By Ric Chapman
Talk about jumping in at the deep end.
During Wednesday's second session of the Easter yearling sale, conducted by William Inglis & Son, a Japanese visitor to Australia--here holidaying while accompanying a group of racing enthusiasts from Japan -- put his hand up to buy the session's top priced lot. On face value that doesn't seem all that extreme, but it was buyer Yoshinori Sakae's first ever horse-- at any sale any where in the world!
He was applauded when his bid of Aust$1.5 million (approximately $1.1million in U.S. funds) purchased the immaculate-looking, dark brown colt by breeding sensation, former Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Sunday Silence, from the unraced Gone West mare Sonoray. Through an interpreter Sakae gingerly said, "This is the second-last Sunday Silence yearling to sell anywhere in the world and he looked so much like Sunday Silence I just had to buy him. It was more than I wanted to spend but he is so good-looking."
Sitting beside Sakae during the bidding was his friend and Japanese tour guide leader, Hideyuki Mori.
"It was more than he wanted to spend because he has never bought a horse before," said Mori, who is Japan's leading trainer. "But I am glad he did. I will take it home and train him and hopefully he will win a stakes race for my new client."
Mori took Agnes World to great heights on an international scale.
Sakae has made his millions selling putters in golf crazy Japan. His putters are used by Japan's best pro golfers and as president of the Zomo Putters Company, the 38-year-old novice owner has now entered his country's second largest participation sport.
The strapping colt was consigned by Arrowfield Stud and its owner John Messara was keen to keep the colt despite his very U.S. dirt track pedigree. Sonoray's dam is the former American wonder mare Colonial Waters, who won a grade I race at Saratoga and placed any number of times in many of America's premier races during a stellar career.
The second-highest-priced horse during session two was yet another Danehill colt, this one reaching Aust$975,000 ($722,400) to the bid of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's buyer Tim Stakemire. The colt was a great specimen from a group I-winning mare who was also one of Australia's premier juveniles during her racing career. The mare, St Clemens Belle, is by Don't Say Halo, and if there is anything sure in this world it is that this fellow will come early.
"We hope so," said Stakemire. "I bought him to win the Golden Slipper (Aust-I) next year and John O'Shea will train him."
O'Shea, it must be said, trained the runner-up in the Slipper two weeks ago.
In all, 215 horses were sold for a gross of Aust$44,602,500 ($33,674,800), an average price of Aust$207,453 ($156,627), and a median price of Aust$125,000 ($94,375).