No Aussies no worries for yearling sales

10th February 2021

By Michael Guerin

The Karaka yearling sale this weekend may not have an Australian buyers on the grounds but it has something more important: the strongest catalogue ever put together for a Southern Hemisphere sale.

After the recent thoroughbred sales held by New Zealand Bloodstock they put on their harness racing hat for five days to offer over 400 pacers and trotters, with the selling starting at Karaka on Sunday after a parade day on Saturday.

Like the thoroughbred sales NZBS will have to sell to overseas buyers through their new real-time online bidding platform, which is now well bedded in after two successful sales in recent months.

But the reality is the loss of overseas buyers on the ground shouldn’t have as much effect as at the thoroughbred sales because there is close to no Asian market for harness horses as well as a very strong domestic buying bench.

Harness racing does have fewer agents who would have inspected all the yearlings to advise overseas clients but harness buyers tend to be less exacting than the thoroughbred code where almost all horses are x-rayed and scoped before the sale.

The loss of the Australians on the sales ground will still affect the sale but anybody serious about harness racing in Australasia will be watching for the simple fact the sale is remarkably in its depth.

The Karaka sale has been the Australasian benchmark for the last decade, with its boutique catalogue and a more commercial feel to the breeding and sales industry in the north, dominated by huge farms like Woodlands Stud and Breckon Farms.

But even by Karaka’s high standards this sale is incredibly deep, with almost every dam of the yearlings a black type performer, has left a black type performer or is a sibling to a black type performer.

Some of the older families have been weeded out by the larger farms culling less commercial mares while both Woodlands and Breckon Farms, by far the two biggest vendors, are putting even their most valuable yearlings under the hammer.

The result is a sale with more depth, current families and potential $100,000 colts than anything ever seen in this part of the world.

“We are opening up the jewel box,” says Breckon Farms boss Ken Breckon.

“We have decided to really get behind the sale after a tough last year for the industry and we have 36 in our draft, 34 of which Karen and I own ourselves.

“Of those 36 we are taking to Karaka, 33 have group one winners in their first or second dams.” Along those is the three-quarter brother to Miracle Mile winner King Of Swing while Breckon Farms are selling some blueblood trotters, with that gait no longer the poor relations of the standardbred yearling sales.

Woodlands boss Andrew Grierson is also bouyant about Sunday’s sale with a draft fill of brothers and sisters to group one winners.

The sale will be anchored by the enormous popularity of Woodlands stallion Bettors Delight but along with the demand for regular sales favourite Art Major there is newcomer back-up in Sweet Lou, Captaintreacherous and there will be increased interest in the stock of Always B Miki after a sensational freshman season in North America for the Alabar stallion.

Domestically there has been good interest in parades and yearling tours and most of the big players have indicated they will be buying, including on-sabbatical champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen who will be advising established owners even though they don’t intend training again this year or maybe ever.

Whether the sale has many $200,000-plus lots, which is real blue chip level at a harness sale, will depend on just how many of the big players get a crush on the same horse.

But on depth alone the sale is certain to be strong even at a time when the Australians can’t get into the country.

Saturday: Parade starts at 1pm
Sunday: Sale starts noon.

Monday: Parade starts at 1pm; trotting sale at 3pm
Tuesday and Wednesday: Sales starts 1pm both days.