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Karaka’s sale ring heats up next week for the annual Ready to Run Sale, with a strong international buyer’s bench expected.
The two-day event is now seen as Australasia’s leading auction for two-year-old thoroughbreds.
Organiser New Zealand Bloodstock hopes interest from international buyers on November 20 and 21 will drive sales beyond records set last year, when $16.2 million was returned to breeder’s pockets.
New Zealand Bloodstock co-managing director Petrea Vela says there is a strong draft of horses this year, with 407 catalogued for sale.
Nearly a year older than those that line up at Karaka’s flag-bearer January yearling sales, the horses have benefitted from nearly 10 months of preparation and training and are one step closer to being racetrack-ready.
Ready to Run holds appeal for buyers in countries which do not have breeding industries so they look to New Zealand and Australia to provide their racing stock.
Although thoroughbred auction sales worldwide have softened slightly in the tougher economic climate, Ms Vela is confident of strong demand after positive pre-sale interest in the catalogue, particularly from traditional buyer markets Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.
Track success continues to be the greatest advertisement for the Ready to Run, which has produced nine individual Group 1 winners in the last five seasons and a Group 1 winner from every sale for the last 10 years.
“The horses are consistently performing well in all the countries they are going home to race in, so that’s telling you something about the preparers, racers and the animals going through the ring,” Ms Vela says.
“And we’ve just had another really successful season on the race track so that’s prompting the buyers keep up their interest in the sale.”
Feather in racing industry’s cap
As the thoroughbred auction market becomes increasingly competitive across Australasia, auction houses have worked hard to find new ways to attract local and international investment to the racing industry.
Ms Vela says the sale is a feather in the New Zealand racing industry’s cap.
From humble beginnings in 1981, the annual auction has developed into a leading source of top-performing racehorses, rivalling even the yearling sales in terms of track success.
Last season alone, Sangster (Savabeel), bought for $19,000 in 2010, took his stakes earnings to more than $1 million with a win in Australia’s prestigious Group 1 VRC Derby.
And another Ready to Run graduate, Able One, took his third Group 1 victory in the $HK20 million Hong Kong Mile.
Unique offering of ready-to-run athletes
The quick turnaround time to the racetrack makes the aptly named sale unique for buyers, allowing them to short cut a year of training time and cost.
“With a shorter lead time between securing a horse in the sale ring to getting it to the race it saves buyers the risk and expenses associated with raising and educating young horses through that period, getting them closer to race wins and earning a return on investment,” Ms Vela says.
“With those horses delivering great success on the track year after year, the momentum is continuing and the sale has a very strong following.
“It offers extremely good value on a world scale and takes away a chunk of the cost and risk of getting yearlings safely through to successful racing careers.”
Ahead of the sale, buyers can view footage of all the horses galloping, providing insight into the racing potential of the young horses.
Gaining traction on the international market
Ms Vela says buyers are coming in droves to the sale, now the No 1 auction of two-year-olds in Australasia.
Increasingly, they are coming to Karaka from offshore.
Last year, nine nations were represented in the results sheets, with international buyers accounting for 75% of the $16.2 million sales total.
New Zealand was knocked off the top-purchaser spot by Australia, with $4.6 million spent by buyers on 51 horses.
New Zealanders spent $4 million on 72 horses.
Although Australia is New Zealand’s biggest export market of thoroughbreds, and always the major buyer in the yearling sales, they have taken longer to warm to the Ready to Run concept, Ms Vela says.
Hong Kong and Singapore produced the largest buying benches from Asia, spending $3.4 million and $2.4 million, respectively.
“Both of those countries have dynamic racing industries but no breeding industry, so there’s a wealth of avid racehorse owners who look go New Zealand to source their racing stock," Ms Vela says.
“The appeal of being able to buy horses that are well-prepared and virtually ready-to-race as soon as they hit home soil holds enormous appeal for those international owners."
Asian racing centres such as Korea, Macau and Malaysia are also eyeing next week’s selection.
Big spenders expected to return
Big spenders at last year’s sale are likely to be back supporting the auction next week.
The leading individual buyer was Willie Leung's Magus Equine, representing a large contingent of Hong Kong owners and trainers who bought 12 horses for a total of $1,428,000 at an average of $109,846.
Magus Equine's top price of the sale was $280,000 for the gelding by Bernardini, offered by Lyndhurst Farm.
Other big supporters of the auction include: David Ellis (NZ), Michael Wallace (NZ), John Foote (Queensland), Ricky Yiu (Hong Kong), Justin Bahen (Hong Kong), Andrew Williams (South Africa) and Michael Freedman (Singapore).
Mark and Shelley Treweek's Lyndhurst Farm were the leading vendor for the fifth year in a row. Lyndhurst offered five of the top 10 lots of the sale, with a total of 18 horses sold for $3,041,000 at an average of $168,944.
New records set last year
Last year’s sale provided a new record turnover, average, median and clearance rate.
A new sale record was set when a filly by Fastnet Rock was knocked down to Hong Kong-based agent Justin Bahen for $450,000. He bought the filly for Melbourne owner Phil Sly, part-owner of the VRC Oaks winning Fastnet Rock filly Mosheen.
From the Centaine mare Shimo Star, the horse was offered by Tom & Shelley Murtagh's Esker Lodge.
The Ready to Run Sale average of $71,125 and aggregate of $16.2 million compares to the 2012 yearling sale average of $78,512 and aggregate of $77.3 million.
Ready to Run Sales figures
Aggregate: $16,216,500 ($14,215,250)
Average $71,125 ($55,312)
Mean: $45,000 ($32,000)
Clearance: 77% (59%)
Top Lot: $450,000 (B.F. Fastnet Rock/Shimo Star)
Buyers at the 2011 Ready to Run by country
Country Total Buy Total Value Top Price
Australia 50 $4,614,000 $240,000
New Zealand 72 $4,033,000 $360,000
Hong Kong 30 $3,449,000 $280,000
Singapore 36 $2,407,500 $320,000
Macau 17 $538,000 $75,000
South Africa 3 $482,500 $300,000
Korea 12 $266,500 $25,000
Malaysia 6 $250,000 $50,000
Japan 2 $37,000 $25,000
Racing industry – size and scope*
- New Zealand thoroughbred industry exports more than 1600 horses annually with an estimated net worth of $135 million.
- The thoroughbred breeding and racing Industry contributes some $791.6 million to the New Zealand economy and provides employment for more than 30,000 people.
* Figures from New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing