Cover image courtesy of New Zealand Bloodstock
It's been clear for some time that international buyers, which have driven so much of the success of this Sale in the past, would not be able to get to Karaka due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and that has allowed NZB and the local agents to focus on remotely engaging the usual array of international buyers.
NZB's Bloodstock Sales Manager Danny Rolston said while the 'new normal', meant a very different build-up to the Sale at Karaka, there is confidence that when the 2-year-olds go through the ring this week that there will be strong bidding from across New Zealand, Australia and Asia.
"Obviously we have only got a physical buying bench with the local trainers and agents on course but the international enquiry has been really solid and the agents have been giving us a lot of feedback that they have been working for a lot of people," he told TDN AusNZ.
"The atmosphere on the ground has been really good. Under normal circumstances, I guess we would have been expecting a couple more planeloads, but we've been really happy."
"The atmosphere on the ground has been really good. Under normal circumstances, I guess we would have been expecting a couple more planeloads, but we've been really happy." - Danny Rolston
The near impossibility of international travel has not only meant Australian and Asian investors have been unable to get to the Sale, it has also hampered NZB's usual approach of meeting with prospective buyers in the lead-up.
"We usually canvass internationally, face-to-face, so it’s been a little bit different this year, but we’ve done a lot of contacting by phone and email. The engagement is very strong. It’s a little bit hard to assess how that will transfer to total spend and individual lots purchased internationally, but we are confident the level of interest is really solid," Rolston said.
Last year's Sale saw five of the top 10 lots secured by Hong Kong buyers and another two, including the top lot, a colt by Shamus Award, head to Australia. The Shamus Award colt, now named Super Award, then headed to Hong Kong in October to be prepared by David Hayes.
This year, Hong Kong and Australian buyers will rely even more on local agents, with Rolston saying NZB has been working hand-in-glove with buyer representatives to ensure the process of selecting and buying 2-year-olds is as easy as possible.
"Firstly, we've done everything we can to make sure that the agents have everything they need, so they can provide their clients with everything they can. Secondly, we have made sure that everyone internationally that we have been dealing with has an agent or a vet in place," he said.
"We have focussed on making sure those connections are strong and do everything we can to make sure it can work for people."
A market prepared for the new normal
Coming at the end of the Australasian breeze-up sales season, the NZB Ready to Run Sale has the advantage that buyers are now becoming quite used to finding alternatives to the usual selection and sales process.
"There have been a couple of sales in the Southern Hemisphere that have similar challenges, even getting people across state borders within Australia, and them not being able to travel freely. I think the buying bench has embraced the new normal post-COVID and I think that's been accepted and it's a new way of doing business," he said.
"I think the buying bench has embraced the new normal post-COVID and I think that's been accepted and it's a new way of doing business." - Danny Rolston
Key to that, according to Rolston, has been the improved access to information through digital formats, such as breeze-ups and parades, something which he believes works particularly well in the 2-year-old sale environment.
"This is a Sale which really lends itself towards this format, with the breeze-ups and the blood testing and the like all being available. It’s been a lot more work for both us and the vendors to produce all that media and extra data, but a breeze-up sale certainly lends itself towards being able to do that quite a bit more than what a weanling sale might be, for example," he said.
Catalogue depth a standout
Backing up that confidence that NZB has its ducks in a row in terms of the buyers is a strong belief in the product on offer in 2020. Rolston believes the depth of the catalogue is a considerable asset in the uncertainty of the current market.
"We've always had the element of those higher-end pin-hooked horses that have always been particularly popular to top end buyers from metropolitan Australia and Hong Kong," he said.
"We have still got good depth there and a great middle bunch that crosses a few different budgets. I think we've covered all bases and there should be something there for everybody."
Underpinning that quality is the brilliant record of graduates the Sale has built in recent years. In the past six seasons, graduates have won 20 Group 1 races and 135 stakes races.
"I think that really puts the Sale firmly into a lot of people's minds, even the major yearling buyers," Rolston said.
"The results we have had, with horses like Te Akau Shark and Golden Sixty who have had success this year, that helps get the attention of the major buyers that might not usually shop in that 2-year-old market.
"Now they are at the point that they can't ignore it any longer and that's reflected in the fact we’ve had great enquiry from major buyers everywhere."