Frustrated by the amount of money that was left on the table at the Melbourne Premier Sale, Inglis Managing Director Mark Webster has called on Victorian breeders and vendors to put their full weight behind the sale, which he says needs to be truly international.
The key metrics of the sale, which finished up on Wednesday at the newly refurbished Oaklands Junction complex, were largely consistent with last year, with the only notable difference being that the Book 1 catalogue was around ten per cent smaller.
Webster said at the end of Book 1 there was still plenty of cash left among the buying bench, who craved more quality top end lots to bid on.
"There is definitely some money left on the table as I go around and talk to buyers." - Mark Webster
"There is definitely some money left on the table as I go around and talk to buyers. It's frustrating that that is the case. I've been talking to vendors about that, about the need to back this sale with their entire drafts in the future, not just part of the draft," he said.
Webster's assessment of the rude health of the top end of the market is backed up by the fact there were nine more lots sold for more than $300,000 this year than last and seven above $500,000 compared to just one in 2018.
Webster said the decision of a number of Victorian vendors to split their yearling offering among the leading sales in Melbourne, Sydney and Gold Coast appeared to backfire in many cases and that a focussed draft at a home sale would have most likely yielded better results.
"I have had vendors, without naming them, say to me that there are yearlings that would have sold better here than they did at the Gold Coast. Without any doubt, they put that right on the table," he said.
"We are capable of getting the buyers here, but we can't force them to put certain horses in." - Mark Webster
"The vendors, the answer for them is in their own hands. We are capable of getting the buyers here, but we can't force them to put certain horses in. We are doing our bit. If we can get more Victorian vendors to stick with it, I think we can get a better outcome for it."
Sale diversity key to success
Webster said the successes that both Hunter Valley based Bhima and Edinburgh Park had in Melbourne was also a sign that interstate vendors could also prosper at a Melbourne sale, which was focussed on attracting as broad a buying bench as possible.
"It's an international sale. If you look at all the people out here and all the faces you can see that," he said.
"If this reverts back to being a Victorian sale, to me, it would be insular and it would not get the same depth of buying. We've got people here buying on behalf of Hong Kong and Chinese interests, happy to spend $500,000-$600,000 on various horses and that gives us great confidence."
Hong Kong-backed Orbis Bloodstock purchased three of the top seven lots, while there were a myriad of other international buyers busy at the sale.
"We are trying to build a truly international sale here in Melbourne to match the international quality of racing that we have here." - Mark Webster
"It’s really about that. We are trying to build a truly international sale here in Melbourne to match the international quality of racing that we have here. We all need to remain focussed on that and not look inward and become insular. We have to broaden it out. We have to welcome quality vendors from New Zealand or the Hunter Valley, South Australia and for the local ones to stick with the sale."
While it was a diverse buying bench, there was certainly an aspect of parochialism about stallions which were given a higher premium. The top four lots were all by Victorian stallions, three by Brazen Beau and one by Written Tycoon, where 12 months ago, the top nine lots were by interstate stallions.
The rise of Brazen Beau was the notably top aspect of Book 1. At the 2018 sale, he was the 17th most popular sire on averages in his first season, but this year he was second on averages, behind only his own sire I Am Invincible, and a clear winner on aggregate.
Local stallions can flourish
Webster said that was a resounding show of faith in Victorian stallions and something which adds further weight to more top- line stallions standing in the state.
"I think we are in the fortunate position that they are bidding on Victorian-sired progeny, particularly Brazen Beau, which has not always been the case. That's a positive," he said.
"There is definitely a need for greater investment in stallions in Victoria." - Mark Webster
"There is definitely a need for greater investment in stallions in Victoria. I welcome Yulong coming into the market, because they are keen to build up. I was talking to Mr Zhang, and he said they are building the stallion barns and there is a big investment coming. That's exactly what we need."
"I'd also encourage other farms from the Hunter Valley to branch out. Godolphin/Darley did it a few years ago. I think the strength of the major racing down here, there are so many buyers operating and there is some beautiful country here for rearing horses. I think it would be good to see more Hunter Valley Farms set up satellite operations down here."
Timing is right
The other talking point around Oaklands this week has been the timing of the sale, with suggestions from some in the industry that it needs to be moved to an earlier timeslot, ahead of the Classic Sale in Sydney, and possibly clash with the New Zealand sales at Karaka.
Webster said there was nothing he could see this week which indicated the Melbourne sale needed a new timeslot.
"There's commentary that the buyers run out of money, so this sale needs to be held earlier. But the reality is, they don’t run out of money, people need time between sales to sell down and come back and reload. It’s just the natural way of the industry," he said.
"I think this sale is in a good space." - Mark Webster
"I think this sale is in a good space. There's nothing in the four weeks leading up to it of any consequence and the buyers come here feeling fresh and ready to go. They have usually sold down some of what they have bought before, they are ready to go again."
"For all those reasons, we've got something we can build on here. Particularly the strength at the top is the key."