It is not unusual for Gai Waterhouse to ‘headline’ at the Australian Easter Yearling Sale.
The Hall of Fame trainer is a force of nature at the Inglis Newmarket complex and this year it was business as usual with purchases of $2.3 million for the half brother to superstar Winx and full brother to her unbeaten 2YO, El Divino; $1.8 million for a Redoute’s Choice and; $1.2 million for a Fastnet Rock made in conjunction with bloodstock consultant Julian Blaxland.
However, it could well be a seemingly insignificant purchase by USA based, Eclipse Thoroughbreds, which potentially has the most lasting impact from Easter ’16.
Eclipse president, Aron Wellman, made his initial foray into the Australian market by purchasing a filly by Pierro for $200,000 on day two of the sale.
Famed for introducing North American investment to the Australian market in the early 1990s via billionaire, John Kluge, Waterhouse met Wellman at Saratoga last year and suggested he pay a visit to Easter.
“Gai reached out prior to her trip to the US last year,” Wellman told Thoroughbred Daily News at Newmarket. “She’s really intrigued by bringing a partnership company from the States to Australia, and possibly exploring the opportunity of getting us involved down here with the idea of developing horses to import to the United States.”
Wellman had intended his first visit down under to be ‘exploratory’ but “Gai is a very enterprising woman” and the Pierro filly was clearly too tempting to pass up.
Pierro was trained by Waterhouse to 2YO Triple Crown success and now stands at Coolmore Stud in the Hunter Valley.
“I wanted to get the lay of the land, get to know Gai better, go training with her at Randwick and see her operation and, of course, inspect the yearlings and get the feel for the types of horses that work in Australia and the pedigrees,” Wellman added. “Being able to have all-access to Gai and her team has been an incredibly eye-opening experience.”
Wellman also enthused about the quality of the Australian yearlings: “The athletes here are exceptional … from a physical perspective, they’re really nice yearlings, lot in and lot out. There were very few I looked at through the course of the week who were automatic dismissals.
“They are by-and-large really well put-together animals and fantastic, loose walkers and the pedigrees matched the physicals.
“I found it really interesting that 67% of the group one winners last year in Australia were sold at auction: breeders are bringing their best-bred stock and their best physicals to market.
“Unfortunately, we see less of that in the States at the moment.”
The potential for a quick return wasn’t lost on Wellman either: “With the prizemoney in Australia it doesn’t take much to recoup your investment down here, just on the racing side of the equation.”
Asked about the plans for his Pierro filly, Wellman mused: “We really haven’t fleshed out the details of how we’re going to structure our partnerships in Australia, but our initial idea is to expose our American partners to the Australian product … we’re hoping our US-based partners are intrigued enough by this filly to participate in her and join the partnership, and hopefully in a year’s time they’ll be happy to come down here to see it first-hand.
“It’s a long way to come, but speaking personally I feel at home here, so I have every confidence our partners will relish the Australian racing experience.”
That’s all music to the ears of Inglis Managing Director, Mark Webster, who said international investment at Easter ’16 was again significant and is testimony to the quality of Australian-bred yearlings: “All up, we had buyers from 10 different countries with South African clients accounting for 10% of the gross, Hong Kong purchasing 32 yearlings, and, of course, Shadwell and Sheikh Khalifa making a huge impact.
“We also welcome Eclipse Thoroughbreds and hope the Pierro filly opens the door for a lot more of Aron’s compatriots.”