Thursday, 10 January 2008
: Last month's Magic Millions Horses in Training Sale on the Gold Coast was the first major sale conducted in the wake of the equine influenza disaster and an industry watched on with baited breath.
| David Chester|
Photo by Racing and Sports
Predictions of a were soon quashed, with the final results surprisingly – but pleasingly - stacking up strongly against the previous year.
The outcome of the sale has left Magic Millions Managing Director David Chester more confident about the prospects of next year's yearling sales series, though still cautious of an expected downturn. The Gold Coast results were also good news for representatives of William Inglis & Son.
The Inglis Ready to Run Sale was depleted by EI, with a final catalogue 65% down on numbers. Yet the Inglis December Sale of tried racehorses proved extremely successful, once again raising hopes for what might unfold next year. NATHAN EXELBY spoke with representatives from both companies on their thoughts about how these results augur for 2008.
Leading into the Magic Millions Gold Coast Horses in Training Sale, there were some dire predictions about how the sale may crumble under the crushing weight of an industry crippled by equine influenza.
It seemed inevitable
Yet against the weight of all expectation, the Sale stood up very strongly and only a slightly reduced number of horses offered prevented it from eclipsing last year's record results.
The average of $38,000 comfortably eclipsed the 2007 figure of $35,000 and the clearance rate of a whopping 86% indicated the depth of the buying bench assembled.
It seems the only people not surprised by this result was Magic Millions themselves, with Managing Director David Chester indicating he went into the sale with a good degree of confidence.
“We were quietly confident the sale would be as good as it was,” Chester said.
“The interest from overseas gave us that confidence – we did a lot of work and it cost us a lot of money, but we were determined to make sure vendors had that international buying bench at the sale.
“Most countries were not put off by EI, with the notable exception of Hong Kong and some of Macau.”
What did surprise Chester though was the strength of the Australian buyers, who were expected to lack depth after the carnage caused by the virus outbreak.
“The icing on the cake was the local, domestic buying bench – that was the surprise packet of the whole sale,” Chester said.
He said that augured well for next year's yearling sales series with predictions still showing a downturn, but nothing like what was being budgeted for in the middle of the saga.
“The domestic market is obviously so important to our yearling sales,” he said.
“Before the Horses in Training Sale and in the middle of EI it was all doom and gloom ... certainly in our offices.
“What worried us most was that we had our best ever catalogue (for the January sale).
“But after the Horses in Training Sale we now have a lot more confidence in what may happen.
“I was thinking we may suffer a downturn of somewhere between 20 and 30% two months ago.
“I still believe there will be a downturn, but my feeling now is that it will be more like 10%, as opposed to my original thoughts.”
However, Chester warned the yearling market is still susceptible to huge losses unless Australia's biosecurity authorities can convince decision makers in Singapore, Macau and in particular Hong Kong, to once again open up their borders to Australian yearlings.
“We need to get our act together very quickly with regards to the movement of horses,” he said.
“The DPI's of Australia and AQIS all have to start working for the industry and provide assurances to these countries that these horses are clean and free of EI.
“There have been some protocols put in place by bureaucrats with no idea of reality. In some instances there has been a total over-reaction.”
Unlike the Gold Coast Sale, the William Inglis two and three-year-old Breeze up Sale was ripped apart by EI, with a totally depleted catalogue.
“Our sale suffered quite a bit because of EI,” Inglis Bloodstock Director Jonathan D'Arcy said.
“We lost 40 or 50 horses from New South Wales and another 50 or 60 from Victoria that were perhaps sold prior to the sale.
“So we went from a catalogue of almost 200 lots to less than 70, with a good number of the headline lost among those that didn't come.
“Having said that, the horses that were in the catalogue sold quite well and on the Sunday we offered 270 tried stock and that sale was extremely successful.”
Like Chester, D'Arcy is also predicting a downturn in yearling sales for 2008.
“We have seen unprecedented growth in the past 10 years, so it's fair to say we are due for a downturn even without EI,” Darcy said.
“It is very promising to see what happened on the Gold Coast, especially with it not preventing overseas buyers from coming to the sale.
“But it would be naive to think the sales would not be affected given the amount of pain many owners and trainers have suffered since the outbreak of the virus.
“But looking for positives, there is a possibility this will in turn present opportunities for new people to get involved in racing at lower prices than have been the norm in recent years.”
The big news for William Inglis last month was the decision to open the Victorian borders for horses from New South Wales and Queensland (after quarantine protocols have been met).
This decision means the Melbourne Premier Sale can go ahead with a full catalogue, rather than just those yearlings already domiciled in Victoria.
“We have been working very hard on that and it means another 80 or 90 horses will be going to Premier, which is good for everyone,” Darcy said.
After several weeks of detailed planning and liaison with NSW and Victorian DPI, a consignment of 66 thoroughbreds were transported across the NSW/Victorian border in mid December to the Inglis' Oaklands sales complex in Victoria for a period of quarantine, having already served three days quarantine at the company's Newmarket headquarters in Sydney.
Amongst those transported were yearlings to be prepared by Victorian farms for the upcoming Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale and a number of racehorses.
All horses were blood tested to verify they are “recovered horses”, as the DPI refers to them.
William Inglis Managing Director Mark Webster explained that recovered horses are not capable of spreading EI virally and are considered safe for transport into Victoria by DPI after completing quarantine in approved facilities in accordance with National Protocols.
“Recovered horses are not the same as vaccinated horses,” he said.
“Vaccinated horses currently require a longer period of quarantine.
“Inglis is committed to keeping Victoria EI free, which is why so much work has been done to ensure horses that are entering Victoria meet DPI bio-security protocols.
“We believe strongly in Victoria and want to ensure the Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale delivers the best outcome for Victorian breeders and buyers.
Webster pointed out the recent run of outstanding success for Premier graduates and was naturally thrilled that New South Wales prepared horses will now be eligible for the sale.
“This sale is on everyone's radar at the moment following the achievements of Weekend Hussler and Arapaho Miss during the Spring Carnival, and Sacred Kingdom's performance on the international stage,” he said.
“The addition of NSW yearlings to the sale will help keep it in the spotlight.”
Inglis plans to conduct another movement of horses in January 2008 to help Victorian breeders get their broodmares and foals home from the Hunter Valley.
Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria president Mike Becker, who was initially concerned about the movement of NSW horses into Victoria applauded the way the movement was conducted
"I've now seen the basis of the protocols being used to move NSW horses into Victoria and can confirm that I'm very happy with the progress that Inglis and DPI have made in recent weeks, albeit that communication amongst all parties could have been better,” he said.
“The advice we've received from DPI is that recovered horses are not a threat to Victoria and I have no reason to doubt this.
“We're delighted to be working in a co-operative manner with Inglis to assist Victorian breeders to get their recovered broodmares and foals back from the Hunter Valley in late January. This is a big step forward for the Victorian thoroughbred industry."
The remaining yearlings currently located in NSW and Queensland that have been accepted for the Melbourne Premier Sale will commence their quarantine at Newmarket on February 19 before heading to Oaklands for the sale which commences on March 2.