Global Weekly Review: Record-breaking Millions Sale a sign of Aussie racing’s rude health

J A McGrath

A fifth A$1-million yearling sold in the ring, plus a brilliant sprinting display by Houtzen to land the 2yo Classic, were the highlights of a glittering Magic Millions raceday on Queensland's Gold Coast.

But, overall, as the fourth session of lots in Book 1 went under the hammer, the message sent worldwide was the current buoyant state of Australian racing.

Capacity fields of 16 declared for each of the nine money-laden Magic Millions races is an unmissable barometer that whatever the event organisers are doing, it is working, in quite spectacular style.

Henry Plumptre, the managing director of Godolphin in Australia, had nothing but praise for the concept that promotes and markets a horse sale around an annual race meeting, but he said originally there were many who questioned whether it would work.

"I was at the first Magic Millions Sale in 1986, and in those days, nobody thought it would last. They thought five years maybe, and a maximum of 10.

"But when Gerry Harvey and John Singleton took it over 15 years ago, they completely changed the whole thought process behind it.

"It's now a quality sale, so that horses (from the sale) are running in top class races, and that attracts a big international buying bench, which has been the backbone of the sale this week.

"I think Australian racing has shown it is in the top bracket, and the exciting thing is to look at the yearling sales results in this country.

"The clearance rate at sales is up around 85%, sometimes it's close to 90%. Also, look at the buyers list -  it's very diverse. There are a lot of big syndicators doing a good job. It is very well founded. It's solid," he pointed out.

In the past week, a total of 649 yearlings from Magic Millions Book 1 sold for A$134.3-million, at an average of A$206,922 per lot.

There were five yearlings bought for A$1-million or more, with several others in the 800k and 900k bracket.

Prices have risen sharply in recent years, but Plumptre said there is a very obvious explanation. "It's the prizemoney. Not just Magic Millions prizemoney (here in Queensland).

"New South Wales have lifted their prizemoney by 20% this year, and Victoria are to follow suit.  "On a Saturday (in the metropolitan area), you're now running for a minimum of A$100,000 every race. Even in the bush in NSW, it is A$22,000 per race. There's a lot for an owner to look forward to," he said.

Godolphin’s stallion operation, Darley, had a fantastic week with progeny selling well. "We had a fantastic week," Plumptre reported. 

"Our first-season sires sold very well. Dawn Approach’s top lot sold for A$240,000 (and averaged $110,000). The Medaglia d'Oros were again very popular, and Exceed and Excel is always going to be our banker here - he's got that genuine speed currency that's perfect for a (Magic Millions) race like this," he said.

A total of 12 Exceed and Excel yearlings went under the hammer at an average price of A$335,416, while 14 yearlings by Medaglia d'Oro sold for an average of A$253,214.

"Our clients are happy," he added.