Somewhere, sometime, our boat had to come in. There is little more satisfying for a collector of racehorses, than getting a 'lift' in the days following a sale. It was easy, sitting around the sales ring in Melbourne last week, to feel a bit depressed, knowing that with only Rands to spend, we were competing with currencies from all over the world in a sale that posted new highs in every sphere.
That said, whatever you read in the way of newspapers in Australia at the moment, there is a sense of foreboding about the state of the economy, and the fact that Australians appear to have spent themselves into a hole. A year ago, the national airline, Qantas, faced extinction, and the motor manufacturing industry was already extinct. With the exception of the resources sector, the other three pillars of the economy, agriculture, tourism and manufacturing, were all under pressure with the dollar in rampant mode, yet nobody in the racing world was paying much attention. The boom in metals and minerals is all but over now, and while there has been some relief in the retreat of the currency, Australia remains an expensive country to visit by any standards.
There is a spirit though, about the Aussies in the horse game like nowhere else, and it will take more than an ailing economy to shut them down at sales. You see it in their cricket team, you see it in their on-course attendances, you see it in the queues at the TAB, in the clusters around bookmakers' stands, and you hear it in the twilight at clubs and pubs of the nation. For those of us trying to get our pennies' worth from a horse, the list gets longer and the discipline gets tighter, essential tools considering that in the days when we bought Igugu, the average was $42,000, and the exchange rate was between 5 and 6 to the dollar; today the average is closer to $100,000 and the rate at which we change our money is closer to 10.
Those things considered, I think we did pretty well, particularly in the aftermath. We struck early for a classic-looking son of the much-missed High Chaparral on the first day, and the ink was hardly dry on the vendor's slip when Contributor, a son of the same sire, trotted up in the Chipping Norton Stakes (Gr.1) at Warwick Farm; on the same day, Autumn Season rattled home at Caulfield in the Autumn Stakes (Gr.2), reminding us all of the vicissitudes of losing a major stallion ahead of his time. The 'lift' for our team didn't stop there though: we knew when we bought him, that his mother was a sister to a promising two-year-old by the name of Vancouver, due to line up for his final Golden Slipper trial the following Saturday in the Todman Stakes (Gr.2) at Royal Randwick. The Todman is a Group 1 in everything but name, boasting a list of former Slipper winners as long as your arm, and this year was no exception. In the event, Vancouver needed no reminding of the significance of his mission, laying waste to two of the 'Slipper's' ante post favourites by 3.5 growing lengths in the process. Tommy Berry, who has the ride a fortnight from now and champion trainer, Gai Waterhouse could not have been more effusive in their praise, labelling Vancouver not only a Slipper ace in waiting, but a Triple Crown hero to boot.
We waited more than two days before signing again, and we did so twice within a matter of minutes. Exceed And Excel is a stallion celebrated the world over, no better illustrated than in his home country, where he's topped both the national sires and the juvenile sires logs on several occasions. This year, he has no fewer than five live aspirants for a share of the spoils in the world's richest two-year-old race, so any time you claim the purchase of one of his daughters, you're bringing home something out of the ordinary: if the Slipper falls to a filly by Exceed And Excel, it won't be the first time.
Our real luck came with our final bid for a daughter of More Than Ready, sire in South Africa of Variety Club's nemesis, Gimmethegreenlight, as well as the Summerhill resident stallion, Traffic Guard. More Than Ready is remembered as one of only two stallions in history to have taken out juvenile sires' premierships in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, so there were no gold stars for those who tipped Entisaar to roll home first time in the Ruffian Stakes at Turffontein on Saturday. The $300,000 purchase at last year's Australian Easter Yearling Sale by Shadwell, wasn't lonely in her endeavours on her father's behalf however: in recording his 139th stakes winner (remember the days when 100 stakes winners was a milestone of note!), the Vinery-based shuttler was popping the corks on this fourth two-year-old Stakes winner in ten days, following the victories of Always Allison, Ready For Victory and Haybah in Australia.