The broader Darling Downs economy is breathing a collective sigh of relief after a predicted crash in horseflesh prices was avoided at this year’s Magic Millions Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast.

The global economic downturn was expected to have a heavy impact on the 2009 buying power of thoroughbred investors but figures point to a bloodbath having been avoided at least during the first sale of the year.

Aushorse chairman and prominent Westbrook breeder Ron Gilbert said the stronger-than-expected market came as a “welcome surprise”.

You would have to say it has all been good, given what some of the sale predictions were,” Gilbert said yesterday. “The main sale was down about 16 per cent on previous figures. That compares more than favourably with world-wide sales which have dipped around 40 per cent.

Gilbert said sales in America this week fared worse with a 50% dive in prices. That followed confirmation last week that wagering on US horse racing in 2008 suffered an alarming slump with betting turnover down by more than $US1 billion.

Gilbert said predictions the top end of the Magic Millions market would remain strong largely held true. “Nice horses made plenty of money,” Gilbert said. “But I think most vendors who were prepared to meet the market finished up pretty happy with the sale.”

Gilbert’s Highgrove Stud returned satisfying sale figures. “We had a full clearance and I’m happy with the results,” Gilbert said. “We sold a Hussonet filly for $325,000, which was the highest priced Hussonet to go through the ring, and we had a Jet Spur colt bring $100,000. The Jet Spur’s proved popular and sold very well.”

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