Gunnison goes down a storm at inaugural Chairman's Sale
Unbeaten two-year-old sets Australian record for a gelding
The sales complex may have taken a battering from the tail end of Cyclone Debbie, which left a trail of destruction across Queensland, but the inaugural session of the boutique Inglis Chairman’s Sale created its own short, sharp storm in the ring, with Hong Kong buyers very much to the fore.
The session’s top lot was the last of ten elite racing prospects catalogued, with Gunnison bringing A$1,400,000 (£863,240/€1,000,000) from Chris McAnulty.
The two-year-old son of Not A Single Doubt made for an unusual prospect at public auction, boasting a hugely appealing profile - bar the absence of two components often viewed as critical. Having been castrated, Gunnison has already been robbed of any stallion potential.
Nonetheless he retained sufficient appeal to become the most expensive gelding ever sold at auction in Australia.
Purchased as a yearling for A$850,000 by James Harron at the 2016 Inglis Easter Sale, he has won both starts to date for Peter and Paul Snowden - including the Group 2 Todman Stakes on his most recent outing.
Gunnison was also among the market leaders for the prestigious Group 1 Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick on Saturday, but Rob McAnulty, who signed the docket on behalf of son Chris, confirmed that he would not be in the line-up.
“We’ve got no intention of running him [on Saturday],” said Rob, who revealed the sale-topper had been secured on behalf of Hong Kong-based owner Frank Feng. “He’s a lovely horse. We’ve already won two Sires’ Produce anyway, with St Covet and Tristalove, so another one’s not going to mean much! We targeted this horse for a specific reason and that is that sprinting events in Hong Kong at the moment are very open, with not huge fields. So we see this as a great opportunity to get a high-quality sprinter from Australia over there.”
“These guys have identified a super horse,” added Harron. “He’s given us a great thrill but obviously we’re a colt syndicate and he’s a gelding, so he wasn’t part of that system. He’s got it all ahead of him and we’ll be cheering him on from Australia.”
Hong Kong-based agent Louis Lau and Julian Blaxland of Aquis Farm filled the roles of underbidders.
Just moments earlier Eden Roc had fetched the session’s second highest price when going to Hong Kong-based agent George Moore.
The opening play of A$200,000 (£123,360/€142,890) was quickly left behind, with Sheikh Fahad among those who helped to drive the price all the way up to A$900,000.
“The horse is going to Hong Kong,” revealed Moore. “We were underbidder on him as a yearling, so we know what type of horse we’re getting - he’s got a lot of upside in our opinion. We’ll probably send him to the farm and geld him, hopefully that’ll improve him a couple of lengths. We’ve bought out of the Golden Delicious family before with Straight Gold, who did really well in Hong Kong.”
A A$750,000 yearling, Eden Roc is by the Widden sire Star Witness and out of Hilton Head, a half-sister to the Group 2-winning Star Turn. He remains a maiden after three starts for Michael, Wayne and John Hawkes, but has not been beaten far in Listed and Group 2 events on his most recent outings.
Not all the horses sold were set to continue their racing career in Asia, however, with the Sydney Cup-bound Chance To Dance going the way of David Ellis, on behalf of John Galvin of Fortuna Syndications, for A$260,000. The gelding will immediately transfer to the stable of New Zealand-based Jamie Richards and Stephen Autridge, who are set to saddle Australian Derby favourite Gingernuts on Saturday.
Richards said plans for the seven-year-old after the Randwick staying prize were fluid, explaining: “We’ve got a team going to Brisbane too so he could join them as well, after the Sydney Cup. Or he could go back to Te Akau Stud and get ready for our staying races back there. We’ll get to know the horse a little bit before making any decisions.”
Originally trained by Jim Bolger, who also bred the son of Teofilo out of the Royal Academy mare Crystal Ballet - a once-raced half-sister to Rodrigo De Triano - Chance To Dance won five races in Ireland before switching hemispheres to the stable of Robert Hickmott, for whom he has won twice, in 2015.
Though none of the lots on offer were present, Inglis instead deciding to show videos, the sale still managed to achieve a sense of occasion - with canapes and champagne, served under the auction house's famous Moreton Bay Fig tree, adding just the right amount of opulence to proceedings.
In total five of the nine lots offered sold for an aggregate of A$2,747,000, with those failing to meet their reserve comprising shares only.
Inglis managing director Mark Webster declared himself “delighted” at the conclusion of trade, saying: “We’re trying something new for Australia and I think that the market showed that they’re used to buying 100 per cent of a horse. I think we’ve proved that with the right horse there’s a market for them. We’ll build on this in the years to come.
“We’ve been watching what’s been happening in the northern hemisphere, the Arc Sale and the London Sale. This isn’t a copy of any one sale but it's been a case of learning there’s a marketplace for elite-level racehorses, breeding stock, and we’re going to try elite-level weanlings next year. These sort of sales work well around other events, so we’re lucky that we’ve got the Easter Yearling Sale and the Championships that we can piggyback off.”