Attention Jerry Bruckheimer, Laura Hillenbrand, Phar Lap screenwriters, and any other tinsel town tale telling horse lover. You need to hear this, because what happened on day two of the National Yearling Sale in New Zealand on Tuesday at Karaka, has movie written all over it.
Don Ha had no intention of coming to the auction as late as Monday afternoon. That evening, and this is all true, while showering, he thought about his former favorite horse Sunline and then remembered her first baby was selling. He got out of the shower, told his wife, “I’m going to buy a horse tomorrow,” then went to bed.
Tuesday came and he dressed for the sale.
By himself, unannounced, he looked at the colt, a son of Zabeel -- New Zealand's’s long time super stallion who has sired 105 stakes winners, 37 of which have won at the group I level -- and Sunline, the Aust$11-million winning former champion mare. He then went and bought some lunch, settled in to watch the sale, and only really moved when the colt finally got ready to enter the ring.
And he bid, and he bid, and he kept bidding.
“I told myself I would buy this horse no matter what,” Ha said. And he paid NZ$2 million (US$1.4million) for him.
“I liked him," Ha said. "I mean he looked like every other horse here. They all look the same to me and they are all nice looking. But in the shower I told myself I would buy him.”
So he did, but now, this is where it gets real interesting. Ha likes racing horses, however his previous highest bid to buy a yearling at public auction was NZ$60,000 (US$41,500).
Ha is a self made multi-millionaire.
He came as a refugee from his homeland of Vietnam to New Zealand about 20 years ago, penniless, and starving in one of those wooden illegal boats, unable to speak English. He taught himself the language, picked up the customs, loved to bet, and also took a liking to the business model of real estate. He built up from nothing a small real estate business to such an extent he now has spread his wings and owns the franchise of Ray White real estate agencies throughout the Manukau District of New Zealand.
And it is a flourishing marketplace. He buys his horses under the Manukau Bloodstock banner and has only been buying horses for seven years.
“I will keep this horse in New Zealand to race,” Ha told the large media group that gathered around him trying to find out any morsel of information about this unknown at this level. “Trevor McKee had plenty of luck with Sunline so he can train him if he wants to.”
McKee, standing by at the time, had no idea that was coming and graciously accepted. Everyone smiled. Sir Patrick Hogan, owner of Cambridge Stud which sold the colt, smiled the widest.
It was a fantastic day of theater. Records were broken everywhere. Average price, pass-in rate, you name it. The experiment to reduce the premier section of the Karaka sale from its customary three days to two this year, has proven a real winner.
Not in New Zealand’s selling history has a day like this occurred where not only the Sunline colt reached seven figures, but two others did also. A colt by former Australian champion and now freshman sire Lonhro and Palme D’Or (by Royal Academy) reached NZ$1,050,000 (U.S.$702,000) to the bid of Equine Livestock. Meanwhile, the handsome son of Aussie sensation Redoute’s Choice from the winning Citidancer mare Mascara Magic will head to Australia to race after being purchased by Victorian trainer Peter Moody for NZ$1.3million (U.S.$908,000).
Big spending David Ellis was again active snaring another Stravinsky son, this one for NZ$380,000, and a colt by Encosta de Lago from the Thunder Gulchmare Slip Sliding for NZ$725,000.
Demi O’Byrne again continued on his interesting quest buying two more sons of Montjeu while the U.S. had a presence through Stuart Hales who spent NZ$90,000 (U.S.$63,000) to buy a son of Van Nistlerooy and the stakes producing mare O’Sequita.
Four more days of low-key selling start Wednesday afternoon.