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$774 million spent across 2021 sales season

9 min read
An extraordinary 2021 thoroughbred sales season has seen record after record fall, with buyers investing with unprecedented confidence in the Australian market, spending over $774 million at public auction. We have broken down the big numbers to chart the explosion in spending.

Cover image courtesy of Inglis

When buyers and vendors arrived in Queensland at the start of 2021 for the season-opening Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, they did so very much in a cautious mood after the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impacts of COVID-19 could have been disastrous for the thoroughbred industry and a 15.6 per cent fall in aggregate spending at public auction in 2020 was certainly cause for concern. But as it tends to do, the market had adjusted to the new conditions and that drop in turnover reflected a 14.5 per cent drop in the volume of horses offered.

In that regard, the overall average across all yearling, weanling and broodmare sales only dropped 1.24 per cent in 2020, retaining the confidence in the value of the product and laying the foundations for a recovery in 2021.

Despite strong signs of an economic recovery, and of a broader racing and wagering industry in rude health, there was still doubts about how much confidence investors would take to the market.

Inspections underway at the Gold Coast | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

Those doubts were dispelled in the space of a few days of furious bidding in early January. The aggregate of the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale soared to $213 million, some 13 per cent up on the record set in 2020 and put down a marker for the rest of the year.

At every stop since new records have been created, with markets across Australia, regardless of which sales company was operating them, showing amazing growth.

Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale$142,943,000623$229,443
Magic Millions National Weanling Sale$31,806,000311$102,270
Magic Millions Gold Coast March Yearling$14,524,500327$44,417
Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale$15,152,500318$47,649
Magic Millions Tasmanian Yearling Sale$3,452,00098$35,224
Magic Millions Perth Yearling Sale$14,014,500256$54,744
Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale$213,056,5001029$207,052
Magic Millions National Yearling Sale$16,164,250355$45,533
Inglis Gold Sale$4,970,250261$19,043
Inglis HTBA May Sale$5,427,250276$19,664
Inglis Australian Broodmare Sale$11,174,600178$62,779
Inglis Chairman's Sale$28,235,00053$532,736
Inglis Australian Weanling Sale$8,771,000206$42,578
Inglis Easter Yearling Sale$134,665,000365$368,945
Inglis Premier Yearling Sale$72,040,500633$113,808
Inglis Classic Yearling Sale$58,443,500648$90,191

Stats from every public auction in Australia - 2021

Yearlings in huge demand

To this point, there has been $552 million spent on yearlings at public auction in Australia in 2021, a jump of 29 per cent on 2020 levels and well above anything achieved prior to that.

In a definitive show of faith in the public auction process, there have been 4566 yearlings sold through the ring this year, the highest mark in at least a decade.

Quantity has not come at the expense of quality according to the market, with those yearlings sold at an average price of $120,874, an increase of 11.9 per cent on 2020 and a new high-water mark. The average price of a yearling through public auction in Australia has doubled since 2012.

While several of the smaller sales achieved remarkable year-on-year growth, it was the major yearling sales where the significant volume of investment came from.

Lot 45 - Snitzel x Rising Romance (NZ) colt purchased by Hawkes Racing for $2.5 million at the 2021 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale

Compared to 2019, which was the last pre-COVID sales season, there has been an additional $91 million invested in the yearling market in 2021. Around $32 million that additional investment was generated from the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, while an additional $20.5 million came from the Inglis Premier Yearling Sale, $11.3 million from the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, and $9.2 million from the Inglis Classic Yearling Sale.

The top end was particularly strong with 36 $1 million-plus yearlings selling across all sales, highlighted by the $2.5 million Hawkes Racing paid for a Snitzel colt from Arrowfield Stud at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, which had 23 lots in the seven-figure price range.


Average price of a yearling in Australia through public auction

Mares and fillies drive amazing growth

Yearling sales are by far the biggest driver of investment in the Australian market, with 71.23 per cent of money spent in 2021 in that category, however the growth of the breeding sales market has arguably been a much bigger story this year.

The overall aggregate spend through broodmare auctions in 2021 reached $182 million in 2021, double the amount of 2020 and 22 per cent up on what was spent in 2019. That number wasn't powered by a significant jump in supply, with overall mares/fillies sold through the broodmare sales up modestly from 727 to 854 year-on-year.

The premium broodmare sales were where much of that growth was derived from, with the Inglis Chairman's Sale grossing $28.2 million at an average of $532,735, while a simply astonishing Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale grossed $143 million and an average of $229,443.

The opening day of the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale was nothing short of extraordinary with 18 million-dollar lots passing through the ring, including 11 in the 37-lot Shadwell Dispersal. Experienced industry figures were left shaking their heads in disbelief as the average reached $328,038 in that session.

The Inglis Chairman's Sale was held in a similarly electric atmosphere with seven million-dollar lots on a memorable night at the Riverside Stables.

A measure of where the broodmare market is at is that average price for a broodmare at public auction in Australia in 2021 is $213,527, up from $126,102 last year.

This surge was powered by a couple of key factors, one of which as the investment of those who were buying not just for commercial breeding purposes. Several major spenders indicated that they were securing top-end broodmares as a means to sourcing quality progeny from them to race in light of the expense of the yearling market.

Foals in the spotlight

A similar story was told in the weanling market, which also exploded with a jump in overall investment from $15.9 million last year to $40.6 million in 2021. The average price jumped from $37,125 to $78,485, with the Magic Millions National Weanling Sale driving much of that growth.

It grossed $31.8 million - a three-fold increase on last year's COVID-impacted market - across 311 sales, an overall average of $102,270. As a measure of comparison, the 2019 National Weanling Sale averaged $59,559, while in a decade ago, it averaged just $20,960.

The Sale featured just the second $1 million weanling ever sold in Australia, and the buyer of that I Am Invincible colt provided a great example of the changing nature of the weanling market.

Prominent trainer Ciaron Maher was the one signing off on the colt from Gilgai Farm, as 'end users', those who buy for racing and or breeding rather than for pinhooking, came to the fore. The difficulty of sourcing from the yearling market has driven many trainers to the foal market, sparking an explosion of competition in an area where demand was far in excess of supply.

2020 & 2021$1,308,849,89811092$117,999
2019 & 2020$1,166,997,60811190$104,289
2018 & 2019$1,264,488,11012166$103,936
2017 & 2018$1,213,557,05011981$101,290
2016 & 2017$1,084,171,00011625$93,262

Rolling two-year statistics of public auction results

Adding up the numbers

Across all categories, yearling, broodmares and weanlings, there have been 5937 horses sold through the physical Australian sales ring in 2021, with only the delayed Inglis Great Southern Sale to come (for the purposes of this article, all historical stats have not included that Sale).

Statistically, that is well up on 2020, where there were just 5101 horses sold, but down on what was offered in 2019 (6035) and 2018 (6101).

Part of this could be attributed to the growth in digital auctions, which have now become a setting for the quick dispersal of yearlings, mares and weanlings.

The overall spend of $774,840,350 at public auction in 2021 is quite mind-boggling when you consider it is a 45.1 per cent jump on last year and a 22.4 per cent jump on the previous record of $633 million in 2019. The total spent on thoroughbreds in the public auction environment in Australia has doubled from $380 million in 2014, a seven-year gap.


Total spent on thoroughbreds at public auction

Where to from now?

There is statistical evidence to suggest that the surge in investment in 2021 has been partially driven by the money not spent in what was a COVID-disrupted and very uncertain 2020 market.

One way of looking at this is to examine the total investment over a rolling two-year period, allowing a better way to chart trend and account for year-on-year dips and surges.

Combined across 2020 and 2021 yearling, broodmare and weanling sales, there was $1.31 billion spent, while the previous two-year aggregate (2019 and 2020) was $1.17 billion, while in 2018 and 2019, the total was $1.26 billion, and across in 2017 and 2018, $1.084 billion.

The Arrowfield Stud team with the last Redoute's Choice yearling to go through the ring | Image courtesy of Michael McInally

This paints a much more gradual picture of growth across the past four years, and not the sudden spike in 2021, which was exacerbated by the COVID-impacted downturn of 2020.

What that would indicate is that while the overall pattern of growth in the market is still very positive, it may be very difficult for the market to sustain the record levels it has set moving forward.

It is also likely that there will be a greater supply from vendors in 2022, particularly in the weanling and broodmare aspects of the market, which saw demand extremely strong, powering the amazing growth outlined above.

However, you would underestimate the bullishness of the bloodstock market at your own peril, with levels of confidence in the broader racing industry higher than they have ever been on the back of record wagering and record prizemoney.

The current market has already led to a particularly bullish approach to service fees for stallions this season, something which indicates the belief that prices will only continue to rise going forward.

Note: The above data is sourced from Arion. It includes all lots sold across all books of the following sales. It has been collated for research purposes only.

Magic Millions: National Broodmare Sale, National Weanling Sale, Gold Coast March Yearling, Adelaide Yearling Sale, Tasmanian Yearling Sale, Perth Yearling Sale, Gold Coast National Yearling Sale

Inglis: Melbourne Gold Sale, HTBA May (Scone) Sale, Australian Broodmare Sale, Chairman's Sale, Australian Weanling Sale, Easter Yearling Sale, Premier Yearling Sale, Classic Yearling Sale.

Does not include Inglis Great Southern Sale and does not include Inglis Digital or Magic Millions Online Sales

Does not include New Zealand Bloodstock Sales

Magic Millions
Arrowfield Stud
Team Hawkes
Gilgai Farm
Ciaron Maher