HERE is a comprehensive wrap-up of last weeks BloodStock SA National Yearling Sale by ROBYN LOUW of Sporting Post.
The National Yearling Sale is one of the highlights of the local racing and breeding calendar. Despite the trials and tribulations, the annual ‘great trek’ to Germiston is a rite of passage for breeders and a pilgrimage for those in search of their next champion at South Africa’s sales Mecca.
For mere mortals like me, along to observe rather than to join the auction fray, three days, 450 of the best South African bloodstock has to offer, plus the top breeders and selectors in the business is more or less the equivalent of a three day Christmas.
Germiston came alive as yearlings, grooms, feed and sales paraphernalia started arriving as early as 8 April and stud teams got to work setting up their sales yards. I love the individual touches of the entertainment areas, flower baskets, personalised name boards and bridle numbers and how each stud puts their individual stamp on their draft. With the best coffee and squidgy biscuits in town Maine Chance is always the first stop of the day, Backworth has beautiful, ornate name boards, Summerhill kit their draft out in gorgeous, gold piped sales bridles, Piemonte have the prettiest bridle numbers in town and there’s any combination of quarter marks, glitter and dazzle to ensure that every yearling is shown off to perfection.The week’s events were formally kicked off with the TBA’s Gr1 awards on Tuesday, 21 April.
Opting to host these at Germiston rather than at Emperor’s Palace this year was very well received. It was convenient for everyone to attend and the food and atmosphere were great. The tireless Graeme Hawkins manned the mic with his usual aplomb and in a season that included imported stars such as Alboran Sea, Harry’s Son, Ertijaal and Majmu, it was gratifying to see our homebreds more than holding their own. Guy Murdoch and Drakenstein Stud Farm were the big winners on the night, taking home 3 trophies apiece. Other multiple winners were Arc-En-Ciel, The Alchemy, Klawervlei, Cheveley and Carl & Amanda de Vos, but there were plenty of additional awards to prove that our smaller breeders stand their ground too. My congratulations to you all.
The nerves and anticipation were at breaking point and the three-day roller coaster ride began when bidding officially opened at 1pm on Wednesday, 22 April. When one is focused on your catalogue and trying to select a champion from dizzying hundreds on offer, it’s easy to forget about the auctioneers on the rostrum, but the team of Steve Davis, Andrew Miller and Graeme Hawkins did sterling work.
The TBA’s Kevin Woolward was only officially installed as the CEO last September, but is already making his presence felt. Credit control has been tightened up significantly, the live stream has been outsourced to Antfarm and an innovation that deserves particular mention was the use of Aussie Chris “Chuck” Norris who proved a bid spotter par excellence. The ground level media area provided me a front row seat and to say that he was fabulous would be selling him very short indeed. Chris’ energy, enthusiasm and sense of humour really helped the days fly past and I dare say cajoled an extra bid here and there. Well done to the TBA and thanks to Chris – I hope we see you back again soon.
Although Wednesday’s bidding got off to a slow start, things hotted up with the entry of Lot 31, Varsfontein’s half brother to Go Indigo named Carbon Offset. The handsome colt by Gimmethegreenlight out of Albizia attracted competitive bidding before the hammer fell at R1,7 million to Simmerton Stud. Freshman sire Gimmethegreenlight’s progeny have been very well received, fetching R900k at the CTS Premier Sale, R950k at Val de Vie and now achieving R1,7 million. In fact, Gimmethegreenlight finished 5th on the overall sires log by aggregate for the NYS and if they run as good as they look, we’re set for some exciting racing.
Lot 41 produced a new BSA record when Tony Millard went to R4,25 million for Ascot Stud’s Arabian Dynasty (Dynasty-Arabian Jazz) which came with a nice back story. Millard trained granddam Arabian Lass, who raced for the interests of Mr P Ekon, for 4 Gr1 wins in South Africa as well as two ARCSA Champion awards. The filly was subsequently sold to Robert Sangster’s Swettenham operation for stud purposes. A few years on, Millard purchased Arabian Lass’s daughter, Arabian Jazz on a buying trip to Australia and brought her back to South Africa. The filly raced in the interests of Rose and Ashleigh Parker before retiring to the Ascot Stud paddocks. I thought it rather fun to see the colt knocked down to Tony Millard and continue the association to a third generation.
An unnamed Silvano colt out of Blushing Fairy (Lot 68) consigned by Ascot Stud as agent caught the eye of Form Bloodstock, who had to go to R2,2 million to secure the exceptionally handsome bay. Ashleigh Parker explained that it was the last commercial yearling from Ian and Nina Robertsons’ Milkwood Stud. He said he was delighted to have secured them a handsome price, which would probably be spent on ‘birding and game farm trips!’
Scottish Guard (Silvano – Crown Office), catalogued as Lot 110 and consigned by Mauritzfontein Stud, fetched R1,8 million from Angus Gold, on another flying visit to South Africa. Jessica Slack explained that Crown Office is blind in one eye and an absolute stud favourite, so she was delighted to see the colt go to such nice people and quipped that he would look great in Shadwell’s blue silks.
The day finished on a high, when Lot 150, Klipdrif’s Dynasty colt out of Firstnightbliss fetched R2million from Gavin Smith Racing. A somewhat dazed-looking Smith admitted, “I got pushed, but I really wanted him and just want to thank my client for pushing through.”
Day 2 proved to be another busy one, with plenty to keep the pulses and adrenaline racing. The first lot to create a stir was Lot 192, an unnamed Dynasty colt out of Hunter’s Glen. Consigned by Cheveley Stud and signed for by John Freeman on behalf of Jack Mitchell, this is another colt with a lot of provenance. Jack Mitchell was school friends with Wilfred Koster and paying a visit to the farm back in 2006, picked out a colt in the paddock. He turned out to be the first produce from Hunter’s Glen by freshman sire, Badger’s Drift. John Freeman was asked to assess him at the 2006 Grand West Yearling Sale, approved and the gavel duly fell his way. Among his 9 career wins the colt, named Ivory Trail, beat Pocket Power in the 2009 Champions Cup and lowering Sabre’s 57 year-old race record in the process. The Champions Cup has subsequently acquired a bit of a ‘Mitchell stamp’ as he has won it with Jackson and Futura as well. “One has to support the things that have done well for you,” said Jack.
Cassius (Lot 235), was the sales-topper for Jessica Slack’s Mauriutzfontein Stud at R1,2-million. He’s by Horse Chestnut from Lady Helen – a full-brother to Gr1-placed Banbury. Cassius was knocked down to Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stud.
Lammerskraal Stud may have been sold to new owners, but the charismatic Mike Rattray proved that he was still a force to be reckoned with, going to R1,7 million for Varsfontein’s Lot 220, a colt by Western Winter out of Justthewayyouare. Rattray confirmed that the colt will be conditioned by Mike de Kock.
Rattray had barely finished signing the sales receipt, before opening the bidding on Lammerskraal’s Lot 221 at a cool R2 million. While the rest of the auditorium gaped, Steve Davis deftly presided over the bidding which heated up between Rattray and Angus Gold. Gold finally reluctantly conceded defeat and the hammer fell Rattray’s way at R4,75 million, setting a new South African record for a filly. Rattray commented, “I always liked her as a baby and should never have sold her when I sold the farm. People forget that I’m not out of racing, I’m just out of breeding.” Named Savannah Cat, the filly by Fort Wood out of Western Winter’s half sister Kapen Cat had been the talk of the sales ground and the newly married Sally Bruss described her as “Hard to fault, really.”
The flamboyant Alesh Naidoo signed the R1,7 million chit for Lot 247, a Silvano colt from Avontuur’s stalwart matron, Minelli. Alesh enthused, “He’s an absolutely gorgeous colt and I just had to have him,” confirming “He’ll be going to Charlie Laird.”
There was no hanging about on day 3, with three of the first six lots being knocked down for 7 figures.
Lot 333, the full brother to SA Derby winner Seal (Silvano – Prestine Performer) and named One Direction was consigned by Drakenstein Stud and went the way of John Freeman for R2million. I have always been one of Seal’s biggest fans and it seems his brother is set to join my little list of favourites. “The story begins with the 2014 Durban July,” said John Freeman. “Hey! Are you telling the story, or am I?” interjected Jack Mitchell, and the two of them grinned at each other, clearly delighted with their new purchase. While last year’s July result divided the racing community, one thing we did all agree on, was that Michael Leaf conducted himself like an absolute gentleman. Leaf and Mitchell have subsequently formed a friendship and resolved to buy a horse together. It turns out that One Direction is that horse. Jack said “Legislate is owned by myself, Gaynor (Rupert) and Dennis and Gael Evans. Here we’re putting the whole July 2014 group back together again. Gaynor bred him and he’ll be raced between myself, the Evans’ and Michael Leaf. How’s that for a story?” Sounds like a best seller to me!
Form Bloodstock secured VAR -filly La Revere (Lot 292) from Varsfontein Stud, for R900,000.
Excruciatingly slow bidding saw Ascot Stud’s filly Simply Royal, Lot 369 (Silvano – Royal Fantasy) knocked down to Form Bloodstock for R2,7 million. Purchased on behalf of the Al Adiyaat South Africa, Jehan Malherbe confirmed that the exquisite filly would be conditioned by Sean Tarry, who considered her the pick of the sale.
Lot 407, a Dynasty colt out of the stalwart Avontuur matron Sport’s Chestnut, became the top priced colt for day 3 when the hammer fell to Tony Millard for R3,1 million. Pippa Mickleburgh related that Sports Chestnut is no longer around and that this was her last foal, making him a particularly special individual.
A few days on, the aggregate has settled at R126 527 500. Although this is 5.9% down on last year’s R134 615 000, this can be attributed to a smaller catalogue (449 lots as opposed to 2014’s draft of 529). Of those 449, 344 were sold, down on last year’s figure of 398. 39 lots were withdrawn, compared with last year’s figure 62; the number of unsold lots was up, numbering 35 compared to 16 in 2014; and there were 30 vendor buy backs, significantly less than last year’s 53. The sale average stood at R367 812, an 8.6% increase on last year’s figure of R338 229. The median was also up on last year’s figure at R240k, an increase of 6.7% on the 2014 figure of R225k.
The top vendor was Klipdrif Stud, who consigned 29 lots for R11 090 000 and Form Bloodstock was the leading buyer, taking home 18 lots for R14 135 000. Leading sire by aggregate was Silvano (R21,36 million), with Dynasty topping the list by average at R1,2million. The top priced lot was also the top priced filly in Lammerskraal’s Savannah Cat (R4,75million). The top priced colt was Ascot’s Arabian Dynasty (R4,25 million).
It was a very strong catalogue and buyers had their work cut out, with one pundit struggling with their longest short list in memory. With a broad buying bench, competition was fierce at all levels, but it was interesting to see how the market voted with its pocket. Congratulations to all who bought and for those whose are taking horses back, they do say you often take the best ones home.
For more information go to www.tba.co.za