As a young man, legendary horse trainer Bart Cummings would traipse up and down New Zealand looking for his next champion.
It's an approach that saw eight of the 84-year-old's 12 Melbourne Cup victories won by New Zealand-bred horses.
And at yesterday's opening of the Karaka yearling sales Mr Cummings became the first Australian (human being) to be inducted into the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame.
The "Cups King" has attended every New Zealand national sale since his first in 1958, and has said his decision to buy yearlings in New Zealand was one of the best of his life.
"It's not often an Aussie becomes a Kiwi," Mr Cummings said yesterday from his seat in the buyers' box.
"It's an unusual for an Aussie to get one over here. I think it's the first time. It took awhile to break the drought, didn't it?"
A long-time champion of the New Zealand racing industry, in the 1960s Mr Cummings' research showed 60 per cent of Group 1 winners were New Zealand-bred horses.
"That's when I started coming and buying them ... it's a good country, you've got all the trace elements. And it's just a wonderful land for thoroughbreds and stock."
He said he had bought one horse at yesterday's auctions and had his expert eye on several more.
Being able to pick a champion was a skill learned over a lifetime of being around the animals, he said.
"It gives you a pretty good understanding of what it's all about. If they're out of shape, they're usually out of form with it."
It was at Karaka that Mr Cummings spotted perhaps the greatest of all his horses, So You Think, which was bought with Malaysian businessman Dato Tan Chin Nam.
"They bought it here for $110,000, and they sold 50 per cent for $30 million," said Petrea Vela, co-managing director of sales and marketing at organiser New Zealand Bloodstock.
"Those are the sorts of stories that keep the dream alive."
Ms Vela said bidding action on the 260 sales yesterday had been a little subdued, but the remaining 276 premier auctions today were likely to see stronger competition.
Of the $88 million worth of sales last year, $65 million was spent in the first two days.
A colt being sold by Cambridge Stud owner Sir Patrick Hogan today as lot 353 had attracted "a lot of buzz" and had a good chance of being sold for more than $1 million, she said.
The two-day premier sale is followed by the three-day Select Sale and then the one-day Festival Sale.By Nicholas Jones Email Nicholas