ANZ Bloodstock

Inglis buys online auction house Wanamaker’s to enter billion dollar North America bloodstock market

Inglis: well-known brand has expanded into the US through purchase of Wanamaker's
Inglis: well-known brand has expanded into the US through purchase of Wanamaker'sCredit: Inglis

Inglis will expand its digital presence into the United States after entering an agreement to purchase online thoroughbred auction house Wanamaker’s in a bid to capture a share of the S$1.2 billion American bloodstock market.

The Australian auction house has been the world leader in online thoroughbred auctions, investing heavily in its Inglis Digital business for more than a decade and it has been investigating opportunities to enter the North American market since late 2019, a move subsequently delayed by the onset of the pandemic in early 2020.

The purchase of the Wanamaker’s business has been 12 months in the making and Inglis managing director Mark Webster believes that now is an opportune time for the company to enter the US sector.

The online bloodstock market in America, he says, is five to six years behind the far more mature Australasian one, which was accelerated during the booming years of the Covid-19 outbreak and has won vast acceptance from buyers and sellers.

Webster told ANZ Bloodstock News: “It’s a play into North America, but it’s also a global opportunity for us because people tend to deal in US currency and America is the biggest market in terms of thoroughbred breeding. It’s got twice as many broodmares as Australia, and Australia’s number two in the global market

“So, it represents a good opportunity for us to apply what we’ve learned [in Australia] and adapt that to the American market, but we can also access other markets from there. There’s obviously South America, but also Europe and the Middle East. 

“There’s more acceptance of what happens in America from those markets.”

Webster and Inglis Digital business manager Nick Melmeth travelled to the US in March – the same trip where they met with new big-spending American owner-breeder John Stewart, the Resolute Racing principal who has since spent A$8.64 million (£4.5m/€5.3m) in Australia – to conduct a recruitment drive and make key appointments ahead of its official takeover of Wanamaker’s.

Inglis Digital USA will conduct its first rebranded online auction in July.

Webster says Inglis’ intention is to provide America’s thoroughbred investors with the liquidity that the Australian market receives.

“People can trade out of a horse, whether it’s a share or a whole horse, and do that at any time that suits them rather than waiting for live sales,” said the long-serving Inglis managing director.

Mark Webster: 'We're bringing to the table ongoing liquidity and ability to trade'
Mark Webster: 'We're bringing to the table ongoing liquidity and ability to trade'Credit: Inglis

“If you’ve got a horse that just won a decent race and you want to trade out or you’ve got a sibling to a decent horse, you can trade out in a timely manner. You don’t have to wait another year for the broodmare or racehorse sale to come around. 

“That’s what we’ve learnt from this [market evolution], the physical sales are great, but the timing of them doesn’t necessarily work well for industry participants. 

“That’s what we’re bringing to the table, that ongoing liquidity and ability to trade.”

The Australian arm Inglis Digital has turned over, on average, more than A$90m per year in its twice-monthly and occasional bespoke online auctions since its inception seven years ago. Its international expansion will see it come up against well-known American auction house Fasig-Tipton, which recently also moved into the online auction space following Wanamaker’s initial forays.

Keeneland, America’s biggest thoroughbred auction house, is yet to enter the online space.

Wanamaker’s hosted its first online auction in June 2020 and since then has sold horses such as Fiya, who went for $400,000 in July of that year and went on to become a multiple stakes winner.

The connections of Bandonarun parlayed an impressive allowance score at Laurel Park into a $330,000 sale just weeks later during the October 2023 auction.

Wanamaker’s co-founder Liza Hendriks will remain with the company under the rebranded Inglis Digital USA banner as chief executive, a position she currently holds. The company will be based in Lexington, Kentucky. 

Hendriks, who founded the company with fellow Godolphin Flying Start graduate Jack Carlino, will be joined in the new venture by senior director of sales and recruitment Kyle Wilson, formerly the assistant director of sales development with Keeneland. 

Kelly Brophey, the owner of Clarity Bloodstock, will serve as director of sales operations.

“We couldn't be more delighted to announce our partnership with the esteemed auction house, Inglis,” said Hendriks.

Wanamaker's Liza Hendriks will remain as chief executive of the new company
Wanamaker's Liza Hendriks will remain as chief executive of the new companyCredit: Inglis Digital USA

“As we embark on this exciting journey together, I am personally thrilled to continue serving as chief executive, with our newly formed team. 

“Digital sales in the American market have already proven immensely beneficial, offering year-round trading opportunities and eliminating the need for horses to endure extensive travel for physical sales.”

Webster suggested that the two Inglis Digital businesses will be able to leverage off each other, particularly via the Inglis-owned software development company Ardex Technology.

“This is really just the start of the innovation we plan to bring to North America and there’s more innovation coming to Australia as well,” he said. 

“We’re using artificial intelligence now to match buyers with horses and that will be rolled out in the local market in the coming months more formally, and that’s the sort of thing we can take to North America. 

“[Ardex Technology] gives us a bit of an advantage to develop things in-house and apply them to Inglis, but also to share them with customers. Magic Millions uses Ardex Technology to run their business, so we’re happy to share what we develop. 

“‘Build once, sell many times' has been the model since I have been involved with the company.”

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