Day At The Track

Sales round up from a wonderful week

10:09 PM 01 Mar 2019 NZDT
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Lot 35, Hot And Treacherous
Brian & Gareth Hughes bought the first Captain Treacherous ever sold here for $60,000, Lot 35, Hot And Treacherous

Captaintreacherous - Anyone who needs a reminder how fickle a game breeding can be, I want to tell you a quick yarn from my own perspective in detailing the boom harness racing sire of the sales.

When he was first announced available by Empire Stallions, I was both excited and nervous.

Nervous because I had to be sure I could afford him, but excited because I couldn’t see how he could miss.

Race credentials aside, he got some of the best 160 mares in North America, was well patronised by Hanover Shoe Farm, had the same maternal pedigree as Art Major and many other great stallions and had the public following of a Hollywood celebrity.

The Captain’s first crop went gangbusters at the sales in North America and backed up the sentiment by dethroning his father on the track to be leading sire of two-year-olds in his debut year.

Despite the hype, there was a real fear here from vendors who had forked out the $11,000 for the service fee that it wouldn’t translate into a great sale.

Peter Lagan had seen it all before, just look at the first crops of Art Major, Bettor’s Delight and Mach Three and how the buyers in our country had come to view Somebeachsomewhere at sales time.

Lagan told me it was hard to gauge but in his opinion, this was the greatest debut of a sire selling 10 lots or more in his time in the standardbred industry. Only Falcon Seelster would come close.

From my limited experience at the sales, you can tell fairly quickly what sort of interest there is in a yearling, and similarly a new season sire. Price isn’t always indicative of interest in my books as sometimes the buyer knocking down the purchase paints a picture also.

Brian & Gareth Hughes bought the first Captain T ever sold here for $60,000. Lot 35, a colt out of a Bettor’s mare. The Orange Agent was on the page, potentially a sentimental purchase from a leading vendor and preparer?

Lot 81 walks in, a Captain T filly from a Presidential Ball daughter of Andres Blue Chip, mother of Carabella: $55k to Lincoln Farms. Good money for a filly, but pedigree to burn. Then again, Lincoln Farms know a thing or two about picking out yearlings by American siring sensations. Think King of Swing by Rocknroll Hanover.

Lot 81, Spice It Up

A picture started to form, it wasn’t just the money, but the hive of activity from interested under bidders.

Lot 122 walked in later in the day, the aptly named Captain Outrageous. A striking colt out of well-performed and related mare, Veste.

The gavel came down at $130,000 to the bid of Mark Purdon and the All Stars.

Lot 122, Captain Outrageous

The picture was painted. This guy was in demand and from our greatest trainers none the less.

The momentum carried through to Christchurch where Steven Reid, Emilio Rosati, Brent Mangos and several others saw 10 lots sold and one passed in for an average of $72,050.

I sent my maiden Rocknroll Hanover mare to him three breeding seasons ago (what a beautiful cross that would be said I), tried unsuccessfully from September through to January, eventually had to have a crack with fresh semen and she took first pop to Sportswriter.

What might have been?

It wasn’t for a lack of trying. But in a game where margin for error is at the mercy of Mother Nature, instead of a cracking Captaintreacherous colt, I had a January filly by a sire not quite in vogue amongst buyers, at least not in the same sphere as the other fella.

We are all searching for that perfect storm, particularly those breeding to sell.

I guess you win some and lose more then you care to remember! Won’t stop us from trying to identify the next big thing. Just doesn’t happen all that often as Falcon hit the ring a few decades ago now.

Who next?!

This proves to be a great segue to another discussion point I wanted to raise.

The real concern for those breeding for the sales is trying to identify who will be next?

Bettor’s Delight is getting on in years and this breeding season has served less than half the mares he did in 2017. At $25k ($20k plus GST with the discount) he is almost strictly reserved for commercial mares and breeders and his first yearlings at that service fee will go through the ring next year.

‘The King’ still boxes like the top dog he is fetching a $50k average for 99 lots sold across both sales. Very impressive by anyone’s maths.

The buyers still want them and when you look at the Group Race results, why wouldn’t you?

Same said for Art Major averaging $45,729.00 across both sales.

But same problem. He is getting older and his returns aren’t in for the year as of yet, but surely can’t be north of his biggest books.

Sweet Lou was the only other sire available going forward outside of Captaintreacherous and the two big guns discussed you could resolutely say the buyers were prepared to pay overs for.

We can’t get Roll With Joe due to fertility issues and he had a ripper of a sale in Christchurch.

They aren’t making Mach Three’s or Somebeachsomewhere’s anymore, which for the latter is a crying shame as it appeared the performance of his stock in Australasia over the last few months had done enough to buy him the semblance of the respect he deserves in this part of the world.

Am I being harsh to say some of the other sires have got a job on their hands to prove their worth in this country? Unless you are preparing some of them at home yourself for the most part it is very hard to get a return.

Are they victims of our unlimited books in New Zealand?

The other elephant in the room is the fact that to win a two and three-year-old race at group level in this country, it seems to be that you have to be racing out of a handful of stables. If they aren’t training your stock, your stallion isn’t in the bright lights and it has critics deeming them failures, perhaps prematurely.

Then you have an anomaly like American Ideal who is proven to leave a freak, gets a full book in Australia and yet is largely ignored by both breeders here this season and buyers for the past couple of years.

American Ideal

Always B Miki gets his chance next year but must have a job on his hands to keep pace with Lou and Captain T given they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere.

That leaves us at about four (rightly or wrongly) with two of them in their twilight.

Thankfully, Sweet Lou is on the books with Woodland Stud and available here in New Zealand fresh.

But this equation presents another challenging question, and one breeders can’t really afford (excuse the pun) to have to ask. How much will his fee increase?

The rumours are already swirling about Captaintreacherous whose fee increased to $25,000 in North America.

The fact the stallion’s North American’s owners are putting big pressure on the semen providers down under to substantially increase his fee is music only to the ears of those with foals on the ground and mares in foal this season.

This isn’t North America.

While our vendors had a good sale, we aren’t getting North American prices for yearlings relatively speaking because quite simply there isn’t the same stake money or opportunities for a return.

Therefore, it’s a chicken and egg scenario.

Market forces will dictate, but when the same market forces are killing the very market they operate in, we can’t beat around the bush and hide from the fact that in an industry where stake money has largely remained stagnant, it would be harsh to continue to force the hand of those supplying the product with overzealous stud fees.

If you are not breeding commercially you all but have to be breeding to get your progeny up and running at the very least. There were several vendors disappointed to miss out on the opportunity to sell their horse in February, and we will work hard to look at what viable options there are for a market to do so. It is important for some breeders to be able to meet the bottom end of the market in order to pay their stud fees and go again, and for some the April sale is too late. Can the studs come to the party?

Trotting Sale

You would like to think the trotting sale in Christchurch is here to stay, and while they don’t have the same numbers in Auckland it makes you wonder whether or not they would be better off doing the same thing there.

Not holding them on a different day by any means, but grouping them together seems to significantly lift the bottom end of the market in the momentum created by the others. Rather than being lost in the backwash amongst a sea of Bettor’s Delight’s, the ugly ducklings of harness are more like the black swans.

Again, when you look at the infographic all the key indicators are up.

The other area that is clear with the trotters is that with limited numbers gaining entry, the types that do get in the sale are typically of a high standard.

This is indicative when you look at the prices paid for sires with very few numbers on the ground, not enough to make assumptions about their ability anyway.


If there was any more chat about the Southern Bred Southern Reared group you would worry their heads would swell to dangerous sizes.

Lucky for the rest of us, it’s typically quite cold down there so swelling shouldn’t be an issue.

In all honesty, you would struggle to find a more humble and honest bunch of human beings who make the most of their favourable climate for growing yearlings to continually produce stock worthy of the money paid for them.

Two of the top ten trotting lots and five of the top 10 pacing lots were produced by the group which is remarkable.

The vendor from the group with the highest price typically buys dinner on the Wednesday night, and judging by the turn out at Lone Star in Riccarton, both Shard Farm and Beaudiene Breeding would have been ecstatic to share the accolade of top prices meaning they share in the bill.

Southern Bred Southern Reared

Canterbury vendors weren’t to be entirely out done. Spreydon Lodge had a ripper sale selling three in the $75-$80k range and a Mach Three colt for $140,000. The renaissance of Spreydon as vendors has a lot to do with Ged Mooar and his team mating the good Spreydon mares with commercial stallions, and not just the ones on the farm as in seasons past.

Spreydon Lodge have also been active buyers in the market of mares having just purchased an Art Major half-sister to Ultimate Machete as a weanling. Positive signs for the future of the stud!

On the Canterbury note there was an obvious omission from the vendors list this year and he would have been looking down with immense pride watching the sales take the leap forward they did. Bob McArdle and the Bromac banner were no doubt with us in spirit. Knowing Bob he would probably have been pissed off Lot 330 didn’t bring six figures, despite reaching $95,000.

In the North Island, any vendor or preparer must rub their hands together at the sight of the Karaka complex. As too the yearlings with their lovely wood chipped boxes serving as the Hilton of temporary horse homes.

While they may have less numbers, all this does is perpetuate and highlight the high standard of yearlings, particularly when Woodlands and Breckon Farms are preparing and selling close to a third of the catalogued lots.

Without their commitment, the Auckland sale would struggle to get off the ground, and the quality is there for all to see. If you ever want to treat yourself to some of the best judges parading and trotting up some of our best horse flesh in the country, get yourself to Karaka nice and early on the Monday.

I would give my left one (as would many) to stand next to Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen as they gets the lots they like paraded up and down, chatting to their vet and making notes. If I was a young horseman, I’m not sure whether it’s kosher or not, but I would be looking at the lots they gets out and then have vetted and making my own judgement outside of the pedigree page as to what they might like and why.

A tip of the hat must go to Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson who did a remarkable job to be the leading preparer by average on behalf of their vendors. Harvey Kaplan pulled off one of the best pin hook jobs in our standardbred sales history buying three weanlings for just over $60,000 and selling the three of them in excess of $200,000. While this sort of feat is common in the thoroughbred business, it’s not easily done in our game and bodes well for those willing to back their judgement and roll the dice going forward. Particularly when NZB Finance facilities and the upcoming Ready To run Sales are ready to assist!

(Peter Lagan Quote about vendor’s quality)

Across the board, it is impossible to commend the job NZB Standardbred did without first congratulating the vendors and preparers who rose to the challenge of lifting the bar to heights Eliza McCartney would struggle to jump over.

It wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops and it genuinely hurts to see some vendors who meet the market and tick the boxes go home with their tail between their legs. This wasn’t the case with all, but you must ask questions of yourself. Am I meeting the market? And if not, how can I do so?


Look at how far the aggregate is up! NZB Standardbred lifted the buying bench spend by over $2 million. It was obvious on the first day that there was a major shift in spending, and the finance and credit facilities played a large part in that.

It was great to see young horseman like Alicia Harrison and Brad Williamson putting their hard earned on the line and buying young stock.

Brad went to $55k to secure a Love You colt out of Allegro Agitato which is a far cry from being tasked with resurrecting and patching together hand me downs which he has done so capably thus far in his career.

Then you have the like of Stonewall Stud who spent over $400,000 in securing twelve lots. The Stockman’s have had great success breeding from their nursery of mares, syndicating and racing the progeny.

Having Stonewall Stud take home 12 lots makes for great reading, but the strength in the middle market and the lifting of the sales medians is where buyers like their involvement is most felt. Because while they took home 12, they were under bidder on plenty more and it’s that competition that has been directly missing in previous years.

Graeme Rogerson came out of a sojourn to secure five lots at over $400,000.

Lincoln Farms put their money where their mouth is, as too Phil Kennard, Jean Feiss and the All Stars supporters. Sadly Neil Pilcher was missing this year, and you could bet your bottom dollar he would have been up to his eye balls in securing a few nice priced lots had he been!

There were plenty more that invested and I speak for all vendors when wishing you all the success in the world with your investments.

A sincere thank you.

Where too?

One of the blessings about NZB coming on board has been the Christchurch standardbred team moving into the HRNZ building.

For me it has meant a closer working relationship with some of the previous PGGW staff given we are only doors away.

This has made my life far easier and has reinforced the importance of verbal communication and working together.

In the past when under the PGGW banner, the NZSBA was no doubt the bane of their existence. Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, I would go to Bruce with visions of changing the world, unaware of the constraints they were working under, and was probably seen as a nuisance in some respects.

We can look back and chuckle on past grievances, but its far nice to be on the same page and fighting a winning battle. I’m sure Peter, Bruce, Cam, Rachel and Grant had a far better week then in previous years without the burden of a breeding industry bearing down on them!

That leads to Andrew, James, Charlotte and the team at NZB Karaka.

I have thanked them privately along with many others for their contribution in creating a wonderful week for our industry.

Knowing the perfectionists they are, I am sure they will already be discussing ideas and improvements to be made.

I’m sure you would have learnt a lot from the experience and look forward to working in with you to ensure future success for all concerned.

It would be unfair to suggest this sudden lift is a flash in the pan, but it shouldn’t mean we as an industry sit back and simply say we are now tracking in the right direction.

The enthusiasm generated by the sales has been enough for numerous breeders who have sat on the fence in recent years to come to me over the last few weeks and tell me they intend to breed this coming season.

While the surge in money returned to vendors is encouraging and reward for those who hung tough, we have plenty of work to do to continue to improve our racing product to ensure its sustainability.

While sales money is nice for vendors, it is only the sustainable increase in stake money that will provide the return on investment needed for buyers to sustainably continue to invest.

The amazing thing about the increase of $2 million being spent is that it was done without any of the of the industry KPI’s having been drastically improved.

Yes, minimum stakes have increased in Southland. And yes, stake money is increasing as promised in Auckland. Let’s not waste this momentum by resting on laurels and rather ride the momentum to good effect.

Hopefully Winston's boys get on with implementing the Messara report & start delivering real benefits. 

NZ Bloodstock has done what it set out to do.

You know you are doing something right when the APG company resorts to underarm bowling and goes the attack which they did with a series of claims on assumed costs. It was dealt with professionally by the NZB team and did little to slow them down in the end.

Fair play to the new PGGW Standardbred staff for having a presence at the sales. They are like a labourer with a wheelbarrow in the respect they have a job in front of them. If there is any hope from their quarters to be a factor again in the sales market, the bar is now sky high.

I truly believe that in time the upcoming April and May All Age Sale will have a bigger impact then in the past.

Alabar and Woodland’s commitment to putting well-bred weanlings on the market has certainly created another angle for those priced out of the yearling sales looking to invest, as well as those looking to pinhook for the following year.

With weanlings and yearlings sold through the sale now Harness Millions Series eligible, it will add another dynamic. Yearling’s that perhaps need a wee bit more time will now have the opportunity to develop into their frames, particularly those that are late foals or on the smaller side. You will see more depth of quality and I have on record that Fight For Glory’s first foal will be sold at Christchurch in April, as she was on the smaller side and needed some time to develop like a lot of first foals.

Onwards and upwards, as always value your feedback and you know how to reach me should you have any.

Brad Reid

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