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2008 Karaka Yearling Sales bring smiles to breeders' faces

It's pretty hard to find a year when so many breeders have gone home happier from a Karaka yearling sales series than 2008.

As most who offered horses for sale know, the market was in better shape than for some years. Averages were up, as were the medians, which indicated that a larger number of breeders were getting good prices for their horses.

The medians across the three sales bear repeating: Premier, $110,000, up $40,000; Select, $48,000, up $6000; Festival, $12,000, up $2000.

However, for most breeders the yardstick that really matters most for them is profitability – did they make a profit taking into account all expenses, including service fees, care, labour and sales preparation.

Perhaps a good way to look at this is by examining the median selling price of a stallion's progeny compared to the stallion service fees offered in 2005, when this crop of yearlings was conceived.

For those breeders who could afford the $95,000 plus GST to go to Zabeel, the rewards were tremendous. The median for his progeny was $335,000, remarkably close to his average of $366,944, and only four of his progeny sold for less than $180,000, so almost everybody who sold a Zabeel this year made good money once expenses are taken into account.

Just as outstanding in terms of profitability was Waikato Stud stalwart O'Reilly. His 30 progeny across all three sales averaged $158,600 and had a median of $130,000. It was the third-best average across the sales series for a stallion that stood in New Zealand in 2005, and it came from what now seems a paltry 2005 fee of $12,500 plus GST. Only four of the 30 were sold for less than $50,000, which at the fee was probably enough to be profitable – and only one of the O'Reillys on offer was passed in.

If you went to Pins, there was also reason to be happy. He had more progeny sold at Karaka than any other sire – 41 – and there was a median of $105,000, not bad return on his $15,000 service fee in 2005. Eleven sold for less than $50,000.
Of the first-season sires that stood in New Zealand in 2005, there were some interesting figures. On overall averages the best was One Cool Cat (2005 fee $17,500, average $140,303), ahead of Savabeel (fee $35,000, average $116,410), High Chaparral (fee $22,000, average $105,889), Johar (fee $20,000, average $94,946) and Bachelor Duke (fee $15,000, average $60,068).

A slightly different picture emerges for medians. High Chaparral comes out best with a median of $100,000, just ahead of Savabeel ($90,000), One Cool Cat ($77,500), Johar ($66,250) and Bachelor Duke ($43,750).

Even in the "lesser" sales there were some good figures. First-season sire Handsome Ransom, for example, from a $4000 service fee in 2005, had 13 horses sell across the series at an average of $36,077 and a median of $34,000. Only three of the 13 Handsome Ransoms sold for less than $28,000.

Perhaps it should be noted that the service fees for 2005 were announced before Winston Peters became Racing Minister that year, at which time racing people knew there was a chance the fair tax campaign in all likelihood would be successful.
Those tax changes did wonders for prizemoney and thus confidence in breeding and racing, especially in New Zealand.

The other boost for this year's sales came from a stellar spring for New Zealand-bred racehorses in major races in Melbourne. Whether it was those results that resulted in Australian buyers being more prominent or domestic demand adding depth to the market is hard to say.

However, it also helped that there was a new top-end buyer at the sale – Nathan Tinkler's Patinack Farm, the top buyer of the sale. With he and other foreign buyers present, other buyers had to look elsewhere – sometimes outside the premier sale – to buy horses. The delayed Magic Millions Sale no doubt helped the market as well.

Undoubtedly there is renewed confidence in the bloodstock market. It will now be interesting to see how long it is sustained.

- Alastair Bull