United We Stand – Easter 2020

A yearling at the Inglis Riverside complex (TDN Aus NZ)


After weeks of uncertainty, Inglis made the decision last Thursday to conduct Round 1 of its flagship – the 2020 Australian Easter Yearling Sale – as an online auction, with bidding commencing on Sunday before each lot is offered sequentially from 10am on Tuesday.

Normally by this time, Inglis’s Riverside sales complex would be the hive of activity, with horses and staff heading off in all directions, while prospective buyers work their way through 500 plus inspections.

Not so at the moment however with the vast expanses of Riverside housing solely the 5-strong Edinburgh Park team as of Monday morning.

“Edinburgh Park has been bringing horses to Easter since 2003 and it’s usually non-stop. I’m beginning to understand how Steven Bradbury felt – the last man standing,” Edinburgh Park’s Ian Smith says with a laugh. “Look, it is what it is … Inglis has done its very best under the circumstances and we’re taking an optimistic approach.

“We are based on the NSW north coast so it was important we put ourselves in a position where we would get the most traffic ‘inspection wise’.

“We’ve had four to five inspections every day since with quite a few Sydney trainers and agents coming to the complex. There’s often a bit of a wait between inspections but we’re keeping ourselves occupied. The staff are on their toes and everyone’s fairly upbeat.

“We’ll be here at Riverside until the completion of the digital sale.”

Smith, whose farm’s recent graduates include this month’s Group Two winner Rubisaki and outstanding 2YO colt, Glenfiddich, is equal parts hopeful and realistic as to the sale’s outcome.  

“We have everything in place. There are professionally produced videos for each of the yearlings online, farm graduates are going terrific, this draft is as good as we’ve ever brought to a sale and we’re prepared to meet the market.

“Bottom line is, I’m as confident about the sale as I can be – the quality is here and, let’s face it, there are still Group One 2YO races to be won next year.”

Riversdale Stud’s Nick Hodges – who is also consigning five to Easter – is likewise taking the ‘glass half full’ attitude. 

“We’re all a pretty resilient bunch and if something can go wrong in the breeding and selling of horses, you can almost guarantee it will happen to you at some stage,” Hodges reckons. “We’ve never faced anything like this (coronavirus) before, but I’m confident we’ll come out the other end.”

While some suggest that the sale should be cancelled or postponed, Hodges is quick to dispel suggestions that all the vendors at Easter – Australia’s most famous and highest averaging sale – can afford to take a ‘hit’.

“The five we have for this year really epitomise the quality that is available at Easter,” Hodges explains. “Four of the five will be offered on behalf of clients, but the Star Witness colt is owned by (wife) Jasmine and I and, for us and clients, it will mean the difference as to the affordability of paying service fees this year, which clearly creates a knock on effect. We’re not the only farm in this boat and for all of us, so much hinges on Easter and, therefore, it’s something of an imperative that it proceeds.”

A family-run operation for 40 years, Riversdale is situated just two minutes north of Scone and has been the hub of activity throughout the past couple of weeks.

“We had around 20 inspections last week and a couple again on Sunday morning,” Hodges reveals. “There’s a number of agents and trainers who have inspections with us lined up for this week, but given that the situation surrounding coronavirus is so fluid, I’m hoping that inspectors will get here as early in the week as possible.

“Riversdale is fortunate in that we’re in something of a circuit … we’re close by to Cressfield (8 lots), Willow Park (7), Bhima (18), Ashleigh (3) and Middlebrook (6) so they can get through quite a lot of inspections in a relatively short time.”

Hodges is most buoyed though by the spirit of co-operation among other farms.

“Obviously we’re all competing but I’ve had a number of agents tell me they were at some of the bigger farms and they were told by the stud managers, ‘oh, you should go and have a look at the Riversdale draft … some nice horses’,” Hodges adds. “In a time when a lot of the news focuses on people fighting over toilet paper, it’s wonderful to see that farms are working in so well together. The industry takes some hard knocks, but the fundamentals are always sound and we’ll pull through this.”

Inglis’ General Manager for Bloodstock Sales & Marketing, Sebastian Hutch, is the first to admit these are “unique circumstances”.

“Everyone realises that there is huge amount of time, effort and money expended into getting yearlings to Easter,” Hutch stresses. “These certainly aren’t the circumstances that we envisaged when we started planning for Easter 2020 many months ago, but we are in a fortunate position that we can actually facilitate a sale. We all need to work hand in hand to ensure a positive outcome.

“Truthfully, in many ways we are a lot better placed than many of our overseas counterparts, who are not in a position to conduct a digital auction. Inglis conducts online auctions twice monthly with thousands of participants and have had horses sell up to $400,000 online.

“This (Easter) is quite obviously so much more different, but we have some brilliant tech guys working on it and more information will be filtered out over the next few days to educate people through the process.

“I would encourage any prospective buyer who wishes to talk through the process to contact a member of our team who will only be too happy to help.

“Ironically, this may well create many other opportunities, with the videos created by many vendors making it easier for people to appraise stock from afar, which in turn might tempt more people into the market.”

HOOFNOTE: Again in the spirit of co-operation, a number of Hunter Valley farms – along with the Inglis facility at Riverside – are ‘accommodating’ other drafts to ease the burden of distance for prospective buyers. The following is a list of locations where drafts are currently situated:

Burke Bloodstock – Available for inspection at Dalama, Scone

Edinburgh Park – Available for inspection at Inglis Riverside

Highgrove – Available for inspection at Newgate Farm

KBL Thoroughbreds – Available for inspection at Valiant, Scone

Mill Park – Available for inspection at Sledmere

Tartan Fields – Available for inspection at Vinery

Ampulla – Available for inspection at Two Bays, VIC

Three Bridges – Available for inspection at Two Bays, VIC

For further information on draft ‘movements’ throughout the week, check out updates on the Inglis website: www.inglis.com.au

The Power of Passion