Top juniors make their mark at yearling sales

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk

It was Generation Z vs a roomful of Boomers.

And for three of the sport's youngest and brightest at the NZB National Standardbred Yearling Sale at Karaka and Christchurch they proved their talents aren't just confined to the race track.

The country's top junior driver Sarah O'Reilly splashed out $25,000 on a Sweet Lou filly, fellow 23-year-old Korbyn Newman outlaid $17,500 on a Captain Crunch colt, and 24-year-old Sam Payne bought three yearlings for a combined total of over $30,000, including one that left him gobsmacked.

It was Lot 57 at Karaka, a Bettor's Delight - Georgia's Belle colt for $16,000.

"I could not believe a Bettor's colt went for that - I thought there must be something wrong with him, I would have thought he was worth $50 to 70,000."

"I was just hoping he didn't have his leg on back to front!'

As it turns out the colt was just fine, and Payne is looking forward to seeing what happens next.

"It is unbelievable."

He bought another Bettor's Delight - this time a filly (Saddle Ridge) for $7500, and then a Fear The Dragon - Divine Diva filly for $9000.

"I own them myself and I'll break them in and try and syndicate them and if not I'll keep them myself."

Payne has bought yearlings at the sales in the past - just not in these numbers.

"It's a big ask (spending a total of $32,500) but it's all part of building a good race team."

Both Payne and O'Reilly come from established racing families. For O'Reilly it was the first horse she's bought "all by myself".

Previously she'd been to many sales usually alongside her father Gerard, in much the same way as Sam Payne has seen his dad Greg buy plenty in the past.

"It was a bit random - I didn't look at the catalogue until the day before the sale," says O'Reilly, "I liked the look of her in the photos but in person she looked even better and was a good mover."

She duly bought the Sweet Lou - Mermaid Explorer filly for $25,000.

"I had a budget of under the $20,000 mark but I'm my own boss so it worked out ok!"

So how was the experience?

"It was a bit scary - but good."

While Mermaid Explorer was an unraced Bettor's Delight mare, O'Reilly says a bit of research showed plenty of good winners in her family.

"Her sisters left the likes of Cover Girl, Town Echo and Lauraella."

Town Echo was the most prolific winner with 12 from 44 starts.

While this is O'Reilly's first sales purchase she is also branching out into breeding as well, and already has a Majestic Son foal to eight race winner She's Allthe Craze.

"I would like to get my training licence one day and I guess this is another step in that direction."

For Newman the experience of buying Lot 255, a Captain Crunch - Dreaminthemaking colt was "an adrenaline rush".

It was his first purchase at the sales.

He'd seen the horse up close during the pre-sale on-farm parades and after consulting the likes of John Dunn and Regan Todd decided he was keen.

Newman bought the colt along with his father Greg and uncle Mark.

"We would have gone up to $35,000 so we think we got a bargain."

"We were bidding on another two earlier in the day and got outbid .... we were only going to buy one horse and we are happy with what we've got."

"He seems a cool dude."

While his and O'Reilly's new purchase have already been "on the jogger", Payne is giving his trio a week or so to get used to their new surroundings.

"Ideally it would great to have a two-year-old up and going but we'll start breaking them in and go from there."

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