, with the colts and fillies deemed most likely to be mature enough to run in the Magic Millions, Inglis Millenniums, Blue Diamonds and Golden Slippers regularly the most sought after.
Nothing like a rumour or two to grow legs at a yearling sale. At Classic it was that Proisir (Choisir), this season’s leading sire in New Zealand, would be coming to Australia to stand.
But that’s news to Rich Hill Stud’s John Thompson, the horse’s major shareholder.
Proisir, a Group 3 winner and twice Group 1-placed as a three-year-old before injury cruelled his racing career for Gai Waterhouse, has been a revelation at stud.
This season alone the rising 14-year-old has sired the winners of four Group 1 winners in New Zealand, including completing with 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas double at Riccarton with Legarto and Pier, which is said to have prompted the interest from Australian studmasters.
“There is a share coming up for sale, possibly, from one of the shareholders who lives in Australia who wants to sell because he doesn’t breed over here, but there’s no truth to that [relocation],” the popular Thompson said.
“He is owned by a New Zealand syndicate, so they can’t relocate the horse unless the syndicate agrees and I haven’t had any enquiry about that.”
Would it be a possibility in the future?
“You never know with these stallions and what they come along and offer, do you? But seriously, he’s a relatively young horse and he’s done it the hard way and he’s put himself in the position he has with a lot of support from the syndicate.
“A lot of them have bred his good horses, so not only have they benefited from that, but when you get a good stallion your broodmare band benefits as well.”
Proisir, whose current crop of yearlings were conceived on a NZ$9,000 service fee, has a NZ$1.4 million margin over eight-time New Zealand champion sire Savabeel in this year’s premiership race.
Angus Robertson could be the Next Big Thing.
Auctioneering is more art than science and the good ones make a difficult craft look easy, so when Inglis’ young gun Robertson stood up on the rostrum for the first time with gavel in hand during the Highway Session of the Classic sale on Tuesday, you knew almost immediately that he “has it”.
He is clear, concise and he has the right voice. From my vantage point, and I have witnessed thousands of horses go through the ring over the past few years, not noticing a change of auctioneer says a lot.
A 2022 graduate of the prestigious Godolphin Flying Start course, Robertson cut his teeth on his family’s cattle farm Turanville Shorthorns, near the thoroughbred heartland of Scone, before venturing into the bloodstock world.
He had a cool and calm demeanour about him and he also had control of the room, despite his tender age and inexperience.
“We call him N.B.T – Next Big Thing,” Inglis’ Sebastian Hutch told us in a manner akin to Gai Waterhouse declaring an unraced colt as the next Slipper winner.
“He’s put a lot of practice into it [auctioneering]. He is a really diligent guy, he has a great way about him, a good work ethic and he is really personable and presentable.
“He has been a fantastic addition to what is a really strong group of people at Inglis. He has worked hard to earn his spot here, but he is going about it the right way and he has got a big future here.”
Robertson’s father Doug, mother Nic and sister Sophie were at Riverside to witness the dazzling debut.
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