Three pods of 100 for NZB Yearling Sales

By Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s richest harness racing yearling sale may be set to dodge a Covid bullet.

Because New Zealand Bloodstock Standardbred are confident they can get up to 300 registered buyers to Karaka on Sunday for the start of harness racing’s sales week and keep the average near last year’s record high.

The red traffic light settings will undoubtedly affect sales weekend with Saturday night’s stunning Harness Millions meeting at Alexandra Park to operate with a greatly reduced crowd on what was initially planned to be at the end of a family fun day as well as an unofficial launch of the new racing season.

Instead the meeting which will boast Sundees Son, Self Assured, South Cost Arden, Akuta and Franco Indie will be scaled back, with even NZBS having to cancel their racenight function as they do not want to risk having 100 potential buyers in the same function room.

It will be a lot easier to keep them apart at Karaka the next day though, with NZBS set to operate three pods of 100 registered buyers each.

“The way we have been able to see it up we can have three pods of 100 people who will each have their own areas inside the auditorium, with separates dining facilities and bathrooms from the other pods,” says NZBS director of operations James Jennings.

“We have asked for people who usually buy or think they may buy to register and we are close to that 300-person limit now.

“And we have experienced staff who are working at grouping owners and their usual trainers or people who buy with in the same pods so they can go about their business as usual.”

That organisation will go a long way to keep most of New Zealand’s established buyers happy and with only 131 yearlings to go through the ring on Sunday for the most boutique and elite sale in Australasia, there will probably end up with less than 50 people (some as syndicate heads) actually buying all the horses.

The one group that obviously can’t be at Karaka are Australian-based buyers, which accounted for around 30-35 per cent of Karaka standardbred purchases last year.

“We are lucky we have such a good online platform for people to use and last year one third of the horses attracted an online bid,” said Jennings.

“But we know the actual number of active Australian buyers was a lot higher because some big names prefer to bid through their usual trainers or agents on the ground.”

That saw the average top $50,000 at Karaka last season with a clearance of 82 per cent and horses sold for up to $320,000 range, numbers which would have been unrealistic to even the most enthusiastic breeders a few years ago and that make Australian vendors shake their heads at the success of the New Zealand sales.

“We realise there are obvious challenges with Covid and particularly with the borders and to be honest that probably affects the impulse buying and therefore more likely to the middle market,” explains Jennings.

“But we have those same challenges last season with a remarkable result and we are also very lucky that some of the biggest Australian buyers have 20 or even 30-year relationships with their New Zealand trainers and trust their eye.”

 The catalogue also has two other huge boosts, with 38 lots by Bettors Delight, so almost a third of the sale, and an 85 colt and 41 fillies split which should ensure similar numbers to last year, which would be seen as a huge success.

The sales moves to Christchurch next Monday for three days.

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