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By Mike Moon

Horse racing correspondent

SA racing on a science rocket to the stars

43 yearlings sold for a million bucks or more on single sale.

It isn’t a science rocket, as the man leaning on the running rail is wont to remark. Buy cheap-as-chips, world-class, South African-bred racehorses, ship them offshore, and contend for fabulous prize money in richer countries.

Virtuoso trainer Mike de Kock has been banging on about this for ages, even louder since his son Mathew decamped to race in Australia and quickly assessed that Saffer nags would do well in a Land Downunder.

With the cursed EU equine export ban a thing of the past, foreign governments will follow the European route to enlightenment – even Oz – and allow in certified disease-free South African horses.

In other good news, local racing is in revival.

NYS exceeds expectations

The racing fraternity, many of them smart businesspeople, have piled in and the 2024 National Yearling Sale at Germiston last week exceeded all expectations.

Of course, a good proportion of the wildly expensive horses bought on the NYS will not be exported and will race locally for their doting new owners. (It’s one of the blessings of this world that smart businesspeople have a shocking blind spot about the bottom line when it comes to a horse.)

The headline stats from the Gosforth Park sales arena tell a sexy story for thoroughbred breeders:
Over the two days, 43 yearlings were sold for more than R1-million apiece. That’s a mind-boggling 59% increase on 2023’s number of 27.

The sale aggregate was more than 31% up on last year – from R153.8-million to R200,190,000.

The average price paid – per gangly, dopey yearling! – was R581,948,000, a 31.3% rise, while the median price (the middle number on the list) was R400,000,000, a 33.3% increase.

Man Of His Word

One blot on the landscape, if you can call it that, was the top price of R6-million paid for the colt Man Of His Word, who was consigned by Wilgerbosdrift Stud and bought by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. This fell far short of the South African auction yearling record of R9-million set in 2019 – before the World Health Organisation shut down the global economy – but was a giant leap above 2023’s top bid of R3.2-million.

Vercingetorix might not be the national champion stallion, but he’s the one buyers want the most. His 34 offspring on the NYS amassed R39.5-million at R1,161,029 a pop.

It might be remembered that Vercingetorix was sold as a young colt on this very sale in 2011 for R1.4-million, making a relative killing for seven humble grooms who’d raised him at Riverton Stud in Western Cape.

Reigning champion sire Gimmethegreenlight garnered R35.5-million for 39 lots and had that R6-million sale topper.

Following those in terms of aggregate sales were What A Winter, Rafeef, Trippi, One World and Querari.

The best average price gong went to the now retired Trippi: eight yearlings at a mean of R1.4-million.
And so on and so on…

It might not be a science rocket, but it is a racing rocket.

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