While averages and aggregates fell just short of the record-breaking 2008 Australian Easter Sale, the depth of the catalogue and the buying bench was evidenced by the fact the 2019 sale recorded what is believed to be the highest median, $260,000, at a select sale in Australia.
There was the expected strength at the top end, including record prices for the progeny of Snitzel, Brazen Beau, Vancouver and Exceed And Excel, but the 19 $1 million-plus yearlings were actually a drop of three on the sale 12 months ago.
However, the strength in the middle of the market was much more in evidence with 56 yearlings sold for between $500,000 - $1 million this year compared to 50 last year.
There was also an incredibly diverse buying bench with those 19 seven-figure yearlings going to 12 separate buyers. That was all achieved despite Shadwell, the sale's leading buyer over the past five years, not participating.
"We've brought together buyers from all over the world and they have been very competitive with their bidding. There is no doubt that there's a lot of money there for the top of the market, the top of the market here is spreading a little," Webster said.
"There's a good spread of buyers spending a million or more. It’s a shame that Shadwell were not able to buy at the sale. Angus Gold came down and we thank him for coming and looking and hopefully we'll get them buying in the future."
"There is no doubt that there's a lot of money there for the top of the market." - Inglis Managing Director, Mark Webster
"He was here and present and liked what he saw. You never know, things may have been even stronger if he participated, but I don't think it suffered from him not participating."
"He's been our leading buyer for the last five years and so to run a sale like this and grow the average, median and gross, without that shows we’ve got a bit of depth in the buying bench."
The competition among the buyers is as fierce as it has ever been and Webster admits many left cash on the table.
"I believe there is still scope to add 50 or so top-end horses to the sale. I say that because there is money walking out the door," he said.
"I was talking to Mark Richards from the Hong Kong Jockey Club who bought the brother to Lankan Rupee (Lot 446 by Fastnet Rock), who happened to be a double rig and he said thank god he was because the stallion syndicates weren't on him."
"I believe there is still scope to add 50 or so top-end horses to the sale." - Mark Webster
"He got one and he normally gets five or six. Last year he spent up to a million on colts for Hong Kong and he got beaten on all of them this year. It does show you the strength at the top."
With a buying market crying out for top-class yearlings, increasing the quality of the sale is likely to be one of the main priorities ahead of 2020.
"My focus is continuing to improve the quality across the board. Not necessarily build up the numbers, cycle out the bottom 50 and bring in 50 better horses," Webster said.
Opportunity knocks for vendors
Webster feels there is a significant opportunity to convince vendors to ensure their best stock heads to Easter rather than to the rival Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale in January.
"There is absolutely no doubt there is scope for some of those yearlings at the Gold Coast to come back here. There are buyers active here that weren't active at all on the Coast. Or they are here with bigger budgets and I have got no doubt there would be a ton of yearlings sold at the Gold Coast that would have made better money here," he said.
"I have got no doubt there would be a ton of yearlings sold at the Gold Coast that would have made better money here." - Mark Webster
"We are not asking for wholesale change. But you'll see vendors here when you look at the averages, that haven’t fared as well as others because they may not have brought their best horses here and others who have had an exceptional sale, because they stuck with the sale and supported it."
It was the first Easter Sale for Inglis' General Manager, Bloodstock Sales Sebastian Hutch and Webster praised Hutch's team for the significant help it gave vendors to ensure every horse had a prospective buyer.
"Part of the strategy of our team was not to necessarily identify the top ones and go around and tell everyone the top ones. We have actually identified the bottom 200 horses and worked with the vendors to match them up with buyers on a limited budget," he said.
"The whole focus for my bloodstock team under Sebastian has been trying to get the bottom 200 sold before they get in the ring." - Mark Webster
"The whole focus for my bloodstock team under Sebastian has been trying to get the bottom 200 sold before they get in the ring. It's made a big difference."
That helped ensure an 85 per cent clearance rate, and was a significant assistance to increasing the average and median prices from 2018.
Stallion diversity a boost
The other significant factor was the diversity of stallions at the top end. The top seven lots were by seven different stallions, while there were 11 who had $1m plus lots, compared to eight last year.
"A few years ago, it was Fastnet, Redoute's and Snitzel dominating but now you have a whole range of stallions that are performing. There are ten to 12 that are highly commercial, I think that's really good," Webster said.
"They are from different bloodlines too. There is a heap of diversity there. That Medaglia d'Oro (USA) line is really kicking, Pierro and that old Sir Tristram line too, it's nice to have all those options."