South Africa's Laird Leading Buyer as Magic Millions Sale Opens

The Conrad Jupiters Magic Millions yearling sale has been a happy hunting ground for South African trainer Charles Laird, who led the buyers during Thursday's first session on the Gold Coast in Australia.

He did indeed spend the most money, but Lee Freedman bought the big horse, the sale topper, the one everyone came to see. Freedman went to Aust$1.5million for a big handsome colt by sire sensation Redoute's Choice from the stakes winner Liberty Rose, who is by Royal Academy. Big buying John Camileri turned breeder this time, offering this colt, his first 'big horse' through the Coolmore draft.

"I've played around with some very low key types in the past, $40,000 type horses at sales," Camileri said, "but this has made me a bit shaky, obviously. I am very happy with the result, my wife is happy, and all is good. What makes it even more appealing is that I was hoping for about $1.2 million."

No one at Coolmore which offered the handsome colt, would confirm or deny that there had been an Aust$2 million private offer made on the colt three weeks before the sale. Michael Kirwin the general managere of Coolmore in Australia, simply said: "We're not unhappy with that result. There's never any point ever being unhappy when you sell a horse for that price anyway."

Tara Reid, the U.S .actress, lured out to Australia for a rumored Aust$1million as the face of the sale, bid-spotted for Lot 30 and, oh strangely enough, it was her spotting that landed the Redoute's Choice -- Isolda colt. She watched closely as veteran buyer Graeme Rogerson kept climbing the hill with his bids, eventually stopping at Aust$850,000. It was the day's second-highest priced offering.

Charles Laird chimed in to claim the highest-priced filly of the session, spending Aust$775,000 to buy the beautiful Encosta de Lago -- Merlene filly offered by the man who brought Reid out here for the sale, John Singleton,  part-owner of Magic Millions. Laird, buying for the stable's major client, South African billionaire Markus Jooste, paid Aust$3.845 million on 11 purchases headlined by Merlene's yearling filly by Encosta de Lago. Merlene was a champion 2-year-old, winning the coveted group I Golden Slipper in her year -- ironically when trained by Lee Freedman.

The 2007 auction is the third Magic Millions yearling sale for Laird, one of the leading trainers in South Africa. Two years ago, he started buying at the sale and went home with 12 yearlings.

"We've run them all and they've all won," said Laird, who returned last year and spent Aust$6 million on another collection of prime Australian bloodstock, going home with 19 yearlings.

"None of them have raced yet", he said. But they have impressed him no end and he seems on a mission to spend up big again. "I'm very happy with them, and they've shown us a lot," Laird said. "They start racing next week."

Asked how many horses he intended to buy this year, Laird replied, "We'll probably go for about 20 to 25", but denied that he might go home early.

"We'll take each day as it comes", Laird said. "We'll keep coming back. I like the horses, I like the people here, and I like Magic Millions. They treat us very well."

Laird said the second session of the sale looked the best of the first four premier days and he was expecting to be in the running for some of tomorrow's more admired youngsters.

All up on day one, though, 85.44% of the 220 lots catalogued were sold for an average of Aust$187,131. "Which was good but not as great as many people outside of the Magic Millions staff thought," claimed Magic Millions chief executive officer David Chester.

John Ferguson of Darley was here and bought two glorious types. He did his homework and walked away with a very well related Flying Spur filly from the group I producer My Madonna for Aust$650,000, while Florida's Peter Vegso, selling his debut crop of yearlings, walked away very happy with his Aust$155,000 for his Danehill Dancer -- Miss Alamaba (by Woodman) colt.
His other yearling is a Show A Heart set down for session five on Monday.