More than just a sale

By Michael Guerin

Alabar general manager Graeme Henley says the upcoming May sale on Gavelhouse is more than just a sale.

Because he believes it will be an important barometer for where the industry’s confidence stands coming out of the Covid-19 crisis.

The May sale conducted by New Zealand Bloodstock Standardbred also contains a smattering of broodmares, yearlings and even the odd racehorse but it is predominantly about weanlings, with huge offerings from Alabar and Woodlands (who were profiled on hrnz.co.nz last week).

And because of Covid restrictions around travel and the size of gatherings the sale will be not only online but over a week starting May 20 on the Gavelhouse platform run by NZBS.

Online sales are proving incredibly successful in the thoroughbred world and Henley, who was the first vendor to majorly support the May sale with big numbers, says the move to online for this month’s sale is both logical and could prove a success.

“We would prefer a normal sale but NZBS have been great to deal with by getting this online and there will be positives to that,” says the general manager of Alabar.

“It means the Australians can be just as involved as the locals and I think that market will be boosted by the fact they have a new sales company over there so buyers can purchase weanlings here as pinhook prospects and on-sell them as yearlings over there.”

For that reason and also because the sale comes as hopefully both countries start to move of of the Covid-19 crisis, Henley sees it as a crucial barometer on where the industry is heading.

“Those markets, like pinhooking and buyers looking to pay higher end money for weanlings, will tell us a fair bit about where things are heading and how people see the near future in harness racing.”

Alabar has always been a big supporter of the May sale and Henley says the reasons are simple.

“It is because of the way our business is set up.

“We have had up to eight stallions on the farm here before and some breeding seasons we will serve 2500 mares.

“That is a lot of work, even the work around the semen transportation is a lot and we simply don’t have the time or space to be preparing a lot of yearlings for the sales as the two things overlap.

“For that reason we supported this sale very early and now Woodlands have come on board with big numbers and I think it is a really important day for the industry.”

Horses like U May Cullect have been sold by Alabar at the May sale and last year they had a Kadabra weanling sell for $80,000 and a brother to Alta Maestro for $75,000.

Another brother to the latter will be one of the highlights of their 57-strong draft this month while Henley sees some real highlights.

“We also have a sister to Star Galleria, who would be valuable for that reason alone but she is only the second filly from that dam Starlitnight and the other filly, Star Of Venus, has left Self Assured.

“So a filly like he has value to keep, pin-hook or even as a broodmare because that is a really fast, current family and you just can’t buy fillies from that family.”

The stock of Alabar’s superstar Art Major are naturals for any young horse sale as he produces such athletic horses and Henley is also excited about the stock of world record holder Always B Miki and of course local hero Vincent, who has eight weanlings in their draft.

“Vincent is as good a looking horse as you would see and that comes through in the weanlings. Even the fillies look strong with good shoulders.

“So we think they will be popular.”

Henley says next week looms as an important day for sale with trainers and agents set to visit the South Auckland farm for inspections on Tuesday week.

“I think that is crucial,” says Henley.

“I have had a lot of people ring me and ask me about certain weanlings, which has been a good sign.

“But we expect to have trainers an agents here next week and if people can’t be here if they ring their mates who can be, with many of the top trainers going to be here, then at least they can give them an unbiased opinion.

“So that is going to be a real asset, especially for the Australians.”

Of course Alabar aren’t just relying on that, with Henley himself manning the camera for the eight pics and then videos needed of all 57 weanlings for the sale.

“That made an interesting experience,” he laughs.

“Trying to get 57 weanlings to do what you want when you want is a bit of a mission and I reckon it was the first time I had ever used he video function on my camera.

“But we got there, it helped we had 10 days of fine weather otherwise it would have been impossible. What also helped with the guidance of a celebrity Nanny, former champion racehorse and Alabar stallion Elsu.

“We gelded him a couple of years ago when he was no longer commercial because if we hadn’t have he would have spent the rest of his life alone.

“So he buddies up with the odd mare these days but we actually put the weanlings in a paddock with him, in bunches of 5 or 6, for the first week when the come off the mares.

“He keeps them calm, shows them how to behave and loves it because he gets fed well and has some company.

“So we call him our celebrity Nanny.”

So as for the sale, what can buyers expect?

“We are being very realistic about our reserves but it won’t be a fire sale because it doesn’t need to be and I can tell that by the interest we have had already.

“But the most important thing is for people to register with Gavelhouse and then they can choose to buy or not.”

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