By Ric Chapman
Day one of New Zealand's Premier yearling sale at Karaka began in the same manner in which pretty much every yearling sale in the world has ended over the past two years -- with a bang..The top price Monday belonged to a Zabeel -- Marquise, by Gold and Ivory, colt offered by the famed Cambridge Stud. He fetched NZ$950,000 to the bid of Malcolm Oram, which surprised some. Oram was a co-breeder of the expensive colt with the rich stallion pedigree. Quietly he liked what he bred so much he went about and bought the handsome wonderfully related colt outright. And history told us he needed to reach close on a million if he were to do so.Last year, for instance, the colt's as yet unraced half-brother sold for NZ$460,000. It was by Montjeu. The year previous a full-brother to this colt reached NZ$1,050,000 to the bid of Dr Shalabh Sahu acting on behalf of His Excellency Nasser Lootah of Dubai. That colt, now named Mutheer, won a few races in Australia but has been transferred to New Zealand to continue his racing in the hope he can strike black type.The year before he was bought, a full-sister to this colt was sold and fetched NZ$1,450,000 for Tik Tik Trinidad acting for Gooree Stud in Australia. That filly was named Shower of Roses, was sent to Gai Waterhouse to be trained, and she won a group I race and nearly AUS$700,000 before going to stud.The family is loaded with star quality, and Zabeel is the hottest stallion in the Southern Hemisphere at present. "I actually thought he'd make $1.2 million," lamented Waterhouse. "He was a superb athlete and the family just wins all the time. I wanted him, and I think he is worth every cent of the $950,000 they paid. I would have loved to have him. He had a fantastic body and a gorgeous head, even prettier than Shower of Roses and we all saw what she did on the track."Sahu also looked over the colt and liked him. "The boss said no, however. He wants Mutheer to win some black-type for us so we can stand him in New Zealand, so we were never interested this year. But, yes, he's a nice looking colt."Rob McAnulty, one of New Zealand's biggest bloodstock agents also wanted the impressive colt, going to the underbidder stage of NZ$925,000.In the end, Oram was not going to let a family member escape.The sale produced interesting pedigrees from all over the world and of course the much lauded baby Danehills were on parade. One, a richly colored bay filly from the unraced Sadler's Wells mare Magical Moment, reached NZ$600,000 falling to the bid of Ireland's Adrian Nichol. The pedigree has wonderful European form all through it and although a little stout for some Southern Hemisphere tastes, Nichol liked it enough to go to the day's second highest price.Local New Zealand stallions O'Reilly (By Last Tycoon) and Volksraad (by Green Desert) sold very consistently. Coolmore shuttlers to NZ, Montjeu (Sadler's Wells) and Stravinsky (Nureyev) were both big winners, too. Both had yearlings fetch over NZ$300,000 and their respective averages were up near the NZ$205,000 mark. Stravinsky's yearlings all look like ready made, short coupled sprinting machines, while Montjeu oozes quality into his offspring.Demi O'Byrne from Ireland bought one of the top priced Montjeu offspring -- a filly from the group II-winning, group I-placed Centaine mare Spring Rain. He went to NZ$250,000 for this impressive animal. Les Samba paid NZ$360,000 for a Montjeu colt from the Defensive Play mare Steluta, but the top-priced Montjeu was bought by Shadwell Estates in England for NZ$375,000. He is a cracking colt from the Danehill mare Star, who was unraced but boasts three half-sisters who won at stakes level.While all this was happening in glorious New Zealand sunshine, having his first race start at Avondale was last year's Karaka yearling sale top seller. Stepping out for his very first race, the million-dollar sale topper -- now known as Darci Brahma (Danehill -- Grand Echezeaux by Zabeel) -- won impressively in his debut. Just about everyone who attended the sale this year, stopped to watch the run and although very green, he showed group winning form by beating a big field of youngsters, with his head on his chest."He needs to learn how to race, but when he does he will be very special," said his trainer Mark Walker, sighing a big breath of relief out that all had gone well.Exactly one year ago to the very day, Darci Brahma sold for a sale-topping NZ$1.1 million to prominent Waikato Thoroughbred investor and Te Akau Breeding and Racing principal David Ellis.The colt, ridden by Michael Walker, won by a 1 1/4 lengths at the line from Vegas Showgirl (by Al Akbar). It was another four lengths back to the third place getter Matamatamamma (by Almutawakel). Darci Brahma recorded a slick winning time of 1:09.85. Darci Brahma is raced by a group of prominent New Zealand breeders.It established the natural order of things and everyone went back to buying after the race imbued with confidence.