Karaka has changed. A decade back, and beyond, horse lovers came to Karaka to buy a racehorse.
Today it's to buy a stallion prospect. At least three of the top four lots were hopefully stallions in the making.
That has been caused by one main factor - the drop down in the sale of our made racehorses to Asia. Previously, our best young racehorses were sold mainly to Hong Kong and then Singapore.
The net result is more talented young horses have been retained and the best of them targeted to Australian classic races.
Proportionately, New Zealand's remarkable recent remarkable success in those race from stables like Tony Pike, Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young and others have given the New Zealand thoroughbred, always cherished for its bone structure and health, a renewed reverence.
It took only nine horses into the Karaka ring at the opening of the Premier Session to find $825,000 for the O'Reilly - Volkrose colt which was knocked down to Sydney's Alan Bell along with the China Horse Club and Newgate Stud.
The colt is a brother to Shamexpress, winner of the group one Newmarket at Flemington, who was recently syndicated to stud for a high price.
O'Reilly clicks with the family because a half sister to Volkrose was the talented mare O'Reilly Rose.
Part-owner Tim Davis explained the luck involved at times in the breeding industry. "Two years ago we sent the mare to Redoute's Choice for, I think, A$180,000. He turned out to be a giant and he got not a bid here at Karaka. The next one was by O'Reilly and Dawn and Peter Williams have him in work and we believe he's showing promise. This boy today was a real standout."
Davis owned the colt with Roger Gordon and father-and-son, Richard and Williams Rutherford of Beltana Stud.
Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Mahkroum paid $750,000 for a magnificent filly by Savabeel from Banchee, New Zealand's champion 2YO in 2009.
Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis, busy as always, paid tribute to New Zealand Bloodstock and its principal Sir Peter Vela.
"The company has got the Sheikhs here and what a great coup that is for New Zealand's thoroughbreds."
Ellis himself was the leading buyer of the day in terms of aggregate and numbers, outlaying $2.32 million for 15 yearlings. He arrived at Karaka knowing he was on the right track with Te Akau Bloodstock.
"At this sale last year, we bought last night's Karaka Million winner for $57.5000 and Heroic Valour, who was beaten a nose in the $250,000 Karaka 3YO Mile." Ellis bought "nice colts and fillies" but not the stallion prospects he hopes to be able to snare today.
"We picked up some nice racehorses in the $100,000 - $200,000 bracket, but the main stallion prospects we are looking for are all in tomorrow. It should be a very strong sale."
New Zealand Bloodstock employee from Melbourne, former champion jockey Brent Thomson (3000 winners, 46 at group one level), believes NZB policy of pre-sale flying over Australian trainers is working well.
"If I was a young trainer starting out, I know I'd be shy meeting some of these studmasters. But when you've flown over and met them at their studs and then come back, you know them to a certain level. Let's say a horse is passed in, it's a big help to go to the breeder and negotiate if you already know them. It works."
Bjorn Baker, a Kiwi who spent much of his adult life in Europe as a chemist and now faring well in Sydney as a trainer, came to Karaka to enjoy himself. He bought three yearlings, all at high prices.
Today is expected to be a cracker.
Facts and figures
• Aggregate: $30,265,000 (2017) $28,097,500 (2016).
• Average: $179,083 (2017) $177,832 (2016).
• Median: $135,000 (2017) $150,000 (2016).
• Clearance: 76% both years.
• Catalogued: 240 (2017) 230 (2016).
• Sold: 169 (2017) 158 (2016).