Outstanding Results Bring Buyers Back to Karaka
The National Yearling Sales Series is a proven formula for racetrack success for a number of trainers, syndicators and bloodstock agents, bringing them back to the Karaka Sales Centre year after year.
One of the most prominent of those is Te Akau Racing, the New Zealand syndication powerhouse managed by David Ellis and ably helmed by premiership-winning trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards.
Ellis has been the leading buyer at Karaka every year for more than a decade, and his purchases have carried the tangerine and blue colours of Te Akau with distinction on the racetrack. In the last 12 months alone there have been Group 1 successes with Karaka purchases Xtravagant (NZ) ($375,000, 2014 Premier Sale) and Heroic Valour ($400,000, 2015 Premier Sale) as well as last week’s Levin Classic win by Ready to Run Sale graduate Hall Of Fame (NZ).
“The success we’ve had on the racetracks with horses like Xtravagant and Heroic Valour is the reason why we keep coming back to Karaka,” Ellis said.
The results of Ellis’s purchases in the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas in the last 15 years speak for themselves in that regard. Victories have come with Karaka graduates Xtravagant, Rock ‘N’ Pop ($1 million, 2010 Premier Sale), Darci Brahma (NZ) ($1.1 million, 2004 Premier Sale) and King’s Chapel ($35,000, 2002 Premier Sale).
Ellis sees the remarkable growth of the Karaka Million, to be joined next year by the $1 million Karaka Million 3YO Classic, as a huge drawcard to the National Yearling Sales Series. Two Ellis purchases – Melody Belle (NZ) ($57,500, 2016 Premier Sale) and Iffragal (NZ) ($200,000, 2016 Premier Sale) – feature in the top 20 on the Karaka Million Order of Entry.
“The Karaka Million is a great event that grows every year and it’s definitely another huge incentive to buy at Karaka,” Ellis said. “We’re looking forward to having two runners in the race this year.”
The Karaka Million is also squarely in the sights of prominent Ardmore trainer Stephen McKee, who won the lucrative race last year with Xiong Feng (NZ) ($30,000, 2015 Select Sale). He already has guaranteed representation in the 2017 Karaka Million with Hasahalo (NZ) ($110,000, 2016 Premier Sale) and the last-start winner Star Treasure (NZ) ($70,000, 2016 Premier Sale). Sunrise Ruby (NZ) a $110,000 purchase at the 2016 Premier Sale, is also hoping to make the cut based on winning today's two-year-old race at Tauranga.
“The Karaka Million has become a really attractive option for owners, they’re keen to have a go at it and it’s always a race you target,” McKee said.
McKee’s leading Karaka Million hope this year is the Group 3 Eclipse Stakes winner Hasahalo, who carries the increasingly familiar blue and white colours of Go Racing.
The highly successful Go Racing syndicates, founded and managed by Albert Bosma, have churned out stakes winner after stakes winner purchased at Karaka. Their biggest success story to date is Ruud Awakening, purchased for $90,000 at the 2012 Premier Sale and the winner of the 2013 Karaka Million and Group 1 Diamond Stakes.
The black-type victories have come thick and fast since then, including the likes of multiple stakes winners Passing Shot (NZ) ($50,000, 2013 Select Sale) and No More Tears (NZ) ($75,000, 2014 Select Sale), right through to Hasahalo and Ruud Not Too (NZ) ($220,000, 2014 Premier Sale) who were both major Group race winners at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day. Seize The Moment (NZ) ($50,000, 2012 Premier Sale) won last weekend’s Group 3 Anniversary at Trentham.
“We’ve enjoyed a really good run in the last couple of weeks with the likes of Hasahalo, Ruud Not Too and Seize The Moment,” Bosma said. “We’re hoping it continues with Passing Shot, No More Tears and Mighty Solomon ($50,000, 2012 Ready to Run Sale) all running in the Group 1 Telegraph on Saturday. Then Ruud Not Too, Seize The Moment and possibly Mighty Solomon will run in the Group 1 Thorndon Mile next Saturday, and obviously Hasahalo in the Karaka Million on the Sunday. It’s an exciting time.
“The timing of these results couldn’t be better with the Karaka sales just around the corner. Karaka is a huge part of our operation – all of these horses that we’ve been talking about have come from there.”
For Awapuni trainer Lisa Latta, who has Mighty Solomon in her stable, Karaka has been the source of several star performers over a number of years.
Fort Lincoln, a Charge Forward colt she purchased for $110,000 at the 2010 Premier Sale, won the Karaka Million the following year. She went close to repeating that victory in 2016 with the fast-finishing filly Showmeyamoneyhoney (NZ) ($31,000, 2015 Select Sale).
More recently a California Dane filly out of Chartreuse, secured for $55,000 at the 2013 Select Sale, became New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Platinum Witness. She won five races including the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas, Group 3 Desert Gold Stakes and Group 3 Lowland Stakes.
“It’s a really busy time of year for us trainers, balancing the big carnivals with spending so much time inspecting yearlings,” Latta said this week. “But it’s an exciting and really rewarding time as well. I’ve been lucky enough to get some really good horses at Karaka and I’m looking forward to it again.”
Another familiar face on the Karaka buyers’ bench is Guy Mulcaster, bloodstock agent for such major industry players as Raffles Racing and champion Sydney trainer Chris Waller.
“We’ve had some great results with the horses we’ve bought at Karaka over the years,” Mulcaster said.
At the top of that list is Sacred Falls (NZ), purchased for the Raffles Dancers for $160,000 at the 2011 Premier Sale. He won all of his first six starts in New Zealand, culminating in the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas, then scaled even greater heights in Chris Waller’s Sydney stable. He won two editions of the Group 1 Doncaster Mile, plus a Group 1 George Main Stakes along with placings in the Rosehill Guineas and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He is now beginning a stud career at Waikato Stud.
Other purchases for the Raffles team include Auckland Cup winner Rock Diva (NZ) ($200,000, 2012 Premier Sale) and the current pin-up three-year-old Sacred Elixir (NZ) ($170,000, 2015 Premier Sale). Acquisitions for the Waller stable include the multiple Group 1 winners Kermadec (NZ) ($260,000, 2013 Premier Sale) and Preferment (NZ) ($190,000, 2013 Premier Sale).
“My clients have been pretty happy with what they’ve had from the Karaka sales over the recent years,” Mulcaster said. “They’ve been putting their money up for this sale over the years, so it’s been great to see them rewarded with some really nice horses coming out of the sale.
“Sacred Elixir’s going to run in the $250,000 Karaka 3YO Mile on Sunday week and then on towards the Derby, which is really exciting.”
Mulcaster said it’s the potential classic contenders that the Karaka sale ring has become renowned for.
“We target horses that are likely three-year-old types at this sale,” he said. “There’s a lot of quality available in that regard and we’ve had some very good results.
“But at the same time you can’t pigeon-hole them. You can always find some that are a bit more precocious and can go early. There’s a lot of variety.”
Another highly successful and respected bloodstock agent who has become a Karaka regular is Australia’s John Foote. Renowned worldwide for the purchasing black-type superstars, Foote has also enjoyed great success with his trips across the Tasman and has been seen inspecting yearlings in the Waikato during the past week.
The most notable example is a Pentire colt he secured for $50,000 out of Rich Hill Stud’s draft at the 2011 Premier Sale. Named Prince Of Penzance (NZ), he went on to score an unforgettable victory in the 2015 Melbourne Cup.
“It is always wonderful to have a Group 1 winner and the Melbourne Cup is the highest profile race in Australasia to win,” Foote said after the Flemington triumph. “The overseas horses were good, but we found this horse much closer to home in New Zealand and he has done a great job.
“New Zealand has always produced great stayers and still does. There is great value to be found as well, across all three sales.
“Buyers don't have to go to the UK to find good stayers … there is quality, at great value, on our door step in New Zealand.”
Acting on behalf of his main client Lib Petagna, bloodstock agent Bruce Perry also boasts a proud record of finding racetrack superstars at Karaka.
The recent roll of honour includes three-time Group 1 winner Lucia Valentina (NZ) ($60,000, 2012 Premier Sale), Australian Oaks heroine and New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Sofia Rosa (NZ) ($65,000, 2014 Select Sale), New Zealand 2000 Guineas winner Ugo Foscolo (NZ) ($50,000, 2015 Select Sale) and Group 3 Ethereal Stakes winner and Group 1 VRC Oaks placed Eleonora (NZ) ($60,000, 2015 Premier Sale).
“Karaka has proven to be a wonderfully consistent source of Group winners,” Perry said recently. “This year’s catalogue will again include a number of high quality yearlings at realistic prices. It's just a matter of finding them.”