Steve Moran

South African visitors set to enjoy another fruitful trip to the world’s sporting capital

There is something special about the Inglis Premier Sale in Melbourne which, of course, kicks off tomorrow morning.

That may be slightly biased coming from a Melbournian who ironically has penned this from the North Sydney Hotel having just flown from Johannesburg en route to the mother city and notwithstanding that the best horse I’ve had an interest in was bought from Inglis in…..doh, Sydney (Marheta, Al Maher, Mike Moroney).

It might be the proximity of the Oaklands Junction complex to both Tullamarine airport and the CBD. It might be the time of the year as February/March is simply the best time to visit the sporting capital of the world. Maybe it’s just because it is the sporting capital of the world. It might be the laid-back atmosphere which is so typically Melbourne and in contrast to more frenetic sales around the world.

But fundamentally it comes from the notion that you are more than a decent chance to buy a good horse without breaking your bank or anyone else’s.

There are a number of measures of the value of Premier – one of which was reinforced by the sojourn to Cape Town, where I took in the Asian Racing Conference, visited most of the major studs and, for good measure, went to the iconic Newlands to see Australia rout the hosts in the final T20.

I also took in the Group 1 Cape Derby, with a first prize of just $A60,000, at Kenilworth. The South African racing economy, which features very few small breeders, rarely allows for any ill-considered, or extravagant, spend around the world.

But the coronavirus or even the slightly ill-timed Saudi Cup won’t stop a South African contingent, headed by perennial visitors Mike De Kock and Jehan Malherbe, heading to Melbourne.

The value is also manifest in that Inglis Premier has been the source of no fewer than 14 Group 1 winners since 2018 and eight of them sold for no more than $100,000. That is consistent with a Book 1 average consistently around the $115,000 mark.

The connection with South Africa, which probably began in earnest with the purchase of 2008 Cape Guineas winner Le Drakkar (Anabaa), is certainly not lost on Inglis with Group 1- winning Premier graduates Alboran Sea (Rock Of Gibraltar) and Igugu (Galileo) both having rooms named after them in the William Inglis Hotel.

More importantly, each of those outstanding gallopers has a halfsibling in this year’s sale which are likely to attract the attention of the South African bench, and beyond, as they appear early and late on day one.

Lot 260  – is a halfbrother to Alboran Sea and his appearance is timely to say the least and a matter of some anticipation for Rosemont Stud principal Anthony Mithen.

“He’s a lovely colt, medium sized and tremendously athletic. He’s by a stallion that could be no hotter at the moment in Exceed and Excel. Obviously the mare has been very kind to me and I’m hoping this looks like another stakes horse for Lady’s Light,” Mithen said.

Alboran Sea was South Africa’s Champion 3YO Filly of 2014-2015 and scored three major Group 1 wins and just this week she produced her first winner when Marmara Sea (Soft Falling Rain) scored a decisive win in a maiden at Fairview.

Lot 6  on the Collingrove Stud draft, is a halfsister to Igugu who was – like Alboran Sea – trained by De Kock, who is currently having stables built for him at Cranbourne in Victoria where his son Matthew is working with Premier buying stalwart Robbie Griffiths.

Igugu almost certainly remains the most significant Australia-bred runner in South Africa given her Durban July success among four Group 1 wins and her crown as South African Horse of the Year. The Conglomerate (Lonhro) is another Durban July winner sold at Premier.

Australian-breds have an extraordinary stakes race strikerate, despite comprising just a tiny part of the horse population in South Africa.

That, and the recent success of a number of Victorian stallions, should ensure a spirited Premier 2020.