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Will We See A R10 Million Ticket At Nationals?

Kuda CEO talks about sales prospects next week

Cliches have become such a part of sport’s modern lexicon that they often lose their meaning. However, here’s one that should carry the fullest impact as we head towards the 2024 Bloodstock SA National Yearling Sale to be held at the TBA Sales Complex in Germiston on 18 and 19 April.

Gary Lemke writes that the cliche, which now carries so much impact within the equine industry is: “The floodgates have opened”.

Wehann Smith, the CEO of insurance heavyweight Kuda, has been involved in racing for many years. He’s bought all the T-shirts, the caps, and even a number of racehorses.

Wehann Smith – excited at the expected upturn (Pic – Supplied)

So, to use another cliche, it was music to his ears when the official news came in late March when the announcement was made that, after a break of 13 years, the ban on direct equine exports to the European Union (EU) from South Africa had been lifted.

Which means that the 2024 National Yearling Sales has the industry abuzz.

“It has been such a long time coming that it almost feels anti-climactic, but the opening of export routes to and via Europe is overwhelmingly positive news for the equine industry,” Smith says.

“Trading is at the heart of a healthy thoroughbred industry, and I can only see significantly increased trade as a result of this. The National Yearling Sales will be our first glimpse of what the impact could be.”

In racing parlance, Smith has now got into full stride.

As well as an enthusiast, he is also a pragmatist and answers questions before they have been asked.

“Some concerns have been raised about the impact on what is already a dwindling thoroughbred population. The reducing broodmare and foal registration numbers and the operators’ challenges with filling fields are well documented.

“The risks of more horses leaving our shores earlier will be far outweighed by the benefits of the increased propensity of local breeders and owners to invest. The crux of it is the prospect of owning a hard currency asset. I have had to pinch myself when seeing what breeding stock sells for at the Newmarket Sale at the end of November. Those prices would be impressive in Rands, let alone Guineas! As a small-time owner and breeder myself, the dream remains to own a horse that is valued in hard currency.”

No one is able to forecast what 2024 will hold, but nationals has historically been the breeding ground of champions.

In 2023, the sale’s aggregate rose to R154-million, while the average and median rose to R443 228 and R300 000, respectively.

Last year, of the 363 Lots offered (38 Lots were withdrawn) some 347 were sold, meaning only 16 Lots failed to reach their reserve price.

Drakenstein Stud consigned the sale’s top priced colt in the form of Air Raid, a son of Lancaster Bomber and five-time Gr1 winner Inara, knocked down to Bass Racing for R3-million.

This year there are 393 Lots that have been consigned to come under the hammer over the two days.

Day one will have Lots 1-230 and Day two features Lots 231-393. A minimum bid is R50,000.

In 2019, trainer Mike de Kock went to a record R9-million for Masaki, a colt by Silvano, raised by Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Stud and bought for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai.

National Yearling Sale (photo: TBA)

With the figure of 10-million fresh in the minds – albeit Australian dollars, with the only foal of champion mare Winx fetching that at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale in Sydney – there is plenty of symmetry and speculation as to whether we will see R10m reached in Germiston.

The half-brother to Grade 1 winners Rainbow Bridge, Hawwaam and Golden Ducat, Lot 172, comes under the hammer and is sure to attract plenty of attention. He’s by boom sire Vercingetorix out of Halfway To Heaven and arrives at the Sale from Wilgerbosdrift.

Rainbow Bridge was actually a dual Met winner and Equus Horse of the Year, and yet was a R300 000 purchase from the 2016 BSA National Yearling Sales, to show that the Sale is littered with examples of yearlings who didn’t break the bank and then went on to perform heroics on the racetrack.

Jet Dark, winner of back-to-back L’Ormarins Queen’s Plates, was purchased for R200 000 at the same Sale in 2019.

Others who have gone on to fame and fortune include Legal Eagle, Do It Again, Captain’s Ransom and Malmoos, who fetched R4.4m at the 2019 Sale.

Lot 372 is a Futura colt out of Supreme Vision. The latter is Do it Again’s half sister and the dam of ruling Hollywoodbets Durban July favourite, See It Again.

Kuda has been supporting the National Yearling Sale since 2009.

Subsequent champions from that year’s vintage include Grade One winners Ebony Flyer, bought for R700 000 and Run For It (R230 000) and Shea Shea, a R550 000 buy who earned the equivalent of R15-million in stakes.

Smith, ever the numbers man, also captured a data analyst’s findings into buying winners at this annual sale.

They make for exciting reading:

  • Buying a winner at this Sale – 5/10
  • Buying a 2-time winner – 16/10
  • Buying a 3-time winner – 28/10
  • Buying a 4-time winner – 9/2
  • Buying a 5-time winner – 8/1
  • Buying a 6-time winner – 16/1
  • Buying a 7-time winner – 33/1
  • Buying an 8-time winner – 75/1
  • Buying a feature placed horse – 8/1
  • Buying a multiple feature placed horse – 18/1
  • Buying a feature winner – 16/1
  • Buying a multiple Feature winner – 45/1
  • Buying a Gr1 winner – 100/1
  • Buying a multiple Gr1 winner – 200/1

Notable stats – since 2009 when Kuda first attended:

  • 2009 R136m aggregate, R2.4m highest yearling
  • 2010 R162m aggregate, R2.6m highest yearling
  • 2011 R201m aggregate, R3m highest yearling
  • 2012 R153m aggregate, R2.4m highest yearling
  • 2013 R161m aggregate, R4m highest yearling
  • 2014 R136m aggregate, R2.4m highest yearling
  • 2015 R134m aggregate, R3.75m highest yearling
  • 2016 R127m aggregate, R4.75m highest yearling
  • 2017 R110m aggregate, R2.5m highest yearling
  • 2018 R100m aggregate, R5.2m highest yearling
  • 2019 R139m aggregate, R9m highest yearling
  • 2020 R87m aggregate, R7m highest yearling
  • 2021 R102m aggregate, R2.8m highest yearling
  • 2022 R137m aggregate, R3.3m highest yearling
  • 2023 R154m aggregate, R3.2m highest yearling

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