Gold Coast carnival of racing and selling lives up to its billing
Tim Rowe of ANZ Bloodstock News reflects on the magic of the Millions
The sun has set on the highest-grossing yearling sale ever conducted in the southern hemisphere and there is plenty to take away from the Magic Millions, with the Gold Coast carnival setting the scene for a bumper year for the Australasian bloodstock industry.
While Sunlight, a daughter of Zoustar, was undoubtedly the star of the Magic Millions Raceday with a brilliant victory in the Magic Millions 2YO Classic, it was Yarraman Park Stud's I Am Invincible, a son of Invincible Spirit, who was the sire of the moment across the road at the yearling sales.
Having started from an A$11,000 (£6,300/€7,100) fee in 2010, when he was covering mostly modestly performed bush mares, I Am Invincible's remarkable rise over eight years saw him produce multiple lots that sold for A$1 million or more and the sale-topping A$2 million colt at last week's sale.
Arthur and Harry Mitchell's decision to take a punt on I Am Invincible and stand him at Yarraman Park Stud is paying off, as 37 yearlings by the sire sold for A$17.7m at an average of A$478,649 last week - figures rivalled only by Snitzel and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Fastnet Rock.
Snitzel had 33 yearlings sell for A$16m at an average of A$483,788, while Fastnet Rock's yearlings hit the A$1m milestone and averaged A$340,000 from 28 sold.
Casting his spell
The deeds of I Am Invincible have been on display for a number of years, but on the back of an increase in mare quality, 2018 signalled I Am Invincible as a possible challenger to champion stallion Snitzel for the title in years to come. Time will tell, but watching I Am Invincible's likely continued upward trajectory will be fascinating.
All the big players - James Harron Bloodstock, Jon Kelly, Reg Inglis and Paul Frampton, as well as Damion Flower - went past A$1m to land their chosen stallion prospect by I Am Invincible.
The bidding for the I Am Invincible colts, and his fillies for that matter, typified what transpired through four furious days of selling at the Gold Coast complex, where buyers and agents were often forced to go one, two and three bids beyond what they had intended.
Failure to go that extra mile usually meant bidders walked away with nothing other than a beachside summer holiday on the Gold Coast.
Before the sale, it was revealed prominent buyers Shadwell, the Hong Kong Jockey Club and US agent John Moynihan would not be participating at the Magic Millions this year.
Outgoing Magic Millions managing director Vin Cox admitted at the time it was disappointing the trio had chosen against buying at the Gold Coast, all for different reasons.
What impact the absence of the trio would have on the sale was hard to predict, but others stepped up to take their place, with 694 book one yearlings selling for an aggregate of A$156.7m, a figure that comfortably surpasses the previous high of A$150.2m achieved at the 2008 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.
Godolphin back with a bang
Cox is set to take charge of Godolphin Australia later this month, and the organisation stepped into the Australian yearling market for the first time in a decade, purchasing eight yearlings for just shy of A$3m at an average of A$374,375.
The move was welcomed by breeders and vendors, with the international organisation supporting progeny by their own stallions, including Dawn Approach, as well as buying yearlings by stallions such as Snitzel and Not A Single Doubt. The change in policy from Godolphin is expected to continue throughout the Australian yearling sales.
The Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale was also a pointer towards stables to follow in the next few years, with the strength of Peter and Paul Snowden only expected to grow, mainly thanks to the support of China Horse Club and James Harron Bloodstock. The majority of the best-bred colts at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale are heading to the Snowdens' stable.
Harron, meanwhile, purchased ten yearlings for his colts syndicate at an average of A$724,000, with all to be trained by the Snowdens, cementing his place as one of Australia's leading bloodstock agents and one who is not afraid to back his judgment by going all out to get the horses he wants.
Gai Waterhouse and training partner Adrian Bott are not going away either, purchasing 27 yearlings as well as a number of other high-priced prospects including the sale-topping I Am Invincible colt and a sister to Group 1 winner Sweet Idea, a daughter of Snitzel.
Former Godolphin assistant Brad Widdup is also set to continue his rapid rise through the Sydney training ranks with the backing of owner Damion Flower, while Tony McEvoy's determination to be in the top echelon of Australian stables was evident on the Gold Coast with his spending spree.
McEvoy purchased 17 yearlings for a total of A$5m, including Sunlight's sister for A$600,000.
Magnier backing O'Shea
John O'Shea, who is now firmly back entrenched at Randwick after a three-year stint at Godolphin, also appears to be assembling a quality team of young horses. Ironically, O'Shea now has Tom Magnier in his corner, with the Coolmore Australia chief backing the Group 1-winning trainer by securing a Fastnet Rock colt for A$1m in partnership on day one of the sale.
Meanwhile, the decision by Shadwell to overlook the Magic Millions seemingly did not have a detrimental effect on the overall sale, but it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, it will have on Lindsay Park when the new-season juvenile races start in October.
Last year, Shadwell purchased seven yearlings at an average of A$326,667, with Lindsay Park the beneficiary and the David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig training partnership has been a dominant force in the two-year-old training ranks, particularly in Victoria, in recent years.
First-season sires prove popular
Almost 300 lots offered in book one of the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale were made up of yearlings by first-season stallions and the market determined which ones it believes are most likely to succeed.
Last year, the progeny of Zoustar were obvious and he was the leading freshman stallion at the sales, but this year there was a wide array of well-credentialed first-season stallions.
Deep Field had numbers on his side but buyers pinned their faith in the Newgate Farm-based stallion, and he had 39 yearlings sell for up to A$675,000, while fellow resident first-crop sire Dissident, a son of Sebring, had 35 yearlings sell to a top of A$525,000.
Coolmore Stud's first-crop sire Rubick was also singled out by buyers, with one of his 23 yearlings to sell reaching A$470,000.
By every measure, the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale was a resounding success and the fireworks are likely to continue, firstly at the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale later this month before the show rolls on - ushering in a new era - with the Inglis Classic Yearling Sale at Riverside Stables to start on February 10.
Read all our coverage of the Gold Coast Yearling Sale: