Colette wins the Australian Oaks at Royal Randwick (Steve Hart Photographics)
Given the circumstances, it could be argued that the seven days between Day 1 and Day 2 of ‘The Championships’ was the most remarkable week in the history of Australia’s thoroughbred industry.
It was only 12 months ago that our racing and breeding was in such rude health, no pun intended, that people lined the fence at Royal Randwick – 10, 20, 30 deep – to catch a glimpse of Winx before her final race start in the 2019 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Meanwhile, just four days earlier a colt had sold for $2.8 million in the first session of the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale before the auction wrapped up on the Wednesday evening with an aggregate of $123 million.
There was no Winx, nor $2.8 million colts this year, but the resilience shown by the industry in the age of coronavirus will surely be remembered for many decades to come.
Less than a month ago, it appeared that racing would be shut down, while conduct of the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale appeared to be on the shakiest ground.
However, despite the absence of a live audience, surreal in itself, the two days of The Championships and the Easter Sale not only survived, but in many ways thrived.
On Day 1 at Royal Randwick, The Championships featured four Group One races: the Inglis Sires’ won by King’s Legacy, Australian Derby (Quick Thinker), TJ Smith (Nature Strip) and Doncaster Mile (Nettoyer).
In what would prove to be a timely advertisement for the coming sale, Quick Thinker had been sold at Easter ’18 for $100,000 and, courtesy of the Derby, has won over a million, while Nature Strip is rightfully regarded the best sprinter in the world after capturing the TJ Smith. A $90,000 pass in at the Inglis Melbourne Premier, Nature Strip has over $5.1 million in the bank.
But it was perhaps the disparity of the first and last of Day 1’s main features that best illustrate the wonderful disparity of our industry: King’s Legacy, a $1.4 million colt from the Gold Coast Magic Millions, has again given much weight to the incredible value to be had purchasing high quality colts in Australia.
Following his Group One success at two in the Sires’, the well-related King’s Legacy is now assured a commercial career at stud when his racing career is finished.
(It’s worth keeping in mind that Russian Revolution – who just a few short years earlier had been sold for $320,000 – won $1.3 million and covered over 400 mares in his first two seasons at stud at a fee of $55,000).
Yet, on the flip side of King’s Legacy, you have the pizza lovin’, beer guzzlin’ mare, Nettoyer, a $20,000 Easter purchase who won the $1.5 million Doncaster Mile for the relatively unheralded Warwick Farm trainer, Wendy Roche.
Now roll forward to Tuesday and the Easter Yearling Sale, which is akin to visiting Mecca for as long as any industry people can remember, including 89 year old Hall of Fame trainer, Neville Begg, who successfully bid online to secure a filly for $250,000 in the first session.
Just days, not weeks, beforehand, Easter was in jeopardy due to the government’s ‘lockdown’ restrictions so a decision was made to conduct a virtual online auction: with the entire Inglis team scrambling to ‘make it so’.
Despite many encouraging reports from prospective buyers that it was “one of the best catalogues ever” (Gai Waterhouse) and the “longest shortlist all year” (Craig Rounsfell) no-one was deluded enough to believe the sale would match 2019 highs … more a matter of just how hard it would be hit.
Yet, on day one of the sale three yearlings reached seven figures, while on Wednesday, a further four attained the magic mark.
Ultimately, the sale would average $309,980 with a median of $250,000 (down just $10,000 on last year) and aggregate close to $71 million … figures that simply wouldn’t have been dreamed of on sale eve.
Industry leader, Segenhoe Stud – for instance – sold all 16 yearlings offered for $6.8 million at an average of $427,375. A truly remarkable result.
What’s more, The Championships would finish with typical flair as highlights of the day included Irish visitor, Addeybb, winning the Queen Elizabeth, Etah James raising the flag in the Group One Sydney Cup and Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott’s Con Te Partiro lifting the Group One Coolmore Legacy Stakes.
Other stand outs were the $400,000 Provincial Championships Final victory by $7,500 yearling purchase, Through The Cracks, the Group Two Percy Sykes heroics of iron horse, Away Game and the go-to-whoa performance from evergreen grey, White Moss, in the Group Two Sapphire.
From a local standpoint though, the Group One Australian Oaks success of Colette augurs well for the depth of filly talent in this country.
And, coupled with Quick Thinker’s Derby success seven days earlier, it underscores Australia’s ability to produce middle distance/staying types. Indeed, of the last 21 ‘Classic’ Group Ones staged nationally – Derbies and Oaks – 18 have been won by Australian-breds.
Like we said, a week like no other. And while there’s still a way to go before we can put the coronavirus behind us, we defer to the wise person who once said … it’s not that you get knocked down, it’s the fact you keep getting up.