by Jonathan Powell
The Southern Hemisphere's premier Thoroughbred sale may have a notable absentee this year.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club, a major and regular buyer at the Sydney Easter Yearling Sale in Australia, continues to insist it will boycott the annual auction over the issue of X-raying prospective purchases.
Auctioneers William Inglis & Son has refused to allow the Jockey Club to X-ray horses before they buy, or for horses to be returned if a subsequent X-ray reveals a major problem.
The Jockey Club's stance has received public backing from owners and associations in both Hong Kong and Australia, and has proved to be a rather sticky point with Inglis. The auctioneer stands firm on the issue and claims the Jockey Club is asking for preferential treatment.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club purchases up to 50 yearlings a year at major sales around the world. At last year's Sydney sale, it spent almost HK$12 million ($1.53 million) at last year's Sydney sale. The Jockey Club has indicated that it will take its business elsewhere unless the dispute is resolved before this year's sale April 2-4.
Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Jockey Club's director of racing, told Hong Kong's leading English language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, that it is not afraid to venture into uncharted waters by buying horses outside of public auction.
"I respect Inglis' right to make a business decision, but there are other sales, and we will also look at buying privately before yearlings go to the sales," Engelbrecht-Bresges told the newspaper.
But Reg Inglis, managing director of William Inglis and Son, said there was still time to come to an agreement.
"We don't see this as a take it or leave it situation, we are always willing to continue discussions," he told the Post. "The HKJC has been an important buyer here for many years and we would love to see the Club buying again this year."