By Ric Chapman
As day three of New Zealand's Premier yearling sale at Karaka unwound, it looked on paper to be a carbon copy of what happened three weeks earlier in Australia at the Magic Millions sale.
As each day went by yet another milestone took place there, as here. On Wednesday it was the selling of the unquestionably superior looking filly by Danehill from the Great Britain-bred mare Encens (by Common Grounds) that made the sale.
With no markings to speak of and richly bay in color, this regally bred filly entered the ring with her ears pricked and the packed throng admired everything about her. You also sensed something special was on the cards when the opening bid was NZ$400,000 and immediately took off in NZ$100,000 increments until eventually falling to Irish based bloodstock expert Adrian Nichol, buying on behalf of BBA Ireland. He paid NZ$1.3 million.
He was always going to be on her and had an affinity with her right from the moment he saw her. "Magnificent looking filly. The best here I believe," he said, which is understandable as he was the man largely responsible for her presence at the sale.
It was Nichol who advised and helped New Zealand's Peter Vela to buy the mare Encens in foal to Danehill while she was living in Ireland 20 months ago. So when she was born in New Zealand and allowed to become the specimen she is, Nichol stayed in touch with Vela and kept tabs on her progress.
When he saw her at Karaka it was love at first sight. And why not? A priceless daughter of Danehill whose two halfs -- both by Sadler's Wells named Epopee and Ecomium -- have both been placed at stakes level in Europe, one in France the other in Ireland.
Further down the page the great Southern Hemisphere stallion of his day, Scenic (by Sadler's Wells) appears, as does the great Rainbow Quest. So whichever way you cut the tomato, this filly reeked quality. And she had hindquarters already on her that looked like they belonged to a bona fide racehorse. Demi O'Byrne was on her and was one of the last standing in the battle.
A few minutes earlier as the crowd started to shuffle in for the anticipated keen bidding on the Danehill filly, a minor moment of excitement whet their appetites as the interestingly-bred bay colt by first season Australian sire Viscount (Quest For Fame -- Antwerp) strutted his stuff before all who attended. A cracking type with presence, who on his looks alone would have made many want him, opened with a NZ$100,000 bid and just kept going. Viscount was a brilliant 2-year-old in Australia and carried his form into his 3-year-old season ending up with Aus$1.3million in stakes and was the top Rated 3-year-old of his year following three group I wins and a third placing in the group I Cox Plate. He was expected to be a good sire but at the Magic Millions Sale in Australia his returns were poor. They had been ordinary here too until this colt from the mare Diamond Habit walked in. Diamond Habit's grand dam is Klairessa and she is also the great grand dam of Viscount. Tesio eat your heart out. Obviously keen judges liked his pedigree page and he went to the bid of Rob McAnulty for $550,000 way bigger than any Viscount before him had done.
Another Danehill which attracted large interest and comparable bids came out a hour later as lot 401. From the British bred mare Fern (by Shirley Heights) this one looked like he'd need a little time, but also had that look of eagles about him. His page was just a sire type page but he himself was going to grow into money, you could just see it. "He is a cracking type who will be a racehorse, no doubt at all," smiled his vendor Russell Rogers who was over the moon about the price of NZ$700,000, again paid by the big spending New Zealand bloodstock agent McAnulty. "There is great residual value on this colt as his half-brother Flying Heights is a stakes winner in Germany while further back in the pedigree is the great filly Shamshir," added Rogers.
Karaka 2005 has been a runaway success with everything, including averages, median, aggregate all breaking records. Said Peter Stanley, visiting the sale from England and the man responsible for breeding Eclipse Award winner Ouija Board, "This is a truly international sale with some world class horses. I love coming here just to watch the action."
And he, like so many, will most likely return Thursday for day four.