Further evidence of a growing confidence behind the process of selling horses online was in evidence on Friday in the latest renewal of the Inglis Chairman’s Sale in Australia, an auction devoted to elite breeding stock held for the first time in a virtual format as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to grip the world.

The sale came a month after a highly encouraging first digital renewal of Inglis’ flagship yearling auction, the Australian Easter Sale. Similar to that event, the Chairman’s Sale attracted a high-profile and international array of buyers, among them the British-based Watership Down Stud, buying in conjunction with McKeever Bloodstock, and Badgers Bloodstock.

Although the clearance rate of 61% is far removed from the high levels usually attained at Australian auctions (it is expected to rise over the coming days as more private sales are conducted), Inglis could take much satisfaction from an average price of Aus$429,804, a two per cent increase on last year’s figure. The median also dropped only marginally by $5,000 to $275,000.

All told, 51 horses changed hands for a total of $21.92 million. Four mares broke the million dollar barrier, led by the Group 1-winning mare In Her Time who sold for $2 million to Newgate Bloodstock.

In Her Time: Group 1-winning sprinter led proceedings at $2 million. Photo: Inglis/Yarraman Park Stud

“There were some outstanding results tonight in what is obviously an extremely challenging time for people globally so to effectively reach the same figures of last year in terms of average and median is extremely satisfying,” said Inglis managing director Mark Webster.

“I think tonight again proved there is a real demand for elite breeding stock and this boutique sale is the optimum format through which to sell them.

“Despite the difficult times with COVID-19, to sell four mares for in excess of $1 million is a great result for a lot of people and a sign of confidence for our marketplace.

“Our Bloodstock Team will be working hard in the coming days and weeks to place passed in lots and drive up the clearance rate which is continuing to improve steadily.’’

Newgate stocks up

Newgate Stud heads into the 2020 southern hemisphere season with 13 stallions on their books including new recruits Brutal, Cosmic Force and Tassort, and the outfit was busy stocking up on Friday as the purchaser of eight lots worth $4.355 million.

They included sale-topper In Her Time, who led the way at $2 million out of the Yarraman Park Stud draft. While breeding plans for In Her Time will be confirmed at a later date, another pricey Newgate acquisition, $675,000 purchase Volpe Veloce, is slated to visit Group 1 winner Brutal.

An exceptional sprinter who was bought in for just $38,000 as a yearling, In Her Time was trained by Ben Smith to win the Group 1 ATC Galaxy Handicap and then by Kris Lees to take the Group 1 VRC Lightning Stakes. The tough daughter of Time Thief was also placed a further six times at Group 1 level and earned close to $3.725 million in prize-money for owner-breeder Peter Brown, who campaigned her latterly in partnership with Orbis Bloodstock.

“We thought she would make around $1.5 million – $1.6 million, so $2 million exceeded expectations,’’ said Harry Mitchell of Yarraman Park.

“She really is lovely. She is medium sized and she didn’t look to have any wear and tear, even though she is a seven-year-old, rising eight, she is very sound.

“She has a beautiful nature with a lovely head and is a beautifully balanced mare who moves well.”

Group 1 winners for Justify

Fresh from ending the Easter Sale as leading buyer, Coolmore’s Tom Magnier again made his presence felt, this time by going to $1.8 million for Group 1 winner and stakes producer Samaready and $1.6 million for another fast Group 1 winner Booker.

Both mares are slated to visit American Triple Crown hero Justify, a shuttler to Coolmore’s Australian arm.

Samaready ran out the three-length winner of the 2012 Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes and was subsequently Australia’s champion female sprinter of 2013-14 when her victories included the Group 1 MRVC AJ Moir Stakes. Her second foal and sole runner is Godolphin’s classy Group 3 winner Exhilarates, also successful in last year’s Magic Millions 2yo Classic. The daughter of More Than Ready was sold by Vinery Stud back in foal to that filly’s sire Snitzel.

Although sad to see her leave the farm, Vinery’s Peter Orton was thrilled with the price. 

“She’s a beautiful mare and it’s sad to see her leave the farm but she realised what was a great price for her,” he said. “In this market you’re never too sure but she got the value she deserved.

“It’s a new world and I just love this industry and how enthusiastic and resilient it is and how people are embracing this new concept of virtual and online selling.

“It’s such an exciting industry to be involved in and for the stability to still show through under a pretty dire global situation has been fantastic.’’

Samaready is set to visit Justify. Photo: Inglis/Vinery Stud

Booker, meanwhile, enjoyed her finest moment when successful in last year’s Group 1 Oakleigh Plate. By Written Tycoon, she is out of the Flying Spur mare Noondie, herself a $600,000 graduate of last year’s Chairman’s Sale when sold to Mitchell Bloodstock. 

“Booker looks very fast and she’s got a lot of quality,” said Magnier.

“All the top people were on her so we’re delighted to get a mare like this for the syndicate.

“We bought a lot of nice mares last year and we want to do the same again this year. Obviously we want to be a big supporter of Justify, as a lot of people are, and he’s getting the best chance at stud by getting the best mares for him.

“Samaready ticks every box – she was a great race mare, she’s a great physical, she’s got the pedigree and she’s proven. She’s ideal.

“When you put her to a champion like Justify, hopefully the end result will be exciting.”

Youngstar to Japan

Similarly, rarely does a major bloodstock auction pass by without some participation from Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm, and indeed an outlay of $2.2 million on Friday saw the member of Japan’s ruling racing family come away with Group 1 Queensland Oaks winner Youngstar at $1.4 million and Group 2 scorer Noire, who cost $800,000.

Youngstar, by High Chaparral, boasts a particularly current family as a half-sister to Group 1 ATC Flight Stakes heroine Funstar and to the dam of recent Group 1 All Aged Stakes winner Tofane. It is also a family with European ties since their second dam is none other than Clive Brittain’s 1992 Oaks and St Leger heroine User Friendly.

Group 1 winner Youngstar is heading to Japan. Photo: Inglis/Middlebrook Valley Lodge

British-based interests strike

Both mares catalogued in foal to Juddmonte Farm’s Frankel found new homes with James Bester going to $375,000 for the Excelebration mare Iiex Excelsa, who was Listed-placed last season for Fozzy Stack, and Badgers Bloodstock going to $250,000 for Cheering, a War Front daughter of Listed winner Kissed from the family of Derby hero Pour Moi. Both were sold by Coolmore Stud.

Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber’s Watership Down Stud also made a successful strike with the purchase of the Listed-placed Fine Scent in conjunction with McKeever Bloodstock. By All Too Hard, the five-year-old mare is a half-sister to Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes winner Polar Success and was one of two mares to sell on the day in foal to Justify. The other, the Group 3-placed Luskintyre Lass, made $250,000 to Gall Bloodstock.