Cover image courtesy of Inglis
The top-line statistics from the Easter Yearling Sale painted a picture of a yearling market in rude health and came off the back of record results at just about every other yearling sale in the country in 2021 for both Inglis and rival Magic Millions.
There were 22 $1 million-plus lots sold in Sydney, while the average, median and aggregate were all at their highest level since the extraordinary and unprecedented Easter Sale of 2008 where Bob Ingham, Sheikh Mohammed, Nathan Tinkler and Shadwell’s Angus Gold spent $50 million between them.
But as opposed to that market, which was driven by a small number of heavily invested parties, the 2021 resurgence has been led by investment from many fronts, with 37 individual buyers spending over $1 million, as over $132 million was spent.
If there is an opportunity for further growth in 2022 it is in the likely return of significant international investment, as the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic gathers pace and meaningful international travel resumes.
International buyers spent $16.21 million this week at the Riverside Stables, with $8.43 million of that coming from New Zealand. In the most recent pre-pandemic Easter Sale in 2019, the international spend amounted to $25.1 million, with $7.9 million from across the Tasman.
What that amounts to, is an increase in Australian-based investment in the Easter Sale from $98.3 million in 2019 to just short of $116 million in 2021.
"What that amounts to, is an increase in Australian-based investment in the Easter Sale from $98.3 million in 2019 to just short of $116 million in 2021."
That statistic alone paints a story of a local market which has surged at almost an unbelievable rate in 2021, something that Inglis General Manager Bloodstock Sales and Marketing, Sebastian Hutch, said was far beyond what the sales company could have expected even at the start of 2021.
"I think if you’d said to us at the first of January that the Classic Sale will be up 24 per cent, the Premier Sale will be up 26 per cent and we would have had the second-highest grossing Easter of all time, and turnover in excess of $130 million, even the most optimistic amongst us would have thought that was probably unlikely," Hutch said.
"But the fundamentals of the industry are fantastic. We have some really strong personalities in administration and the experience here is fantastic; the racing experience, people want to be involved in it."
Positivity the envy of the world
Hutch feels the vibrancy of the industry is driving such positive sentiment, which is in turn feeding the confidence of the local market. He says that could be a significant lure for international investment should international travel restrictions continue to lift as expected later in 2021.
"You walk around the sales complex and you will meet people from all over the world working with horses. This is where everybody wants to be. It’s just such an enjoyable place to be involved," he said.
"The reality is that as soon as international travel opens up again, there will be a hell of a lot more people getting involved down here. I think the industry has a lot to be proud of in how it has conducted itself in the past 12 months and there will be people looking at this and saying they want to be part of it," he said.
"I think the industry has a lot to be proud of in how it has conducted itself in the past 12 months and there will be people looking at this and saying they want to be part of it." - Sebastian Hutch
"From an international perspective, the base is only going to grow."
International players with Australian operations, such as Coolmore, Tony Fung Investments, China Horse Club and the like, were among the leading buyers at Easter, fending off competition from leading local trainers like Hawkes Racing, Ciaron Maher Racing and Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.
While competition is extremely hot for the top yearlings, Hutch said he feels that it only makes sense that other international investors will target the Australian market in the coming years. He also expects there is potential for growth locally.
"You look at it, and yes, if the next big kick is going to come, it is that international involvement. But we also need to ensure that the people who are involved in the domestic market have a positive experience," he said.
"There are a lot of great personalities involved in the sport, a lot of young people. If people enjoy their experience, then they might want to go again, they might want to get friends to come in. We have a responsibility as industry participants to make sure people have a good time."
Market bodes well for breeding sales
The upcoming Inglis Chairman's Sale, to be held on Friday, May 7 at the Riverside Stables, is also set to benefit from the health of the yearling market, which has ensured investor confidence is high and breeders are well-resourced looking to restock for the 2021 breeding season.
"We've put together what is a pretty spectacular catalogue for the Chairman's Sale in a few weeks' time. The whole catalogue is made up of mares who are going to be the dams of Easter yearlings in time," Hutch said.
"On the evidence of the Easter Sale, people are going to want those kinds of mares, because yearlings out of the mares are selling for a premium, they are really popular."
The Australian Weanling Sale, to be held Thursday, May 6, is another likely beneficiary, with 2021 representing an excellent year for those who bought foals in the uncertainty of 2020 and then sold them as yearlings in a bumper 2021 market.
"There was some fantastic pinhook results through the Easter Sale and people who bought out of our Weanling Sale, as it was, last July, sold through Easter with some great results. People who also bought pregnancies out of the Australian Broodmare Sale in recent years and have sold them back through.
"It does bode well for those Sales. This sort of market does give people real confidence."
Sales rivalry drives resurgence
Hutch also acknowledged that the fierce competition between Inglis and rival auction house Magic Millions has helped vendors capitalise on the market confidence in 2021.
"The fact that two auction houses are so competitive with each other and do so much to try and generate good returns for vendors and fantastic occasions for buyers and industry participants to be a part of, I think it will be unpropelled in any other part of the world. It’s just great for the market," he said.
Inglis Managing Director Mark Webster gave an indication this week that the Easter catalogue could be set to expand on the size of its catalogue, which stood at 442 in 2021. Hutch said the company will be driven by whatever it thinks will work in the market and help bolster returns back to their clients.
"If the results that we have had in the past two or three months mean we can run a better sales series, well fantastic," he said.
"Our objective is to try and give vendors as much confidence that we can, to work with us and sell with us. I think people can come away from our sales and think that the team at Inglis work hard for me as a vendor and do everything they can to get good results and they are people who I want to do business with."