DOWNS’ BREEDER POSITIONED TO GRAB WORLD MARKET SHARE

For proof the world is becoming a smaller place, you only need look at thoroughbred racing. International reaction and interaction amongst racing participants is ensuring its rapid development as a global industry. Breeding is a prime example.

A race victory or sale, for example, anywhere on the planet now influences thinking and responses world wide. The increasing amount of money changing hands where is all begins next month – in breeding barns and sale rings impacts on all levels of racing participants.

That is set to continue, according to prominent Darling Downs breeding industry member Ron Gilbert, when Magic Millions in January kicks off Australia’s 2006 thoroughbred sale circuit.
And the upshot he believes will be a benefit to all breeders on the Downs.

Gilbert has taken giant strides in Australian thoroughbred breeding circles in recent years through the success of his Highgrove Stud at Westbrook. He is also the current vice chairman of the National Commercial Breeders Board, Aushorse. His prediction of a continuing sales boom is based on the recent United States Keeneland sale which produced record sale figures.

But while Gilbert says the top end of the thoroughbred market is the immediate winner in spiralling prices paid for quality stock, the repercussions should eventually be felt down the line.

The fourth highest price in the thoroughbred auction history of $US9 million was paid at Keeneland for a filly off the track. “I think the Keeneland lead has to flow through here – we follow world trends,” Gilbert said. “Especially now the Northern Hemisphere buyers know they can buy quality stock in Australia, and they see our prices as cheap compared to what they pay overseas.

“Everytime a Choisir, a Starcraft or an Alinghi perform well internationally it brings us more and more in to the spotlight. “That gives the Australian market confidence and the whole horse industry incentive to keep investing.

“And no-one is positioning themselves better than Darling Downs breeders to take advantage of that interest. “In the past eight to ten years I think bloodstock buyers have gone away from the ‘Hunter Valley’ line of thought that it is the only region in Australia producing quality thoroughbreds.

“The Downs is growing in reputation all the time. “Tommy Smith always believed that the Darling Downs was premier horse country. “And now the Darling Downs is also being recognised at an international level. “Breeders of all persuasions should eventually feel the benefits of that. “It only stands to reason as major buyers step in at the top level, the ripple affect will be felt down the line.”

Magic Millions managing director and auctioneer David Chester said the introduction of the Gold Coast sale in 1986 has provided Downs breeders with added international exposure.

“Previously in Queensland we weren’t as highly regarded of recognised,” Chester said. “But Downs breeders now prepared to have a go have proved they are right up there with the rest of them. “Every number one trainer in Australia, along with international buyers, is now aware of what the Darling Downs has to offer. “If you said those same people would have all flocked to the Gold Coast to buy Queensland-bred horses prior to 1986, people would have laughed at you.”

Blueblood broodmares are breeding’s current hot property according to Gilbert. “The interest in quality broodmares at last years Inglis dispersal sale of Vinery’s mares was a strong indicator. “They made some serious money.”

Gilbert intends to put his money where his mouth is during 2006 as he searches for additions to his Highgrove line-up of mares.
They will some elite company. Highgrove is at the high end of achievements of Darling Downs studs which have this year produced a line of Listed winners including Mirror Mirror, War of the Worlds and Ferocity.

This month’s Flemington Group 2 winner Jet Spur (by Flying Spur) is a son of Highgrove mare Verocative who recently dropped a full brother to the colt. Jet Spur’s three-quarter sister Remnant (by Danehill) currently has a Highgrove foal at foot by Tale Of The Cat. She is now in foal to Lonhro.

Gilbert is taken with the early traits of Lonhro’s stock which should be available to buyers at Magic Millions’ 2007 sale. Highgrove mare Anacarde, who has her first offspring (by Encosta De Lago) going through the Magic Millions ring next month, now has foal by Lonhro.

“We’re very excited about the Lonhro’s,” Gilbert said. “He’s one of the nicest foals we’ve had on the farm. “It’s only early days, but quite a few other people I’ve spoken to have the same opinion.”

Highgrove also boasts the first Australian-bred foal of British-bred sire Falbrav (IRE). “I think Falbrav is one of the best horses we’ve seen for a while and this filly, out of Sequin, who is a three-quarter sister to Shania Dane, is the first Australian-bred foal of his. “She is a magnificent individual.”

While Gilbert concedes yearling buyers are becoming more fastidious, he believes improved marketing can help boost returns to all tiers. “We need more owners – more syndications,” Gilbert said “New Zealand Thoroughbreds gets a $1 million government subsidy annually to market its product. “The Australian industry funds itself.”

Magic Millions and Aushorse, representing major Australian commercial farms, has announced a long-term plan to attract new buyers to Magic Millions signature January yearling sale. Magic Millions has agreed to commit $3 million over five years to an Aushorse conducted inward buyers’ scheme. The initiative is aimed at introducing prominent international buyers in to the market. Aushorse has successfully administered similar programs with Magic Millions in the last two years.

Magic Millions estimates the inward buyers’ scheme in 2004 and 2005 resulted in new buyers spending $5,312,500 and $8,821,000 respectively at their sales. Importantly, those buyers were also seen to add to the buoyancy of the sale as underbidders on numerous other lots.

While many buyers from a number of countries attended the Magic Millions sales in the last two years, the latest agreement provides for the inward buyers’ scheme to be extended to new domestic markets.

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