Almanac Horseracing (and Investment): The Muse is musing on yearling sales



It’s fair to say we haven’t had much of a summer which apparently is something to do with the Spanish chap El Nino taking a vacation. He was back on the job and the temperature in Melbourne reached 38 degrees  the other day.  Apparently that’s a day of extreme temperatures and requires the Victorian Health Minister to pay five media minions to craft a warning to all Victorians that is a day of extreme heat and here is a list of things you need to do if you are to avoid death as a consequence. If I was a cynic instead of a glass half full man I would question this advice particularly given in the olden days a 38 degree in the Mallee in February was effectively a cool change and a cause to celebrate some relief from the heat.


Sorry, I digress I had a couple of chilled Abbotts Longnecks tonight rolled a Capstan ready-rubbed and commenced to muse on the yearling sales. As an aside I reckon beer chilled in a wheat bag in the dam has a better taste than beer chilled in the fridge. Maybe the hemp from the wheat bag somehow gets into the beer and enhances it. Sorry I’m off track again. I need to focus.


Now I have shared in the ownership of a number of horses and enjoyed some success over the years and it’s fair to say I love the Sport of Kings. It’s also fair to say the slow ones cost just as much to feed as the fast ones. Over the journey I have formed a few conclusions:


Horse breeders are the descendants of Gypsy Horse Traders. Syndicators are descended from successful door to door vacuum cleaner salesmen.

Horse Auctioneers are ex Real Estate Agents who became bored with selling things of established value. They moved on because they like the challenge of selling  things which have no established value and could be sold for a little or a lot depending on your skill as an auctioneer .


But I love the theatre of the sales and watch them intently. The first two sales are concluded


The Magic Millions on the Gold Coast which for me is the epitome of a new money dick swinging contest and Karaka in NZ which is a more old-fashioned sale and the prices are reasonable for stoutly bred NZ horses. For me the theatre is the auctioneers’ patter despite the fact they try to open the bidding somewhere near the vendor’s reserve which is a clear give away. It goes something like this and my cynical  thoughts follow…


Put him in your colours. Stop pandering to egos.
Buy the one you want not the one that is left.
Just a tad short of the reserve, two more bids will get me there.
Have a look at the way she walks she will be up and going early.


Why the fixation with two year olds? Is it  because it plays to new money dickswingers and their egos .


He is a get up and run type. He will go early. I had a dog like that ,it got run over as a pup so much for going early .

Have a look at the way she walks. Elle McPherson walks beautifully but ran last in the school 100 metres race.


He is your sort of horse, give me another 10k and he might be yours. Yep, just short of the reserve again and I have got this mug on the hook I just need to reel him in.


She comes from a great family her mother won three in a row. Wycheproof, Tocumwal and Manangatang wins hardly make the mother a star.


Picture yourself back here next year with the race favourite. Dream on boy-o.


You won’t have to wait long with this horse. Yep he’ll probably be sacked by next Christmas.


He comes from a great farm. Please mate, they breed for the sales not the races they haven’t bred a good horse in the last five years.


He will always have the family. Dawn Fraser’s brother couldn’t swim.


On it goes and on the fall of the hammer: “Well bought.” You will regret this champ I got you for 50k more than he was worth.


“Ah, he has gone to a good judge.” Please, he buys ten horses at every sale and gets an occasional winner in the country.


“She  goes to [insert trainer’s name ] she will get every chance.” C’mon mate if she isn’t up and running early she will be cast off as that stable focusses on early runners.


Thanks to the underbidders there will be one for you later in the sale . You went to 900k and missed out my job is to extract that from you before the end of the sale.


Well done I reckon you might have just bought the Golden Slipper winner. Yep that’s six times you have said that today, please, mate.


That’s not enough. We will have to put her by [pass her in] she’s worth more than that. C’mon, the market just told you what she was worth and we all know  the last bid was from the vendor. She will sell at market price as the breeder won’t want  to take her home as he has foals on the ground he has to feed.


Enough of the auctioneers’ patter. In excess of 20 yearlings were sold at the Magic Millions Sale for over $1m. History shows that under 3% of yearlings sold in Australia and NZ for in excess of $1m have recovered their purchase price on the track. Some that don’t earn that do recover their purchase price plus a lot more at stud but they are few and far between. Fair dinkum, when I see one knocked down at that price I am tempted to shout to the buyer,  “goodonya  mate, well bought, you have a 3% of breaking even on your outlay  you would be better off buying lotto tickets.


I do like to track the progress of the expensive ones. Last year I watched a striking colt by I am Invincible out of the very good mare Booker get knocked down for a mere $2.5m and on the fall of the hammer the auctioneer proclaimed, “well done, you have just bought the colt of the sale.” Well the ‘colt of the sale ‘ is now known as Railway Man and last Wednesday he had his first start in a fairly ordinary two year old race at Randwick . The race had only seven starters and RM started a short-priced favourite because I suspect for no other reason than his purchase price as his trial form was ordinary. Against the mediocre lot he faced he finished a less than moderate fifth. If he doesn’t get some of whatever Ben Johnson was using I suspect RM will suffer the unkindest cut of all for a male and eventually be sold online to a bush trainer for 30k. Hopefully he will recover the 30k for the battler from the bush.


Finally after the sale the syndicators and trainers kick in trying to attract owners for the champions they have purchased. Jeez I reckon I am on every trainer’s and syndicator’s mailing list and have they got a deal for me.


“We absolutely stole this one she was our pick of the sale etc etc etc blah blah blah.”


Enough of that. Not sure what my point is, however there are a few  things to  contemplate before you embark on ownership in a noble steed to participate in the Sport of Kings


  1. It’s a highly volatile investment portfolio
  2. If you a buying a horse to pay the rent, get used to sleeping in the bus shelter
  3. Fast horses, slow horses and those in between all cost the same to feed
  4. At the yearling sales it’s not all what it seems to be


Cheers All
The Muse


Read more terrific memoir from Drizzle (The Muse) HERE

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  1. Thank you Drizzle.
    If horse breeders are descendants of gypsy horse traders so are used car salesmen & women.

    As for horse syndicators being descended from successful vacuum (Hoover) cleaner salesman I presume
    you are referring to Gerry Harvey, the Hardly Normal so called “family man.”

  2. Very amusing and suitably jaundiced Mr Muse. In my racing days I was always amused by wet track ability being assessed by blood lines. “A half sister to XXXX which was a gun in the mud” would be met with the retort that “Johnny Weismuller’s sister drowned”.
    The sad news that Verry Elleegant died foaling during the week had me prognosticating to golf partners (a much cheaper and healthier addiction) that champion race mares are always duds at stud, Black Caviar. Makybe Diva. I remember Tommy Smith’s Derby winning filly from the eighties – Bounding Away – producing nothing. Their lightly raced (or better unraced) family members seem to do much better.
    Any exceptions to the rule Mr Muse? Or theories why? Racing stresses them out hormonally and genetically? “Medications”? Hardly an advertisement for the Sport of Mugs.

  3. The romance of the turf is such that some owners pay a fortune and get a dud eg Paint the Stars whereas others are patient and lucky like Wendy Green, whose horse Rogan Josh won the Melbourne Cup.

    From personal experience our horse won its first race at Flemington.
    Bill Collins called the race from his pocket as he backed the favourite which ran second.
    Our horses’s daughter also won in the city.
    Bloodlines do count but there are many other factors.

    I had a friend who would fly to Sydney for mid week races from Melbourne when we were at Uni together.
    My mate said bookies were staggered at the amount he bet successfully.
    He had a good eye for horses and I saw that on the few occasions we attended race meetings together.

    Yes the industry is littered with mug punters, shady characters and dubious practices.

    George Hanlon always said Horses are only human.
    I would see Manikato break other horses’ hearts and they never one again.

    Why is it some punters become addicted and cynical others are successful, disciplined and don’t chase their losses.

    This is the Sport of Kings and no place for the faint hearted.

  4. Love the insight Muse.

    To punt well takes hours every week, and uninterrupted attention on raceday. And I find that rather dull, when you choose to spend hours analysing and trading/structuring/hedging etc.

    Or kids become the focus.

    Most Australian punters don’t gamble – they’re not having life-changing amounts (win or lose) on their selections. They play. But the threat of the grip of the punt is ever-present, and we can all be captured.

    PS D. Lane wasn’t in Ballarat today for a haircut. Got the $7 shot home in the last.

  5. Hayden Kelly says

    Thanks for the comments . Lets Elope is one champion mare i recall who had some success at stud and Rose of Kingston was the dam of the Cup winner Kingston Rule but it’s a rarity albeit the daughters of champion mares regardless of their racetrack ability tend to have success at stud.
    My old man was the epitome of a ‘victim of the punt ‘ but thankfully my 2 brothers and myself didn’t inherit the gene . We all love racing , dabble in ownership with varying degrees of success and love a Saturday punt . However it’s all done within our financial means .
    Maybe I have too many horses but I have mates who have ridiculously expensive boats and cars neither of which interest me . Racing throws up great stories eg Harry Coffey winning the Oakleigh Plate on Saturday for the Oxlades who are battling trainers from Adelaide with 16 horses in work . The Swan Hill boy and the Adelaide battlers triumphed over the big boys and girls . Similarly I know two of Mr Brightside’s owners and they certainly aren’t Sheikhs or property developers .
    Racing is an industry where everyone is selling a dream and sometimes those dreams come true
    Re the punt it’s about discipline .I deposit the same amount every Saturday into my accounts an amount I can afford to lose .I f I blow the lot before the last race I don’t top up with another deposit . Alternatively I withdraw whatever the balance is on Saturday night and resume hostilities the following Saturday .Mid week betting only occurs when i have a horse running
    It works for me

  6. I should add to my previous comment: I actually love punting. Beer-in-hand punting in particular.

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