YuLong active at both ends of market to achieve twin aims
Billionaire Zhang wants to get racing up and running in China
Agent Sheamus Mills has cast light on the two-pronged approach taken by Zhang Yuesheng after the Chinese billionaire played several different roles during the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale on the Gold Coast in Australia this week – buyer of ten mares ranging from the A$1.75 million top-seller to a A$25,000 lot, as well as vendor of six horses.
Mills signed for the bestseller at Magic Millions, the Group 2-winning Commands mare Gregers in foal to Written Tycoon, on behalf of Zhang, along with another seven-figure horse, the dual Group 1-winning Savabeel mare Soriano, for A$1.1m.
Intriguingly, all of the purchases made for Zhang – owner of Whitefountainfairy, an impressive Fairyhouse maiden winner for Jessica Harrington on Thursday - were originally recorded in the increasingly familiar name of YuLong Investments but were changed to 'Riyue Trading Pty Ltd' after the end of the sale.
YuLong Investments rose to prominence in Europe last year, with Mills signing for 12 mares at the Tattersalls July Sale - including Lake Hamana, a Shamardal half-sister to Prix Saint-Alary heroine Sobetsu, at 210,000gns - and BBA Ireland's Michael Donohoe helping to acquire around 60 yearlings towards the lower end of the market at Goffs in the autumn. Purchases were also made at Arqana and Keeneland.
YuLong offered six mares at Magic Millions this week, all but one of which were sourced at Tattersalls, although only two changed hands: private purchase Up To You, a half-sister to Lucarno, for A$460,000 and Vicennalia, a winning daughter of More Than Ready picked up for 80,000gns, for A$400,000. Both were in foal to Frankel on southern hemisphere time.
Yulong took home Harlech (bought for 60,000gns, put in foal to Frankel, not sold at A$500,000); Next Meeting (bought for 90,000gns, put in foal to Invincible Spirit, not sold at A$350,000); Caricature (bought for 58,000gns, put in foal to Golden Horn, not sold at A$250,000) and Cross Cave (bought for 20,000gns, in foal to Kingman, not sold at A$180,000).
“Mr Zhang sold the first two mares he sent through the ring but he was here to try to buy mares as well, and in the end he decided he liked his own mares just as much, if not more, than anything else on offer,” said Mills.
“He protected his mares with pretty strong reserves, basically with the thought that if someone wanted to pay good money for them, he would be happy to sell.
“He was laughing towards the end of the sale saying it worked out well because he's got one each in foal to Kingman, Frankel, Golden Horn and Invincible Spirit.”
The ten mares bought at Magic Millions bring Zhang's Australasian broodmare band to 43, spread between Victoria and New South Wales, with another three being sent to New Zealand to be covered by Tavistock.
Many of their offspring, Mills explained, will likely be offered at auction but, as was the case with broodmares this week, will be “protected by prices that Mr Zhang feels are fair and reasonable”.
“If you believe in your product you'll stand behind it,” he added.
Asked whether YuLong would repeat its buying mission for broodmares in Europe this year, Mills replied: “It will be interesting to see. I think the lesson out of this sale was that Frankel was the covering sire buyers wanted.
“The two Coolmore horses who were originally passed in [did not reach their reserves] both got sold eventually, so I think nearly all the mares in foal to Frankel changed hands.
"Prices for the mares in foal to Tapit seemed down on previous years so I think the message from the market, as far as northern hemisphere bloodlines go, was we want Frankel.”
It is not all top lots and Frankel covers for Zhang, though, with most of Donohoe's purchases on his behalf at Goffs last autumn coming in below the €20,000 mark, with plenty of other cheaper horses signed for in the YuLong name at sales around the world.
The dichotomy between the elite and the economy is in-keeping with Zhang's twin aims of building a boutique broodmare band in Australasia and also supplying horses for his Shanxi racing and breeding operation in China.
Many of those horses bought at Goffs formed part of what was believed to be the biggest ever single movement of Irish horses to China when 76 were flown from Shannon Airport in January.
“There are two sides to Mr Zhang's business, with different philosophies and different aims,” explained Mills. “He really wants to get racing going in China, to establish a stud book and make the sport legitimate in the country, and he's expanded his own racing carnival to span three or four months.
“He's about to take 87 horses, which is a full plane, from Melbourne to China.”
Zhang was not the only source of strong Chinese investment at Magic Millions this week, with the China Horse Club netting 13 mares including the A$1.7m second top lot, the Group 2-winning Savabeel mare Nurse Kitchen.