Though supplanted as Australia's highest-grossing yearling sale by Magic Millions' week-long Gold Coast yearling sale in Queensland in January (grossing AU$168 million), William Inglis & Son's Sydney Easter yearling sale is still the crown jewel of the vibrant Australasian yearling market.
This year's edition, held at the sales company's new AU$140 million complex (complete with hotel—walk out of the lobby into the sales ring) just beside Warwick Farm Racecourse, returned an average of AU$347,634 for 335 reported sales through Book 1. Adding in 51 Book 2 horses sold at the end of Book 1's three-day session (and included in the same catalog), the Sydney Easter Sale grossed AU$122,347,600 (US$94,364,471), for an overall average of AU$316,902 ($244,468).
Comparing Book 1 to the previous year's session, with 11% more yearlings cataloged, the gross edged up 6% from 2017, though the average was off by 2% from last year's AU$354,935, and the median slipped 4% to AU$250,000 from AU$260,000. The clearance rate from the catalog dipped to 70% from last year's 76%, betraying a certain softness in the sale's 'middle market'.
In comparison with Magic Millions' astonishing 80.5% clearance rate from their week-long catalog (892 sold/1105 cataloged), Inglis's 72.2% rate for the whole three-day sale (Books 1 & 2) seemed to bring a consensus that because this sale is the last major yearling sale of the season—whereas Magic Millions is the first—buyers of just a yearling or two, and even the big syndicates, had already fired a lot of their bullets. The main sufferers were consignors of good-but-not-spectacular individuals in the up-to-AU$200,000 range.
Of course, North American and even European auction companies (which often operate at a 10% higher clearance rate than North American sales) can only drool at the prospect of selling even 72% of the horses cataloged. Although, to be fair, Tattersalls' October Book 1, the leading yearling sale in Europe, sold 70-72% of their yearlings cataloged in each of the last four years.
Two factors, which I alluded to in my first dispatch from New South Wales, underpin the robust health of the Australasian yearling market.
The first is the prize money structure in New South Wales, which was largely authored by Arrowfield Stud's John Messara during his tenure as Chairman of Racing NSW from 2011-16 and which includes the two-weekend Championships races that now bookend the Easter Sale.
When we open the Easter catalog and see that Hip 1, a Redoute's Choice filly bought by Shadwell Stud Australasia for AU$550,000 ($422,565), is a half sister to a listed stakes winner who won three races and AU$446,270, that tells us something about prize money in Australia.
The second factor was presented in a graph published in the March 26 BloodHorse Daily, which showed the Australasian yearling market growth of 60% from 2013-17 (now around 75%, including this year so far), while the top 20 stud fees had increased hardly at all. There may be a bump in that category for the 2018 season, as Snitzel (Arrowfield), I Am Invincible (Yarraman Park), and Pierro (Coolmore) will all be seeing substantial increases; nonetheless, even a 10% increase in the aggregate top 20 stud fees should not derail the train.
Four stallions dominated the Easter Sale Book 1—and, indeed, the entire Australasian sales season to date. By average with 10 or more sold, Coolmore's two-time champion sire Fastnet Rock (AU$554,167), who had the AU$2.3 million ($1,785,260) Easter sale-topper, edged Yarraman Park's I Am Invincible (AU$548,529) as the leading Easter Book 1 sire.
They were followed by Arrowfield's son-father combination of Snitzel (AU$528,902), sailing clear to his second sire championship with record earnings, and three-time champion sire Redoute's Choice (AU$425,385). Throw in five yearlings by England's Frankel and Japan's Deep Impact and Lord Kanaloa, and the four principal sires plus the five yearlings by the three outsiders accounted for 122 of the 335 reported sales of Book 1 yearlings (36%). Those 122 yearlings sold for a total of AU$66,740,000, which was 57% of the Book 1 gross, and averaged a whopping AU$542,601. The other 213 Book 1 yearlings sold averaged AU$233,415, which is 7% below the sale's median of AU$250,000.
We then looked at the Australian yearling sale totals (not including New Zealand) through the Easter Sale. To date, a total of 3,556 yearlings have sold for AU$443,996,500, an average of AU$124,858. The top four sires plus the three 'outsiders' have had a total of 305 yearlings sell, which grossed AU$135,215,000 and averaged AU$443,327.
The other 3,251 yearlings sold, by all other sires, averaged AU$94,980. Snitzel (AU$476,221), I Am Invincible (AU$446,649), Fastnet Rock (AU$404,759) and Redoute's Choice (AU$375,313), plus the seven by Deep Impact, Frankel, and Lord Kanaloa, comprised 8.5% of the yearlings sold and generated almost exactly 30% of the total Australian 2018 yearling sale gross so far.
With such dominance by the top proven sires, this year's first-crop yearling sires (first Southern Hemisphere foals of 2016) found it difficult to penetrate the top commercial echelons. In fact, 10 different first-crop yearling sires averaged over AU$100,000 (including New Zealand sales), led by Darley (Victoria)'s Brazen Beau (by I Am Invincible, 51 sold, average AU$158,431) and Newgate Stud's Dissident (Sebring, 97, AU$153,428) and Deep Field (Northern Meteor, 118, AU$153,186).
Then, clustered together, are: Darley (NSW)'s Shooting To Win (a full brother to Deep Field, 66, AU$115,583); Coolmore's Rubick (Encosta de Lago, 71, AU$114,113); Newgate's Wandjina (Snitzel, 47, AU$110,223); New Zealand's Waikato Stud's Sacred Falls (O'Reilly, 55, AU$109,909); Arrowfield shuttler Olympic Glory (Choisir, 48, AU$104,750); New Zealand's Windsor Park's shuttler Charm Spirit (Invincible Spirit, 48, AU$103,396) and Kitchwin Hills' ill-fated (died after siring two crops) Time For War (Snitzel, 15, AU$103,362).
The three top Australasian commercial sires with their first 2-year-olds (first Southern Hemisphere foals of 2015) are freshman sire Zoustar (Northern Meteor, Widden Stud, 74, AU$205,899); Queensland's Eureka Stud's Spirit Of Boom (by Sequalo, a grandson of Thatching, 25, AU$153,240); and Arrowfield's promising Dundeel (High Chaparral, 43, AU$119,756).
The top sire with his first 3-year-olds is the runaway leading second-crop sire (first Southern Hemisphere foals of 2014), Coolmore's Pierro (Lonhro, 53, AU$241,415), followed by New Zealand's Westbury Stud's shuttler Reliable Man (Dalakhani, 52, AU$109,615) and Black Caviar's half brother All Too Hard (Casino Prince, 61, AU$103,541).
Sources: Bluebloods magazine; www.stallions.com.au; www.inglis.com.au; www.magicmillions.com.au.
To read more articles by Bill Oppenheim and to see Brianne Stanley's Weekly Sales Ticker, please visit www.billoppenheim.com