Cover image courtesy of Inglis
The contrast between the build-up to this year's Sale and what occurred 12 months ago, when the Easter Sale was forced into an online format due to COVID-19 shutdowns, could not be any stark. Even in those tough times, the Easter Sale performed remarkably well and given the confidence that has returned to the market, 2021 is expected to be a bumper Easter harvest.
Inglis' General Manager Bloodstock Sales and Marketing, Sebastian Hutch, said while there are plenty willing to make predictions of just exactly how hot the market may be on Tuesday and Wednesday, Inglis' own metrics for success are more circumspect.
"We want to generate strong turnover. We want to say we put money in the market and that money was shared amongst the vendors. We want to be able to generate good clearance through the ring and we want vendors to walk away from here happy that they have sold well," he said.
"We want to be able to generate good clearance through the ring and we want vendors to walk away from here happy that they have sold well." - Sebastian Hutch
"We also want buyers to walk away feeling like they have bought nice horses, horses that can win top-class races in the future. We keep saying it, but this is the Sale where you are more likely to buy a stakes-winning 2-year-old, more likely to buy a Group 1-winning colt, or a Group 1-winning filly.
"It's arguably, on metrics, the best yearling sale in the world, and as a consequence, it represents an opportunity for those people involved in the Sale to buy top-class horses."
Highlighting the success of its graduates has been a particular focus for Inglis in the past few years and enables it the opportunity to emphasise the opportunities available at all ends of the market.
Much will be made in the coming days of the amount of million-dollar lots (it was 20 in 2019) and the Sale average (it was $353,511 in 2019), but Hutch believes those longer-term metrics of racetrack success are the things that keep buyers coming back to the Sale.
"Those watershed figures of $1 million-plus have courted the headlines at a Sale like Easter, but we have been at pains to suggest there has been tremendous buying at value in this Sale. You talk about horses like Funstar, Exceedance, Aristia, Nettoyer and Quick Thinker, there are a long list of top-class horses that could have been bought at this Sale for $100,000 or less," he said.
"We stress to those operating at the value end of the market that this is a sale where they can come to and be active at."
Anticipation at fever pitch
Whether it is because of the circumstances of 12 months ago, or just the expectation that has driven record results at almost every yearling sale in Australia in 2021, the anticipation for the Easter Sale has been almost palpable at the Riverside Stables.
Hutch acknowledges that the Sale almost takes on a life of itself in the build-up and that has been further heightened by what has generally been assessed as one of the strongest-ever catalogues.
"Easter is a sale where everybody wants to be involved. It's a sale where people want to buy horses from because history has shown that it's the place you are likely to buy the best horses." - Sebastian Hutch
"Easter is a sale where everybody wants to be involved. It's a sale where people want to buy horses from because history has shown that it's the place you are likely to buy the best horses. In terms of encouraging people to participate, be they vendors or buyers, it speaks for itself," he said.
"We have work that we do, but people want to be a part of it. Naturally, as an auction house, we have procedure we want to work through to make sure we give vendors the best chance of getting a good result and we are working as hard as we can to help buyers buy the right horses."
Gallery: Inspections around the Riverside Stables complex
'A true market'
Managing vendors' expectations is such an effusive environment, something that Inglis has been very aware of in the build-up.
"Naturally the amount of effort and investment that goes into preparing a horse at any sale, let alone one at this level, brings with it a level of expectation and pressure on the part of the vendors," Hutch said.
"To get here is an achievement in itself. It’s a vendor's prerogative to get as much money as they possibly can for their horses. That's what keeps people in business and keeps people motivated. I think vendors are very optimistic as to what could be achieved at a sale like this, but similarly conscious that you have to very pragmatic about it.
"I think vendors are very optimistic as to what could be achieved at a sale like this, but similarly conscious that you have to very pragmatic about it." - Sebastian Hutch
"The market has been very positive throughout the year, but it has been a very true market. It’s not as if every horse going through the ring is making a premium. The market is really identifying the horses they like and is happy to pay a premium for those horses and there are other instances where horses have been sold for what people feel is great value.
"It’s been a true and fair market and it’s a reasonable expectation for vendors that will be the case this week."
While all signs are positive heading in to the week, Inglis is very aware that its job is far from done, according to Hutch.
"The response this week has been very positive. There are a lot of people around, people seem extremely positive about the Sale and we are never complacent. It’s our mandate to get the best results we possibly can, but certainly at this stage, we are pleased with how things are progressing," he said.