High Price to Make a Champion

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Race horse buyers are spending more than ever before in the expensive quest to find a champion of the track. Myles Deering reports.

Race horse buyers are spending more than ever before in the expensive quest to find a champion of the track, according to analysis of breeders’ and race horse owners’ expenditure.

Sale prices in Australia have risen every year since the 2008 global financial crisis, with an 18 per cent increase on average yearling prices in 2015 the biggest movement in nine years,  the Racing Australia Fact Book reveals.

International bloodstock agent and former television broadcaster David Raphael said: “No one would pay big dollars on a horse if they’re not making any money from it.”

Mr Raphael added: “It requires patience and plenty of resilience. You might be unsuccessful at it multiple times but if the next horse you buy put you back in front again then it makes the exercise worth it.”

Mr Raphael, whose company Stallion Racing arranged the purchase of a colt by leading sire Snitzel for $1.8 million in 2015, dismisses claims yearling sales are risky.

“Buyers know what they are getting into and are prepared to accept some losses in the short-term but what happens on the track is usually not the be all and end all,” he said.

Globalisation and the emergence of buyers from the United States are also attributing to rising sale prices in the local bloodstock industry, according to Magic Millions managing director Vin Cox.

Mr Cox, who heads up the second-largest equine auction house in Australia, says the buying landscape is changing, with local buyers now competing against “more big guys with deeper pockets”.

“What we are witnessing are buyers teaming up with syndicates to try and beat larger bidders in the sales ring. It’s a big reason why yearling sales are becoming more competitive.”

Tim Wilson, who manages over 1200 race horse owners in First Light Racing syndicate, believes one of the keys to successful yearling purchases is to minimise risk.

“When we go to buy a horse we need to be sure that it will be prepared to go to war for us,” he said.

But Mr Wilson also suggests that it is simply in the nature of Australians to take a gamble on a race horse, with 1 in 300 people known to be registered owners.

“We are all realists in this business but at the same time as Australians we love to dream.”