There are two meetings to look at on Wednesday night, with my focus on Mildura and Redcliffe.
“A hush just descending now…a hush that will erupt into a roar at any tick of the clock…”
These words were uttered by retired racecaller Wayne Wilson in the moments leading up to the 2002 Melbourne Cup, the only year he called the race for Channel 7.
But they could so easily have applied to Randwick yesterday, where all eyes focused on the Australian Easter Yearling Sale at Newmarket.
The sales complex at Randwick is the headquarters for William Inglis and Son, better known simply as Inglis.
Inglis has been operating out of the Newmarket premises, a stone’s throw away from Randwick Racecourse, since 1906.
In the 107 years since, though, I doubt there would have been a day at Newmarket quite like yesterday’s session of the Australian Easter Yearling Sale.
There were 173 yearlings who passed through the ring. The vast majority, though, were there to see only one lot – Lot 131.
The bay or brown colt, by Redoute’s Choice out of Helsinge, is a half brother to Black Caviar and All Too Hard. It is a pedigree which has dollar signs flashing.
It was the first time the Inglis sales had been on free-to-air television, being aired on 7TWO. However, it seemed that all of Sydney’s racing community wanted to see the colt in the flesh and turned out at Randwick.
From midday, the stands began to fill. By 1:30pm – almost two hours before he went through the ring – there was hardly a seat available. And half an hour before the colt appeared, standing room was at a premium.
There was the ultimate matinee about 15 minutes before, when Lot 123 – a Fastnet Rock half brother to Starspangledbanner – went through the ring for $2.4m in a dramatic tussle.
Slowly, the minutes wore away before Lot 130 was led out of the ring.
There was a hush as auctioneer Peter Heagney began his spiel on Lot 131, a colt which “needed no introduction”.
But the colt didn’t appear, with Heagney stopping to say the colt would be with us shortly. This produced a little chuckle, more nervous energy than genuine laughter.
Heagney continued his spiel, before calling for an opening bid of $3m.
Michael Buffer would have been well suited here, appearing out of nowhere, announcing his catchphrase: “Let’s get rrrrrrrrrrready to rrrrrrrrrrrrrrumble!!”
An opening bid of $2m began the battle. This was quickly topped.
It seemed to skyrocket so rapidly – $2.5m, $3m, $4m. The previous record of $3m, held by two gallopers who failed to live up to expectations in Mount Olympus and Seventh Reason, was shattered.
Swettenham Stud’s Adam Sangster bid $5m, but this was taken back to $4.9m. This gave BC3 Thoroughbreds the opportunity to stick their hand up again, offering a final bid of $5m.
And, just like that, it was over. With the fall of the gavel, 162 seconds of pure theatre came to a close. It was longer than any of Black Caviar’s races, but shorter than a Melbourne Cup.
A smattering of applause broke out when the hammer came down, before a larger ovation once the colt had exited the ring.
The exodus began immediately, leaving Heagney almost pleading for people to stay in the ring for the remaining 60 lots of the day.
Lot 132 – by 2008 Golden Slipper winner Sebring out of 2007 Matriarch Stakes winner Hidden Strings – will go down as the most unfortunate lot of the sale, with virtually no attention on the chestnut colt whatsoever.
He was passed in for $60 000, and was sold later for $70, 000, but hardly a soul noticed.
The Helsinge colt still had the crowd captivated, even though his time in the ring was well and truly over. All in attendance knew they had just witnessed something special.
Hours later, he was still the talk of the town as racing figures stepped out for drinks.
Where to now for the record breaking colt? Who will train him? Will he have the same ability as his older siblings? When will we see him step out for the first time?
These are questions that will be answered in the coming days, months and years.
For now, as with any yearling, he remains a mystery, a blank page offering so much, yet promising so little.
His pedigree gives him a commercial advantage in the game of life, but it doesn’t guarantee he will be able to gallop faster than his contemporaries.
And with the great uncertainty of racing, who knows what the future may hold.
Perhaps he will be even better than Black Caviar or All Too Hard. He has the best bloodlines of the three, with Redoute’s Choice a step up from Bel Esprit and Casino Prince.
His full sister, an unraced two year old named Belle Couture, is also owned by BC3 Thoroughbreds and is expected to step out in the next few months.
If she is successful, the colt may even look a bargain in the coming months!
Perhaps he is consigned to a life where he is retired after one or two starts, or maybe after he wins a black type race.
The main mission for the owners now will be for him to show a hint of ability on the racetrack.
With his pedigree, the slightest hint of ability will make him a commercial sire.
Perhaps we won’t see him on a racecourse at all.
That would be a disappointment and would indicate all is not well with the colt.
For a filly, racetrack experience is not as valuable. Belle Couture could retire today and she’d still be worth a fortune.
A sire, though, generally has a combination of racetrack feats and a good pedigree which entices breeders to invest in them through their mares.
It is a conundrum which I’m sure will face BC3 Thoroughbreds at some point.
Perhaps Lot 132, the most unfortunate yearling to go through the sale, may end up being the superstar.
That would be an ironic turn of events, but it is not as unlikely as one may think. Once more, purchase price does not equal ability.
Who can forget the story of Takeover Target, sold through the same Inglis sales ring at Newmarket for $1250 in a tried horse sale in 2003?
And even the likes of five time Group 1 winner Shoot Out ($15000), two time Group 1 winner Sincero ($8000) and Emirates Stakes winner Happy Trails ($11000) show that high value in the sales ring does not always equate to ability on the track.
Compare this with those horses which sold for more than a million dollars.
These statistics were first printed by Danny Power and Stephen Howell in this month’s Inside Racing magazine, as well as being tweeted by them. They make for fascinating reading.
Before this week’s sale, there were 156 yearlings across Australasia who broke the $1m barrier.
Of these, 11 won Group 1 races – six bought in Australia (Viking Ruler, Seventh Rock, Sunday Joy, Samantha Miss, Master of Design, All Too Hard) and five bought in New Zealand (Darci Brahma, Don Eduardo, St Reims, Shower of Roses, Rock ‘n’ Pop).
If only it were so easy.
Yesterday was a brilliant day, producing a remarkable atmosphere hardly seen in the sales ring. But it pays to remember that this is only the first chapter in what will be a fascinating career, no matter how it plays out.
History is patiently waiting to be written. Until we see him on the track, he remains one of racing’s great mysteries.