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Platform set for reinvigorated New Zealand industry after new dawn at Karaka

New Zealand Bloodstock completes highest-grossing yearling sale in six years

New Zealand Bloodstock will consider tweaks rather than making any wholesale changes to its National Yearling Sale format after conducting the company’s most successful Karaka auction in six years.

The 98th New Zealand sale was completed yesterday with the sixth and final session bringing an end to a huge week at the Auckland complex in which almost $92 million changed hands, the surge in spending the result of increased action from both domestic and Australian buyers predominantly in the main session.

The results over the past six days justified NZB managing director Andrew Seabrook’s presale confidence, which was gained from a successful Ready to Run Sale last November and the injection of prize-money and initiatives by the racing industry’s new wagering partner, Entain.

There were 748 horses sold at an average of $122,783, a jump of ten per cent year-on-year while the median was $90,000.

“I was confident that we could hold the figures from last year. So, to be up 12 per cent is fantastic,” Seabrook told ANZ Bloodstock News.

“It was actually very encouraging [the level of trade] on the final day of Book 2. Like last year, people were climbing over broken glass at the end trying to buy horses, so all in all, I’m delighted. 

“It gives us a strong base going forward and something that we can build on. As I’ve said numerous times, I think it’s going to take a while for the money to filter down to the average Kiwi participant. I think it’s going to take a year or two or three before we see the fruits of all this increased prize-money and races.”

Not since 2018 has more money been spent at Karaka when the NZB sale grossed $96,629,750 across three Books.

Seabrook added: “What I would say, even though the New Zealanders spent $2 million more in Book 1 compared to last year, the talk from the Kiwis who did buy is that they’ve been able to sell their shares pretty quickly, so that’s a good sign and that should give others the confidence to say, ‘hey, selling horses at the moment is perhaps easier than it has been for a few years’.”  

The 2024 sale was highlighted by the $1.6 million sale of the sister to Prowess (Proisir), who was sold early on day one of the Karaka auction in a milestone achievement for Hallmark Stud’s Baker family, while the second Book closed out with the sale of a $160,000 filly by South Island stallion Ancient Spirit (Invincible Spirit), Germany and Italy’s champion miler of 2018.

She was one of 27 Book 2 yearlings to sell for $100,000 or more over the past three years compared to 19 sold for six figures at the corresponding sale in 2023.

Ballymore’s Mike Moroney, the buyer of the Inglewood Stud-sold daughter of the unraced Back Date (Zacinto), admitted to not exactly being au fait with the White Robe Lodge-rostered Group 2-winning stallion but, despite the unknown, the sire’s first crop daughter’s physique was too hard to ignore.

That said, he does train the filly’s two-year-old half-brother Force Of Law (War Decree) who contested the Karaka Millions 2YO (RL, 1200m).

“Paul [Moroney, brother] said to me if she was by I Am Invincible she’d make $700,000 because she’s a cracking sort and there’s a real I Am Invincible look about her,” trans-Tasman trainer Moroney said.

“Being by a son of Invincible Spirit, she’s just one of those great walking fillies with big ears. She did everything we love. I went and had a look at her with an open mind when Paul said that to me as he thought she was the pick of the fillies in K2. 

“I hadn’t heard of the stallion at all, but once I saw the filly I thought, ‘yeah, he’s dead right’. She certainly looks like an I Am Invincible and a good type at that, so I suppose you’d say she’s a poor man’s I Am Invincible.”

Australia’s reigning champion sire I Am Invincible is also by Invincible Spirit (Green Desert).

It is probable that the filly will, at least in the initial stages of her education, remain at Ballymore’s New Zealand operation at Matamata, which Moroney runs in partnership with co-trainer Pam Gerard.

All horses purchased from Book 2 that are entered for the Karaka Millions series are eligible for the $200,000 Book 2 Bonus, during the running of the 2026 $1.5 million TAB Karaka Millions 3YO (RL, 1600m), rewarding connections of the first horse across the line bought from the second session.

Additionally, there is a $200,000 New Owners Bonus which will be won by the first horse across the finish line in the $1 million Karaka Millions 2YO that has 50 per cent or more of the ownership being held by first-time owners.

“Pam really loved her as well, so that puts a bit of pressure on me, so she’ll probably stay here for the bonus races,” Moroney said. 

“We’ll give her the chance to start with. I’ll probably do that with one or two of the fillies that we’ve bought and earmarked for Australia. We’ll leave them here to give them their chance – the Proisir filly [Lot 896] that we bought also looks early to me.

“We’ll put them through the motions and if they look like they’ll take more time, we’ll probably pull up stumps, give them a break and then get them to Australia. 

“The increased New Zealand stake-money provides that opportunity for us to do that.”

Inglewood Stud’s Gus Wigley said it was a great result and a continuation of a positive week for the North Canterbury nursery, which bred last Saturday’s Karaka Millions 2YO winner Velocious (Written Tycoon) before strong results across Books 1 and 2 at Karaka. 

“Mike obviously trains the half-brother Force Of Law, who ran in the Karaka Millions and we’re rapt and we’re also rapt for the guys down at White Robe who stand Ancient Spirit,” Wigley said.  

“They are good friends and they have a nice horse down there, so it is a good result all around.”

The Moroney brothers and co-agent Catheryne Bruggeman signed for ten Book 2 yearlings and three out of the Book 1 offering. 

Debate raged following last year’s Karaka sale about the six-day format – three Book 1 sessions and another three shortened days of selling in Book 2 – and despite pressure to alter the structure of the 2024 sale, NZB stuck solid.

“Everyone’s got their different opinions on what the format should be, but we’re in the business of selling horses and we hate turning horses away,” Seabrook said. 

“With Book 2, you would have heard talk of why couldn’t we sell horses in two days instead of being spread over three days? It’s done purely on the basis of the number of boxes that we’ve got and the transition of horses on and off the property that it makes sense to sell them over three days.”

Seabrook reasoned that New Zealand buyers have the chance to inspect Book 2 yearlings on-farm prior to the sale but international buyers do not. However, the NZB managing director said he was open to suggestions of how Book 2 was best managed.

“We can certainly sell the horses in two days, it’s just that some of the horses that are selling on the Thursday wouldn’t arrive until the Wednesday and will that give them enough opportunity to be seen by the international buyers?

“With Book 1, I still think three days is the best way to go. Maybe we can tighten up the 680-lot catalogue a little bit but I still think the three days is the best way to go because it gives more opportunity for horses to be seen on the ground in front of an international audience.

“I’d worry that if we went down to two days it would take that opportunity away.”

The Australasian sales caravan moves on to Sydney with Inglis holding its Classic Yearling Sale from Sunday, February 11. Inspections start on Monday at Riverside Stables.

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