Cover image courtesy of Inglis
Through the uncertainty of the 2020 Easter Yearling Sale, Coolmore Australia's Principal Tom Magnier held strong in his belief that the Australian thoroughbred industry would weather the pending COVID-19 storm, backing that up by spending $6.9 million, or nearly 10 per cent of the gross of a vastly diminished virtual Sale.
Fast forward 12 months, and not only has Magnier's unwavering faith been vindicated, but so robust is the top end of the yearling market that it has necessitated a whole new approach to buying, forming partnerships in order to get access to the elite colts in the market.
It was the purchase of an I Am Invincible colt, Lot 173, on Tuesday for $1.15 million that highlighted Magnier's change of tack, as he partnered up with former Coolmore old boy James Harron, in the first deal of its kind.
On Wednesday, Magnier partnered with Guy Mulcaster to pay $1.4 million for another I Am Invincible colt, Lot 253, seeing off a determined challenge from Gai Waterhouse, Adrian Bott and Kestrel Thoroughbreds.
Thirty lots later, Bott and Kestrel Thoroughbreds' Bruce Slade were celebrating with the Coolmore crew as they secured in partnership, Lot 283, a colt by Written Tycoon, who like the earlier I Am Invincible colt was offered by Kia Ora Stud, for $1.1 million.
Given the tough market for buyers at the top end, it should be no surprise to see some of the major players working together.
Coolmore consultant James Bester has seen most things in the thoroughbred game and said if it means getting the right horse, combining resources only makes sense.
“This is a hot market and if we all stand their bidding against each other, that might suit the vendors admirably but at the end of day, spreading the risk makes a bit of sense and acquires the animal one wants and, you may not have to pay a crazy price," he said after helping to secure the Written Tycoon colt.
Spreading the risk
Inglis' General Manager Bloodstock Sales and Marketing, Sebastian Hutch, said that while that approach may mean that there aren't as many rival bidders to drive up the price, the overall impact of a greater spread of investment was a positive.
"Sometimes it can be a source of frustration of vendors when they see buyers partner-up. These people aren't partnering up on cheap horses, they are paying a premium for the horses anyway," he said.
"I think it's probably been a reflection of how hard it has been to buy yearlings through the year. To be absolutely confident of securing an involvement in the horse that you like, you may have to dilute your investment, or dilute your equity. You may have to partner-up with somebody.
"Everybody wants to race good horses and if people want to race good horses in partnership, then great. It’s good for the game if it keeps everybody involved and interested." - Sebastian Hutch
"Everybody wants to race good horses and if people want to race good horses in partnership, then great. It’s good for the game if it keeps everybody involved and interested."
Hutch also said it would likely result in such investors looking to broaden their volume of purchases.
"It might mean people have to go and buy more horses. If they partner-up, their exposure might be a little less and they might buy another one. There are positives to it as well," he said.
The 2021 season has been notable for the emergence of several new syndicates of buyers to purchase in the colts space. The Victorian Alliance, which despite its name has brought together breeders and investors from all around Australia in a syndicate headed by Rosemont Stud, has purchased 11 colts through the year and took a substantial share in a Zoustar colt, Lot 306, which Peter Moody purchased for $1.15 million on Wednesday.
Diversity drives vibrancy
The diversity of the buying bench has been a feature of the Inglis Easter Sale in 2021. While last year, it was Magnier buying three of the seven $1 million-plus lots and the top two lots overall, this year, there were been 17 different individual buyers who purchased lots in that seven-figure price bracket.
Magnier may have to fight a lot harder to get those elite-level yearlings, but the vibrancy of the market is a pointer to the strong health of the Australian industry, something he is very keen to emphasise.
"Coolmore are in America, Ireland and we are over here. What's happening in Australia at the moment, when you see there are over 50 races worth over a million dollars, there is great health to the industry here," he said.
"There's young people, not only at the sales, but at the races. It's a sport that is just on the rise. For people anywhere to get involved with the sport and take a share in a horse, you have got a high chance of getting a return. It's a better investment than a lot of other things.
"It’s a great credit to Inglis and everybody, that after the difficult times we have gone through, the industry is just going from strength-to-strength."
Magnier said the Australian thoroughbred industry, with its buoyant bloodstock market and significant prizemoney was becoming the envy of the world.
"What is going on here in Australia is getting worldwide attention. Prizemoney is so healthy. We’ve got nine 2-year-old races worth more than $1 million. It's important that as an industry we keep this going," he said.
"There's something going on in Australia, that is not happening elsewhere in the world. Full credit to everybody behind it and long may it continue."