Top-Priced Colt Returned After Aussie Sale

The return of the top-priced colt from Australia's major yearling sale caused some consternation in the wake of a tremendously successful auction. However, the use of X-rays also reflects a significant advance for the Australian and New Zealand branch of the Thoroughbred industry.

At $1.4 million (Australian funds), the Danehill--Verocative colt was a final-day high at the April 2-4 Inglis Easter sale, at which 501 head were offered and 404 were sold for almost $65 million, an average $160,779. The average slipped 3.8% from a record 2001, while the RNA rate jumped from 12% to 20%.

The male average fell 9.5% from almost $179,000 to $161,953. Filly trade was a little more buoyant: 180 head sold for an average $159,319, including the sale-topping $1.5 million Danehill filly purchased by Demi O'Byrne.

Other sale companies have dealt with the X-ray issue, but it's a long way from running its course in Australasia. Finally, it appears to be at least heading toward resolution. A repository set up along similar lines to those in the U.S. seems almost certain within a year.

The unmistakable sound of a starting-gate bell accompanied the threat by Hong Kong Jockey Club's executive director, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, to boycott the Easter sale after auctioneers William Inglis & Son refused his request for the X-ray option prior to sale.

Whether the sale company head, Reg Inglis, did so to placate the larger consignors, or to keep all buyers on an equal footing (and in the dark) could only be guessed at. When some of the larger vendors broke ranks and brought X-rays to the sale, however, the stance of the auction company was compromised and it had to relent.

Consignors reported pre-sale requests for X-rays of around 80 yearlings had seen 65 cleared. This suggests a failure rate of upwards of 10%, and an early casualty was the $1.4 million colt sold by Highgrove Stud to Eduardo Cojuangco.

That issue aside, Reg Inglis described the overall result as "amazing." That it escaped with single-figure percentage declines on its best-ever sale in 2001 was a huge leap of faith.

Sunday Silence topped the averages and practically stole the show with a draft of five from Arrowfield. They averaged more than $700,000.