Vendors upbeat in countdown to weanling sale

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  • June 19, 2023
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With the welcome return of New Zealand Bloodstock’s popular winter mixed sale format, along with the prospect of a rejuvenated New Zealand racing industry on the back of the TAB’s deal with global wagering giant Entain, weanling vendors are in a positive frame of mind leading into Friday’s National Weanling & Broodmare Sale at Karaka.

The one-day sale will be the first physical sale of its kind at Karaka in four years. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 sale, replaced by a digital weanling sale on Gavelhouse Plus, and standalone weanling sales have been staged at Karaka in 2021 and 2022.

But the tried-and-true mixed winter format returns in 2023 with a 253-lot catalogue made up of 183 weanlings and 70 broodmares.

“All going well, I think this is going to be a very good sale,” Curraghmore owner and manager Gordon Cunningham said.

“We brought our horses up to Karaka on Tuesday. We had a good number of people arrive for parades in the last fortnight, which was encouraging.

“This sale has a history of producing high-class horses. The results have shown that you can come to this sale and acquire a good-quality racehorse – with the added bonus that they’re Karaka Million-eligible also. So hopefully there’ll be a broader focus on the buying bench, rather than just pinhookers.

“There’s so much positivity in our industry going forward, with the TAB’s Entain deal, combined with the prospect of Ellerslie reopening in the new year. I think there’s a lot to be optimistic about.”

Karaka’s weanling sales have traditionally been a key part of the Curraghmore operation. The respected Te Awamutu nursery has been leading vendor at this sale on more than a dozen occasions, and their weanling graduates include Group One winner Sousa, Group Three winner Kinane and a long line of other black-type performers.

“The weanling sale has been a significant part of our business over the years, and it’s always a good means of creating cashflow for our clients,” Cunningham said. “We’ve probably offered smaller weanling drafts in more recent years, but we still like to offer a selection of quality horses at this sale.”

Curraghmore is consigning six weanlings for the 2023 edition of the sale on Friday. There are four colts and two fillies by Sweynesse, Time Test, Contributer (two), Ocean Park and Churchill.

“It’s a smaller draft this year, just six horses, but I’d describe it as a very good, genuine draft,” Cunningham said. “I’d have hopes that there’ll be some good racehorses among them.

“We’ve got a three-quarter-sister to the Group One winner Lion’s Roar (Lot 114), and there’s a colt there by Sweynesse out of a Group Three-placed Per Incanto mare (Lot 15).

“There’s a Contributer colt from that great Hallmark Stud family of Katie Lee, Banchee and Gee I Jane (Lot 158). He looks like a nice prospect to me.

“I’m very happy to be offering such a nice bunch of horses at the sale this year.”

Fellow Irish expat Nick King has also put together a proud record of weanling-sale success under his Brighthill Farm banner.

Numerous black-type performers have come out of Brighthill’s weanling drafts over the years, including this season’s Gr.3 Stewards’ Stakes (1200m) winner Buoyant and Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) runner-up Butler.

“It’s been a good sale to us over the years,” King said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a number of great clients that have consistently given us quality horses to sell at this particular sale.

“A lot of them have been people with similar European backgrounds to us, so they’ve grown up seeing these sorts of foal sales as a viable commercial opportunity.

“So that level of support has ensured that we’ve taken some fantastic drafts to this sale over the years, and we’ve sold a number of high-quality horses. Hopefully this year will be no different.

“I know it’s what everybody says leading into a sale, but we are particularly pleased with our draft, and we believe we’re offering horses that will be very well suited to the market.

“Leading into the sale, we’ve been really buoyed by the level of interest from a good cross-section of buyers. Some are looking for horses to pinhook as yearlings next year, but we’ve also had a number of end users who are wanting to buy good racehorse prospects.

“It’s been really encouraging, and I think that as long as you’re selling good-quality horses, you should be in good shape this week. It helps to have been selling good drafts over a number of years – people know the type of horses you’ll be bringing.

“We’re offering a lovely bunch of horses this year, and I think that anyone who’s drawn to them on paper will be very pleased with how they look physically as well.”

Brighthill’s 13 weanlings include progeny of a wide range of sires. There are proven performers such as Proisir, Per Incanto and Sweynesse, emerging stars like Satono Aladdin and Shalaa, and first-season sires Hello Youmzain and King Of Comedy.

Lot 27 is one of six Satono Aladdin weanlings in the catalogue. There is sure to be plenty of demand for his progeny, with none of his yearlings being available for sale this season because he missed a year of shuttling due to COVID-19 travel issues.

Rich Hill Stud’s rising star has quickly made his mark, siring this season’s Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) and New Zealand Oaks (2400m) heroine Pennyweka along with the brilliant Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) winner Tokyo Tycoon.

The Brighthill draft also received one of the biggest pedigree updates in the catalogue. Lot 12 is out of a half-sister to the dam of high-class three-year-old filly Ruthless Dame, who beat a strong field of older mares in last month’s Gr.1 Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m).

“Our draft is made up of a really mixed bunch of sires – good young ones, proven ones and first-season sires as well,” King said. “That’s the sort of thing this market is looking for.

“Ruthless Dame has been fantastic, and that’s a lovely pedigree update for our Tivaci colt. He comes from such a great family anyway, but to have fresh horses in it makes a big difference.”

Eva and Cam Heron’s Highline Thoroughbreds are relative newcomers, establishing their Cambridge property in May of 2019 and offering their first draft of weanlings at Karaka just last year. But that debut consignment was enthusiastically received by the buying bench.

All of their five weanlings sold for a total of $217,000, headed by a $150,000 price tag for a filly by Tarzino out of Nightingale Island – the third highest of last year’s sale.

“Last year was fantastic for us, and we’ve brought up a really nice draft of weanlings again for the sale this year,” Eva Heron said. “I can’t wait to see how they all go on Friday.”

Highline’s five weanlings in this year’s draft include two weanlings by the high-flying Proisir, who is set to be crowned New Zealand’s champion sire for the 2022-23 season.

Group One winners Legarto, Prowess, Levante, Dark Destroyer and Pier have underpinned a phenomenal season for Proisir, who is closing in on $4 million in earnings in New Zealand this season and whose service fee has soared from $17,500 to $70,000 for the upcoming spring.

“Proisir is an amazing stallion,” Heron said. “He’s achieved so much this season and still seems to be on the up and up. We’re delighted to have two very, very nice weanlings by Proisir in our draft and of course we have sold a top-liner by the sire in Legarto ($90,000 Karaka Book 2 Yearling Sale in 2021).

“We also have a lovely Vadamos from a quality international family (Lot 28). I really, really like him. And then the other two weanlings in our draft are two really nice ones by Embellish. So I’m really rapt with our draft right across the board.”

New Zealand Bloodstock’s weanling sales have been a proven source of racetrack success, unearthing the likes of Tokyo Tycoon and Group One winners Pignan, Callsign Mav, Jennifer Eccles and Gingernuts in recent years. All weanlings offered at the sale are eligible for the lucrative Karaka Million series.

There is also plenty of interest in the broodmare section of the catalogue, where 61 of the 70 mares are being offered in foal. A wide range of covering sires are represented, including the likes of Proisir, Satono Aladdin, Per Incanto, Tarzino, Ardrossan, Super Seth, and freshman sires Sword Of State and Noverre.

The National Weanling & Broodmare Sale gets underway at 10am on Friday.

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