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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Blue bloods and barbeques as Johannesburg prepares for National Yearling Sale

526 youngsters catalogued to come under the hammer at the three-day auction

The stable yard at the Bloodstock South Africa sales complex
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While those in Britain and Ireland are busying themselves with breeze-up sales and the Punchestown Festival, the South African industry is focused firmly on 526 yearlings currently residing on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Bloodstock South Africa plays host to the National Yearling Sale that kicks off on Tuesday at 11.30 (10.30 GMT), and with less than 24 hours to go the sales complex was buzzing with activity as prospective purchasers busied themselves inspecting some of the country's best-bred young thoroughbreds.

The walls of the octagonal sales ring are lined with images of the men and women that have bred, sold, bought and trained some of the country's most recognisable equine names, with titans of the sport such as Syd Laird and the legendary Sea Cottage hung alongside modern greats such as Mike de Kock and Bold Silvano.

The Bloodstock South Africa sales ring

There is even a museum dedicated to the history of South African racing and sales, with artefacts ranging from the device used to decide the draw for major races like the Durban July, to antique veterinary apparatus. It may be understated, but there is no disguising the immense level of pride on display.

And the country's rich racing history is not the only thing taken seriously around these parts, with vendors locked in a battle of one upmanship over whose hospitality is the most hospitable.

The yearlings are stabled in red bricked barns, with most vendors having an adjoining room to feed and entertain clients and potential purchasers.

Who is serving up the best fare is a competitive heat, but as the sun began to set on Monday evening the team at Moutonshoek went clear favourites in running. Headed up by Dr Bennie Van Der Merwe and Chris Gerber, the Moutonshoek team - quite literally - turned up the heat on the opposition when stoking up the barbeque - or braai, as it is known colloquially.

A yearling being inspected at the Bloodstock South Africa sales complex

But for all the hog roasts and history on offer at the Bloodstock South Africa sales complex, it was the sizable selection of blue-blooded yearlings that has captured the imagination of a diverse range of prospective buyers.

Leading local names such as Mike de Kock, Jehan Malherbe, and John Freeman were joined by a host of internationals like John Ferguson, the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Mark Richards and Bertrand Le Metayer in inspecting the young stock.

And the international presence on the ground at the sales complex has been mirrored in the catalogue, with stallions such as Archipenko, Duke Of Marmalade and Oratorio boasting strong representations.

Moreover, there are also the progeny of horses whose racing careers played out in Britain, even if their stud careers haven't, with yearlings by 2012 Racing Post Trophy winner Kingsbarns and four-time Group 1 hero Twice Over due to come under the hammer over the coming three days.

Last year's sale saw 369 yearlings fetch an aggregate of R112,075,000 (£6,554,145/€7,482,125), an average of R303,725 (£17,765/€20,275) and a median of R175,000 (£10,235/€11,690). 

View the live stream of the sale here

Who is serving up the best fare is a competitive heat, but as the sun began to set on Monday evening the team at Moutonshoek went clear favourites
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