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Buyers back in the saddle

EQUINE enthusiasts are often accused of being an optimistic lot and this year’s annual yearling sales have proved no exception, with horse breeders expecting a significantly larger annual cheque from next week’s Magic Millions yearling sales.

Uncertain economic times are expected to have no bearing on this year’s bloodstock auction. Results from other sales around the nation are all pointing to strong interest at the Perth sales.

The 2003 Magic Millions Gold Coast Premier Sales held this week surpassed expectations and achieved record returns.

The sale grossed $3.52 million and averaged $16,000 compared with $14,050 the previous year and had a clearance rate of 77 per cent compared with 75 per cent the previous year.

Asian buyers, who traditionally purchase 40 per cent of the horses at the Perth’s sale – despite a noticeable absence last year– are expected to be back in force over the next week. Around 50 buyers from South-East Asia are expected to attend the Perth sales held at Belmont racecourse.

Magic Millions general manager Murray Tillett said the Asian market had been significantly down due to the financial crisis hangover. However, WA horses traditionally had performed very well in South-East Asia, he said.

“The successes of WA horses in South-East Asia means people regard the horses as representing great value,” Mr Tillett said.

What is more, WA is the home of a number of stud horses that have made their mark on the racing industry.

“This is driving a bit of optimism around the racing industry,” Mr Tillett said.

On offer this year are 438 horses from about 50 different breeders, each offering between one and 50 horses. The sales are dominated by the 50 horses from the Mungrup Stud situated at Narrikup, near Mount Barker.

Mungrup Stud is offering the last commercial crop of 14 horses sired by Metal Storm. In addition, the Northerly pedigree, which has had winnings of more than $8 million, is also up for offer.

Collectively, more than $60 million in winnings trace their roots back to WA’s stables.

Mungrup studmaster Gray William-son said the indications were that this year the sales would be particularly buoyant.

“The catalogue this year is probably the best we have had in years. We are getting very good feedback from buyers,” he said.

Sale organisers are tipping stronger average sale prices as a result of the quality field of horses and the rekindled Asian interest.

“Whereas last year’s average price was $18,400, this year it will most likely be closer to $20,000,” Mr Tillett told WA Business News.

Each year the horse trade in WA is estimated to be worth between $6 million and $7 million with more than 90 per cent going through the Magic Millions turnstiles.

At sales nationwide, dominated by the Inglis Sydney Easter Sales, the horse industry is worth around $200 million each year.

In Sydney, the average price paid for a bloodstock horse is $140,000.

Mr Tillett said the price also reflected the increasing prize pool. In WA the average racing prize had increased to $50,000.

The Magic Millions sales are privately run and owned by business-men Gerry Harvey, John Singleton and Robert Ferguson.

In the past four years its turnover has surged from $20 million to more than $90 million.

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