Japan Sale Has Foreign Flavor
Photo: JHRA
The JHRA yearling sales topper, a son of Agnes Tachyon.
Even before the Japan Racing Horse Association select sale hummed into action on July 14 with the sing-song chant of the auctioneer, a new era in the Japanese bloodstock market had officially begun.
  
 For the first time in history, foreign-based buyers representing four other countries registered with the association in order to be able to purchase yearlings and foals in the three-day auction that represents the elite of the Japanese market.
    
And not long after that development was revealed, Australian Nathan Tinkler plunged into the new territory, buying two yearlings among the first 27 led into the ring, including a colt by current leading Japanese sire Agnes Tachyon for 64 million yen (US$598,130), the second highest price of the day. Overall, he bought four additional yearlings, fillies by Symboli Kris S., Stravinsky, Alkaased and Shamardal, for a total expenditure of 129.5 million yen ($1,209,278).
    
Adding to the day’s historical drama was a Japanese record-priced yearling colt in terms of American dollars, which the JRHA reports in addition to yen. This son of Agnes Tachyon—a son of Sunday Silence—fetched a bid of 245 million yen from top owner Riichi Kondo, an amount that was short of the 250 million yen paid for last year’s record French Deputy colt.
    
However, with today’s exchange rate, the Agnes Tachyon colt was worth $2,289,719, compared with $2,024,291 for the French Deputy colt.
    
The unprecedented aspects to the sale were welcome news to the Japanese, who have been mired in a gloomy economy that took its toll on the overall results.
     
With 151 yearlings offered, 105 were sold. Gross declined 28.5%, from 3,284,400,000 yen in 2007 to 2,347,600,000 yen, and the buyback rate climbed from 25% last year to 30.5%, while the average price of 22,358,095 yen was down 26.4%.
     
Thus, consignor Katsumi Yoshida, owner of Northern Farm, had ample reason to put his hand to his heart and smile broadly when Kondo waved in the final bid for the session topper, who is a half brother to Japanese champion and sire Kurofune and to grade II winner Bella Bellucci.
    
“I wasn’t expecting so much,” said Yoshida, who has purposely aimed some of his best horses at the yearling session even though it is not as popular with Japanese buyers as the foal sessions, in order to build up the sale internationally. “I think he is the best yearling here.”
    
Kondo, who also bought last year’s top colt, said he was impressed with the athletic son of Agnes Tachyon when he examined him at Northern Farm three weeks ago. When he returned last week for another look, “I decided I must get the horse,” he said.
    
“I thought the price would be up to 300 million yen, so I’m happy with this price,” Kondo added. Of the 15 trainers he employs, he said the one whose horses earn the most money for him between now and the 2009 Japanese Derby would be given the colt to train as a reward.
    
Meanwhile, Tinkler, who has spent more than $50 million acquiring horses in his homeland over the past year, said he has international aspirations with his bay Agnes Tachyon colt and hopes to race him in Japan and Europe.
   
“I’m basically here with the hope that Japanese racing will open up to foreign owners and I’d like to establish a Northern Hemisphere base here,” said Tinkler, 32, who owns Patinack Farm in Queensland, Australia. “We’re looking for a select group of horses to build our brand.
   
“He’s by an outstanding stallion in Agnes Tachyon,” Tinkler said of the colt, who is out of Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) winner Silk Prima Donna, by Brian’s Time. “He’d be an attractive stallion prospect in Australia if he can prove himself racing. We’d like to make a shuttle stallion out of him and our other colts that are good enough.”
    
Tinkler said he has major races around the world as his “lifetime goals,” including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-gr. I) and the Japan Cup (Jpn-gr. I). He also plans to buy a four or five yearlings at the Keeneland September yearling sale as well as at Tattersalls and Deauville this year.
      
Joining Tinkler in establishing status to buy at the JRHA sale were New Zealand Thoroughbred Bloodstock; British-based Blandford Bloodstock; the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which bought its first yearling ever in Japan last year, a son of Japanese Derby winner King Kamehameha who has been in training at Northern Farm and is slated to be sold in Hong Kong in December; and John Ferguson, bloodstock manager for Sheikh Mohammed, who established his landmark Darley Japan racing and breeding venture several years ago.
    
The JRHA confirmed that, other than Darley’s previous purchases and the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s initial acquisition last year, no other foreign-based buyer has previously purchased a horse at the sale.
    
Teurya Yoshida, owner of Shadai Farm and JRHA vice chairman, said after the session ended that “we need these kind of people to come” to the sale and buy. The boom days of several years ago, when sons of super sire Sunday Silence were almost guaranteed to bring hefty prices from Japanese owners, have passed.
    
“When you look at the current economy in this country, nobody could expect to have a booming or heated up market,” he said. “Unfortunately, the breeding industry couldn’t be the exception to the economy. Several years ago, this place was a different world, but now this place is a part of the Japanese economy, so I must be happy with this result.”
        

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