Australia's Easter Sale Off to Record Start

By Ric Chapman
Australian yearling sales stepped from the minor leagues to the big time Tuesday when three horses sold for a record A$4.3 million (U.S.$3,271,800).

The sale topper was a handsome bay colt consigned by breeding giant Coolmore. It was by the late great Danehill from Prawn Cocktail and was knocked down to Australia's premier trainer Lee Freedman for A$2.2 million (U.S.$1,673,900).

And there is little wonder bidding reached that height.

Everyone -- and the buying bench was both plentiful and cashed-up -- was on the colt whose family tree reads like a "who's who" of international breeding.

Prawn Cocktail, an American-bred unraced daughter of Artichoke and Crimson Saint, is the dam of four foals to race, all of whom have won. Three of them are stakes winners. Crimson Saint is the dam of champion stallion Royal Academy and multiple graded stakes winners Pancho Villa and Terlingua, who in turn is the dam of Storm Cat.

"He is from the last crop of Danehill and he has 'sire' written all over him," said Freedman, who bought him for a syndicate which mainly consists of Coolmore. "I was out of gas at $2.2 million and was glad no one went again. But really, I knew the bidding had to reach at least that much knowing who was here. Danehill is gone and he was the best ever in Australia. If they stopped making diamonds you'd pay a king's ransom for the last of the diamonds because they become expensive, and that's how I looked at this colt."

Among the international owners and agents attending the sale were Demi O'Byrne, Adrian Nichol, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Matoum, Tom Simon, representatives of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hubie De Burg, John Messara, Tim Martin, Mark Pilkington, Sugi Okada, Bob Ingham (owner of Lonhro buying for the first time in 10 years) and Darley.

Ingham, who will stand his supercharged champion Lonhro at A$66,000 on debut this year when he retires, paid the second highest price at the sale through his right hand man, Trevor Lobb. They forked out A$1.1 million (U.S.$880,000) for the glorious Danehill-Kensington Gardens colt. Lobb said of the buy, "We've had some great success over the years with sons of Danehill and I thought this fellow looked like he'd make into a stallion for us. You have to keep turning things over and Bob was happy to go to that for a colt related to three major stakes winners including a group 1 Derby winner. To us he was a standout and we looked at all of them including the Prawn Cocktail colt. He was lovely, but I liked the fact the bloodline of our colt has worked so well before."

Tim Stakemire, unknown to most people at the sale, raised his hand last for the third-highest priced colt, another Danehill this time from the mare Mirbeck bought for A$1 million (U.S.$760,900). Stakemire is the racing manager for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum who was seated next to him during the bidding.

"We now have 33 horses in work in Australia and we want a real good one to make into a stallion," declared Stakemire, an Englishman who has moved to Australia to advance the growing empire of His Highness. "His Highness wants Australia to be his base. He loves the breeding programs here and he loves the racing in Australia as well as the prize money. We will fly horses from Australia that are good enough to race abroad and do the same with shuttle stallions once we have established ourselves here too."

Sheikh Mohammed is the first cousin of the ruling family of Dubai. He owns the biggest Gold Soug in Dubai, which is situated in Diera. A Soug is a market or mall and His Highness "generates a great deal of his wealth form this," added Stakemire. Said His Highness, "setting up my program in Australia is a challenge for me. I want to reverse shuttle horses all over the world. Australia is a wonderful place for horses and I think we can make an impact across the globe by using Australian bred horses."

Stakemire added the company is looking at expanding its operations to about 100 horses in work.

Adrian Nichol bought one of the best fillies in the sale, a running, athletic type by Fusaichi Pegasus from the Danehill mare Rose O'Dane. He liked every bit of her and thought it a bargain to snare her for just A$450,000 (U.S.$342,500) for a syndicate made up by American trainer Neil Drysdale. "Superb individual," exclaimed Nichol. "If she shows up while racing in Australia, she will be shipped to the U. S. to finish her racing career with Neil, then she will breed there."

The top priced filly was knocked down to champion trainer Bart Cummings for A$700,000 (U.S.$532,700). It too was a Danehill from the great producer Red Express (by Sovereign Red). The filly had two big white socks on her back legs but looked a great athlete. And her full-sister, Dane Ripper, trained by Cummings, won over A$3.1 million (U.S.$2,359,000) and was the champion older mare f Australia in her day.

Day One of the three-day sale ended with 137 of the 195 lots catalogued finding new homes for a gross of A$28,257,500 (U.S.$21,501,447) a record opening Easter Sale day. The average was A$206,259 (U.S.$157,125). The sale continues Wednesday and Thursday.