The Magic Millions Sale on Australia’s glittering Gold Coast came of age this year. Supported by a stronger catalogue, a dedicated international buying bench, plus local optimism courtesy of buoyant property and stock market prices, the sale average for the Premier Session (Days 1-4) leaped 30 per cent from 2006 levels to a new high of A$182,191 (R 1,030,922). Overall more than A$108 million (R611,241,439) was traded, up some 35 per cent on last year’s figure.

Magic Millions Managing Director David Chester said “The first four sessions of the sale have been a resounding success. To increase the sale average 30 percent from last year’s record figures is terrific. We were confident the catalogue was the best ever assembled, and obviously buyers agreed with us.”

Local Sydney trainer Gai Waterhouse was the biggest spender outlaying A$7.55m (R42,730,304) for 26 yearlings, including the sales record price of AUD$2m (R11.308m) for a son of Sadlers Wells out of the Grade 1 Oaks winner Sunday Joy.

Charles Laird, buying for major stable client Markus Jooste, was the second highest buyer at the sale, and was the leading international buyer. He outlaid A$6.485 (R36.65m) for 18 yearlings including 7 fillies and 11 colts. His highest purchase was the A$775,000 (R4.38m) paid for the beautifully bred daughter of Encosta de Lago out of the multiple Grade 1 winning Danehill mare Merlene.

The considerable marketing efforts of Magic Millions, plus the glamour injected into the January sale courtesy of the combined efforts of the Sales company itself, the Gold Coast Council, and Queensland Tourism can rightly be credited with attracting a large proportion of interest in the sale from both the media and the buyers who have attended the 2 week extravaganza.

Summerhill’s Mick Goss accredits much of the sales success to AUSHORSE, a national body consisting of major commercial breeders that oversee an International Inwards Buyers Scheme.

“John Messara has assembled a remarkable team for Aushorse,” Goss says. “They do a greater job than any other agency I know in promoting an Industry and it is a revelation to see them at work. There is no doubt that the huge international buying bench is substantially attributable to the work of these people and now that they have representatives in most of the major racing regions they have leapfrogged the rest of the world. As a result competition for horses at this sale has been extremely tough.”

Whilst Laird’s spending spree certainly kept him the media spotlight during his Australian visit, he was not alone in attracting the auctioneers’ attention. A number of other yearlings were knocked down to South African bids with Basil Marcus, Dennis Drier, Andy Williams, Chris Snaith, Dave Goss, Cyril Naidoo, Paul du Preez, Ian Van Schalkwyk, Mick Goss, and Rob Knuppe all active.

Laird considers his bloodstock investments as benefiting South Africa in the longer term. He stated “All horses bought will hopefully end up at Klawervlei for commercial selling through all South African sales. The commitment to South African Bloodstock is unquestionable to improve our industry’s pedigrees. At this level of financial investment we believe it is an investment in South Africa.”

In all, close to 50 Australian yearlings from this sale will be imported to South Africa in coming months. As a group they represent some of the finest thoroughbred bloodlines in the world. A number are half or own relations to stakes winners, or sons/daughters of Graded stakes winners or Champions of their respective year, or have South African connections.

It wasn’t only South Africans who were keen on the international pedigrees on offer in Australia during the week. Buyers from Hong Kong, Japan, the UAE, France, Ireland, the UK, New Zealand and North America all purchased yearlings, with additional buyers from South Africa, New Zealand, Macau, Malayasia and Korea expected to be active on Days 5, 6 and 7. In the 4 days of the Premier Sale alone, international buyers spent more than A$23m (R130m) for 114 yearlings, their 2007 spend almost 26% higher than the entire sale last year.

“The importance of an international buying bench in this country cannot be underestimated,” stressed Chester. “Australia is a small country with a relatively small population. The best stallions in the world travel to Australia or are born and raised here and our local breeders support these stallions with their broodmare bands. Without the international interest in our horses however we would not be in a position to effectively market the quality of the product that we are producing, and ultimately the market would be much weaker.”

The Sale continues until the 19 January.

Katrina Partridge is Business Development Manager for Summerhill Stud. She is also the AUSHORSE representative for South Africa