Week in Rowe-view

Number of factors conspired against HK sale as prices plummet

Hong Kong racing allrounder Apollo Ng suggests there’s no need to jump at shadows after a below par Hong Kong International Sale.

A former Chinese language race caller, the media identity and bloodstock agent, among other roles, says a number of factors conspired against the Jockey Club’s 14-lot sale of three-year-olds where prices plummeted and the organisation lost money on many of the 2022-purchased yearlings.

The depth of the 20-lot catalogue was hurt by six withdrawals, four of them ruled out in the two days prior to the evening auction, causing much conjecture about the sale in the aftermath of Friday night’s offering.

The average of the sale was HK$3.307 million (approx. AU$640,035) – down more than 30 per cent year-on-year – and the median price finished up at HK$3.2 million (approx. AU$619,325), while the total sale returned HK$46.3 million, (approx. AU$8.96 million) down HK$25 million on 2023.

Ng believes that the earlier March sale date – it was last held at this time of year in 2019 – had also impacted the market at what he says is a “hassle-free sale” for owners wanting educated ready-to-race horses.

“I would say to forget about this sale’s [results] because it’s been held during the economic doom and gloom in Hong Kong, the stock market is down in Hong Kong and the property market is down in Hong Kong,” Ng told us at this week’s Magic Millions Adelaide sale. 

“What I can see is, a lot of people have a lack of cash flow and that’s one of the reasons why quite a few buyers didn’t want to dig too deep into their pocket and, secondly, the previous sales were conducted after the permit announcements and this sale is conducted before the permit announcement. 

“It needs to be held in July, like in previous years. The permit announcements are in June, so some permit holders will say, ‘I’ve got a permit, I have to bid’ and some of those will have what are called reserve permits and if you don’t buy from this sale you won’t be able to own a racehorse, so they will bid competitively and that is perhaps one of the contributing factors why the bidding wasn’t as active as in previous years.”

Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges also admitted that the earlier sale date may have backfired and that he expected the poor results.

“We took a gamble that we wanted to have the sale earlier, in March, so there were the new permits missing,” Engelbrecht-Bresges told the South China Morning Post.  

“The other thing is, the performance of the sales horses the past two years was not up to standard. Then there’s the economic situation and we also lost some good horses who would have made money.”

Ng, who flew into Adelaide after the International Sale, bought a Graff (Star Witness) colt from the family of his privately purchased dual Hong Kong Group 3 winner Tourbillon Diamond (Olympic Glory) for just $20,000 at the Magic Millions sale. 

Tourbillon Diamond raced as Eric The Eel in Australia for trainer Stuart Kendrick and owner Neil Douglas, finishing third in the 2020 Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m), his final start in Australia before being bought by Ng. 

Meanwhile, Ng will also be at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale with members of The Hong Kong Thoroughbred Breeders’ Alliance.

A delegation from the alliance, for which Ng is chairman, will arrive in Sydney on April 4. They will visit Coolmore at Jerrys Plains and Evergreen Stud Farm near Newcastle, while also attending the Doncaster Mile meeting at Randwick on April 6.

The group will also visit well-known pre-training, education and quarantine facility Muskoka Farm prior to returning to Hong Kong. 


Respected thoroughbred industry figure Trevor Lobb says Goulburn Race Club’s future remains in the hands of its members and that it’s “not a done deal” that the organisation will sign over the 40-hectare racecourse to Racing NSW.

Funding of $9.5 million has been promised by Racing NSW to build 80 stables and associated training infrastructure at Goulburn, about two hours south of Sydney, but for the deal to go through the club must relinquish ownership of the valuable parcel of land, which could be worth more than $30 million. 

The controversial move, which this column reported on last week, has sparked uproar from sections of the state’s racing participants who believe it is unwise to let go of the appreciating asset. 

About 20 of the club’s approximate 160 members attended Monday night’s information evening with directors, the chief executive Robyn Fife and Racing NSW’s Scott Kennedy.

Once an integral part of the Woodlands operation and then at Darley following Sheikh Mohammed’s purchase of Jack and Bob Ingham’s breeding and racing empire, Lobb was also a former board member of Racing NSW before retiring in December 2008.

On Thursday, he revealed that the Goulburn club approached Racing NSW about securing funding for the project, not the other way around.

“It is our wish to increase the stabling at Goulburn. It has been our wish for a number of years and as far as we did up the DA [development application] but we found out how expensive it is [to build] today. We’ve had meetings with Racing NSW, which has come forward to this point of being able to get the necessary funding to build these to help the trainers and to help the industry,” Lobb told Rowe-View.

“They have taken possession of a number of tracks including Scone, one down the coast [Moruya]. There are a number of them that they have taken over the ownership of.”

The Fahey state government in the mid-1990s provided a grant to allow the Goulburn Race Club to relocate to its current location in 1999 and Lobb provided insight into the agreement.

“The property itself was developed in the times of the NSW government [through] the racing development fund so, therefore, the monies that were originally supplied to build Goulburn was actually the government’s money. The loan involved with it was transferred across to Racing NSW when it was incorporated,” he said.

“There is debt within the figures and everything else. It is just not a straight-forward ‘they’re taking the club’ over anything like that.”

A past president and life member of Thoroughbred Breeders NSW, Lobb, who was elected to the Goulburn board by the members, declined to provide a personal view on whether the members should vote in favour of giving the land to the state’s racing regulator, suggesting that it was “entirely up to the members”.

“You’ve got to weigh up all the things and it’s not a done deal at the moment anyway. It’s asking the members, ‘do they want us to look further into it and then make a decision?’ 

“It is for the members to say yes, and they are for it or, no, they’re against it. If they’re against it then that’s certainly where it would finish.

“If they are for it, there’s a lot of Is to dot and Ts to cross before any decision could be made.”

Members will have their chance to vote on the proposal at a meeting on April 2. The first will be to sell the racecourse land and, secondly, to give authority to race club chairman Ken Ikin and Fife to negotiate with Racing NSW on what would end up being the final terms of any potential arrangement.

“There’s a lot of things to look at … but we’re getting there. It was an information night to say what we wanted to do, what we may need to do or may not need to do, but you need your members to be across it and that’s what we did,” Lobb said.

“I think there’s certain people who are banging drums who don’t understand all the aspects of it. I think time can answer those things, but if they think that the board is going to do something that isn’t to the benefit of Goulburn, then they’re far from knowing what’s going on.”


For the past 13 months, popular expatriate South African jockey Barend Vorster has been out of the saddle as the result of what at the time appeared to be a rather innocuous knock to the head from a horse.

He has battled concussion and neck pain ever since the mounting yard incident on February 18, 2023. He’d already ridden a winning double on the card.

Despite the setbacks, which have tested his patience, Vorster is making the most of his time out of the saddle, helping out his Barossa Valley neighbour Sam Pritchard-Gordon at Cornerstone Stud.

Donning a Cornerstone uniform, he also was on card duty at the Magic Millions sale this week.

“I said to Sam, it’ll be nice to come here, do some cards and help me stay in touch with the connections and keep in touch with everybody,” Vorster said. 

“It’s been good to have a catch up [with racing people] and, at the same time, stay close to the horses … because you miss the animals. It’s been good for me mentally as well.”

While an observer of the breeding industry, Vorster had never ‘crossed the fence’ to the bloodstock side of the industry.

 “For me, it’s just something that seems to keep me occupied and I’ve really enjoyed it. That is why we do these things, to broaden your spectrum, to learn a bit more about the physical side of assessing yearlings,” he said. 

“You see them in different shapes and everybody has a different way of looking at yearlings and where they are going to grow into, so it is nice for me to learn that side.

“You never stop learning in this game, so I’ve really enjoyed getting different trainers and breeders’ perspectives on conformation and breeding.”

Vorster, who is awaiting advice from specialists about what’s next in the treatment of his problematic neck injury between the C2 and C3 vertebrae, hasn’t given up hope of returning to the jockey ranks.

“I actually had a specialist’s appointment [on Monday] to have a few extra scans to pinpoint exactly where the issue is and if it’s going to be possible to Cortisone it again or to back off and leave it,” he said.

“If that is the case and they have to back off and leave it, it’s probably going to mean more time [resting]. At the moment it’s a case of trying to stay hopeful and trying to stay positive.”

Vorster was also by Pritchard-Gordon’s side at the recent Inglis Premier sale and, pending medical appointments, he may also be at the Easter sale.


Magic Millions owner Gerry Harvey couldn’t resist a dig at his sparring partner, and former auction house co-owner, John Singleton about splitting from his seventh wife Sarah Warry after three months of marriage.

Harvey used the pre-Adelaide sale cocktail party last Sunday to suggest that Singo was just skin and bone because Warry couldn’t cook and the lack of nourishment had led to the end of their short-lived partnership. 

And Harvey, 84, took great delight in claiming that he was closer than ever to claiming the “winner takes all” $20 million bet between he and Singleton on who can live the longest. 

Singo, who wasn’t in Adelaide for the sale, apparently took the taunts in the intended good spirit. 

Just six months after dispersing his Strawberry Hill racing and breeding portfolio, Singleton re-entered the yearling arena in Adelaide, buying an Anders (Not A Single Doubt) filly for $100,000. She will enter the stables of young Murray Bridge-based trainer Matt Seyers. 

The filly is out Bucasia (Mossman), a half-sister to Singleton’s Group 3-winning mare Tallow (Street Cry) who has since produced Golden Slipper winner Farnan (Not A Single Doubt) and Listed-winning sprinter Sandbar (Snitzel).

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