As expected, a 2-year-old son of the late Danehill topped the Hong Kong International Sale Friday evening, bringing a final bid of HK$3.6 million (U.S. $463,619). In all, 25 horses (22 2-year-olds and three 3-year-olds) sold for HK$41.5 million (U.S. $5,344,330).
The top price was off last year's record high of HK$4.8 million. The gross was also down from last year's HK$49.9 million when 35 horses were sold. This year's average was HK$1.66 million, up 16.9% from a year ago, and the median advanced 33% to HK$1.6 million.
The Danehill colt, who was purchased at last year's Magic Millions yearling sale in Australia for A$360,000, is out of the Secretariat mare Secret Truth. He was purchased by Sabrina Chau Sihming, the daughter of shipping magnate George Chao. He will be trained by John Moore.
The sale, conducted by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the Australian sales company Magic Millions, took place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. It marked the first year Magic Millions was involved in the auction. The Keeneland Association directed the sale for the previous four years. The horses were purchased last year at yearling sales in the U.S., England, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Prices were shown in Hong Kong, Australian, New Zealand, and U.S. dollars, euros, and British pounds.
The horses were sold without a reserve, but the catalogue clearly stated the purchase price and also published were the prices the Hong Kong Jockey Club had incurred while preparing the horses for the sale.
According to Winfried Englebrecht-Bresges, HKJC's executive director of racing, "there was a profit of $7 million, but there are five horses which did not make the sale and that has to be factored in when looking at the profitability. But overall, this not about making a profit. This is a value-for-money sale, where we have done everything in our power to provide the owners with a solid racehorse, with much of the risk taken out.
David Chester, managing director of Magic Millions said 67 owners had registered for the sale. Only permit and reserve permit holders in the HKJC were eligible to bid. The HKJC offers a HK$1-million bonus for the horse that earns the most money next year in Hong Kong.
"These are the best odds in the world to win $1 million," Chester said before the sale of the small catalogue. "You have a 25-1 shot."
Five horses were withdrawn from the sale. The three 3-year-olds sold were horses that did not meet the condition of sale at last year's venue. The HKJC has stringent guidelines for the horses, adding value to the bidders. "The horses were all X-rayed prior to their original purchase," Chester said. "And they've been X-rayed three times since.
The acting agent of the U.S. horses was Cash Asmussen, who had prepared the horses at his family's Laredo, Texas ranch with his father, Keith. It was the Asmussen's first experience with the sale.
"They contacted me and my father," Asmussen said of his venture with the HKJC. "The horses were already purchased and we took over the pre-training." The horses were trained in Texas and shipped to Hong Kong six weeks prior to Friday's sale. They spent three weeks in quarantine, then three weeks at Sha Tin Racecourse. Asmussen said he has already bought three yearlings for next year's sale.
Two of Asmussen's American horses were scratched. He sold two for HK$3.1 million. His top lot was a Devil's Bag gelding for HK$1.8 million ($231,809). Out of the Nijinsky II mare Krasivi, the gelding was a $80,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July purchase last year.
Five other horses topped HK$2 million, including the second-highest priced lot at HK$2.5 million ($321,958). A bay gelding by the late Danehill is out of the Irish River mare Spell on You obtained at last year's New Zealand Bloodstock Premier yearling sale for NZ$420,000.