Sale shaping up as buyer's market
When a young thoroughbred worth several million dollars is allowed to run freely, even non-horse people stop and stare, awestruck at its sheer beauty.
Yesterday morning at Sha Tin, over 450 owners and Jockey Club members looked at 31 potential racing stars as they strutted their stuff for potential buyers.
The youngsters were engaged in a process called 'breezing up', which is a controlled gallop over 400 metres under an experienced rider.
The horse that breezes up best and boasts the best pedigree should, in theory, make the most money at Sha Tin on Saturday morning when they all go under the gavel at the Hong Kong International Sale.
The leading commercial sires in the southern hemisphere are represented but the one who will probably be in greatest demand is Encosta de Lago, sire of reigning world champion sprinter Sacred Kingdom.
Executive director of racing, Bill Nader, said: 'There has been a very good atmosphere here and a lot of people keen to look at the horses.
'The surprising thing is that we have a greater number of registered buyers than we did last year, so that's encouraging.'
Sale manager Mark Player said conditions were going to favour the buyers enormously this year.
'I'm confident this is the best collection of horses I've been associated with since I've been at the club,' he said.
'But with the economy the way it is, the club might be lucky to break square on the deal - it's going to be a much tougher sale than last year.'
Both Nader and Player have lot 20, a colt by Encosta de Lago from Onassis, as their top pick of the youngsters.
The close relation to former champion Australian three-year-old filly Alinghi impressed even the hardest markers when he breezed in 23.25 seconds for 400 metres, the last 200m in a very smart 10.82 seconds.
But Player also likes the Redoute's Choice colts - one from Joie de Vivre and the other from Marshow. 'Just beautiful' was his summary of the Joie de Vivre, a colt who descends from one of the best families in the Australian studbook.
The 2007 sale averaged HK$4.41 million but with financial reality hitting the business world, the bloodstock sale will take a hit, too. More than ever before, this sale promises to be a buyer's market.
The sale has an uncanny knack of turning up top horses. Reigning Horse of the Year Good Ba Ba is a past sale graduate, and so too was 2006 Hong Kong Mile hero, The Duke.
The average price (in HK dollars) at last year's International Sale, a figure that will likely decrease this year: 4.41m