EMPERORS PALACE NATIONAL YEARLING SALE
TBA Sales Complex, Gosforth Park, South Africa
27 - 28 April 2014
Bloodstock South Africa hosted the opening session of its annual Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale in Johannesburg, South Africa on the weekend. While the day did not produce too many displays of fireworks, at the end of the day figures showed across-the-board increases.
“We’re up on turnover, which we’re happy with”, said Tom Callaghan, Chief Executive Officer of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association. The median price is what I’m really chuffed with. To have a double-digit median growth is very good for any sale.” While he was pleased with the figures, Callaghan admitted the sale was difficult for some parties. “Some of the smaller vendors struggled, and some of the new season stallions - it was challenging for them. Some new stallions, like Visionaire, did really well, though”.
It took some time for the sales ring to heat up yesterday, but that changed dramatically when Lot 38, a plain bay by Silvano, strolled into the pavilion. The bidding on the fullbrother to last year’s G1 J&B Met winner Martial Eagle opened at R200,000, with a flurry of action to the right of the auctioneers stand and out back catapulting the price into seven-figures. The action remained in those two places throughout, with Hong Kong trainer Tony Millard in the back ring eventually outlasting a handful of late bidders, including Jehan Malherbe of Form Bloodstock, for R3.75 million.
South Africa has become an increasingly popular shopping ground for Hong Kong buyers in recent years, and Millard said that his new purchase would be tested locally before being sent East. “We haven’t decided on [a trainer in South Africa], but we’ll send him to a trainer here and make that decision at a later stage,” noted Millard, who signed the ticket as Park Bloodstock. Of the Wilgerbosdrift Stud-consigned daughter of the mare, Seeking the Wind, Millard said: “He’s a lovely individual, a lovely balanced horse and he had the right credentials. He’s the brother to a Group 1 winner. He’s a Classic-type horse and that’s what my owners are looking for”. Millard, a native of South Africa, was a multiple champion trainer in that country, and handled the likes of Empress Club, Jet Master and Surfing Home. He trained in South Africa for nine years, saddling 39 Grade 1 winners, before relocating to Hong Kong. He has made a similarly positive impact there, most notably with two-time Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon. The transaction occurred just hours after sales goers crammed the pavilion’s bar area to watch the South Africa-bred Vercingetorix finish third in Hong Kong’s G1 QEII Cup. Silvano, a Champion Sire in both South Africa and Germany, stands at Andreas Jacobs’ Maine Chance Farms.
With Champion Sire Western Winter meeting an untimely death last year, it was inevitable that his final crop would create a splash in the sales ring, and that certainly proved the case yesterday, as he was responsible for four seven-figure youngsters. With Lot 38 giving the sale some momentum, it only took a few moments for another seven-figure price to register.
That occurred when Lot 44, a daughter of Western Winter out of the multiple graded winner and Grade 1-placed She’s On Fire, brought a final nod of R2 million from Wayne Kieswetter, a partner in the BenRiach Whiskey distillery who is a recent new investor in racing. Kieswetter signed the ticket as Ridgemont, the name of the stud farm he is developing with the help of Managing Director Craig Carey. Carey noted that Ridgemont currently owns 25 racehorses and seven broodmares. The team has been busy buying yearlings at the Cape Premier Yearling Sale, Inglis Easter and the Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale already this year, with the Australian youngsters en route to South Africa to begin their racing careers. Carey noted that Kieswetter’s goal is to buy mostly fillies to retain as broodmares.
Kieswetter and Carey struck for another well-bred filly late in the session when going to R1.4 million for Lot 230, a striking daughter of Visionaire from the draft of Summerhill Stud, who is a half to the Group 1-placed No Worries. Lot 44 was bred by Team Valor International, and Barry Irwin, that organization’s Chief Executive Officer, who was on hand for the sale, was pleased with the result.
Despite missing out on a pair of Team Valor-breds, Irwin did have success as a buyer on the opening day, purchasing five for a total of R1.8 million. That draft was headed by Lot 17, a R600,000 colt from the first crop of GI Kings’ Bishop Stakes winner Visionaire, who raced in the silks of Team Valor International, was retained by that operation upon the conclusion of his racing career and sent to South Africa’s premier breeding establishment, Summerhill. His first crop progeny were very well received, with all 11 through the ring selling, headed by Ridgemont’s purchase of the R1.4 million filly.
One of the sentimental attractions of a visit to the nation’s top stud, Summerhill, is the sight of the sprinting phenomenon of his era, Senor Santa, who at the age of 30 (a hundred plus in human years) still receives fan mail and flowers on his birthday. He is a son of their legendary stallion, Northern Guest, and was bred by the Freeman family’s Boland Stud in Ceres. “It’s a beautiful part of the country, surrounded by mountains” explained Boland’s third generation proprietor, Eugene Freeman, who’d sold a Var colt for R1.1million, shortly after Summerhill had disposed of a Var filly (Lot 140) for R1.4million to former BP honcho, Dr. Jim Hay.
“Var’s been a terrific sire, Freeman noted. “He’s done very well and he had Variety Club in Dubai, which I think helped with the Var colt. He was bought by Michael Azzie for Adrian Van Vuuren, who is a top owner here. He’s a lovely guy, he really loves his horses.” Freeman was doubly satisfied with the sale of his Captain Al filly, considering he is also a shareholder in the stallion. “Captain Al makes a good story, because we bought his shares for R12,000, and that’s probably been the best return on any stallion we’ve ever had,” he noted.
Kelsey Riley, Thoroughbred Daily News