The richest week in New Zealand racing could face a dramatic change of timeslot and might take our richest two-year-old race with it.
New Zealand Bloodstock will announce on August 31 whether its National Yearling Sale, traditionally held at Karaka in late January, has to be moved to April because of the potential for border restrictions still being in place.
Many of the leading buyers at the sale, particularly the heavy hitters buying from Book 1, are from overseas, with the most obvious exception being Te Akau's David Ellis.
It would be extremely unpalatable for most to come yearling shopping at Karaka if 14-day quarantines were in place both ways and leaves New Zealand Bloodstock having to make a historic decision.
"If there is no suggestion border restrictions will be lifted, then then we will look to move our main sale to April," says NZB managing director Andrew Seabrook. "It would be incredibly hard to ask potential buyers to look at quarantine both coming here and heading home so hopefully by pushing the sale back to April we can buy time for the borders to open up, at least with Australia.
"Like everybody else, we can't possibly know what the future holds in regard to that but we have set the August 31 date to make a decision because the vendors need to know when to start preparing their horses."
If the sale, the financial engine of the New Zealand breeding industry, is delayed until April it appears likely the $1 million Karaka Million at Ellerslie would move, too.
The $1m two-year-old race goes hand-in-hand with the yearling sales, with only horses purchased at Karaka eligible.
"If the sale moves back to April, and again we are not sure yet, then we will be asking for the two-year-old race to move and be part of that week."
Seabrook says NZB would be happy for its other $1m race for sales graduates, the Karaka Classic Mile, to stay on its scheduled date of January 23 as it fits in better there with the rest of the three-year-old feature race calendar, including the derbies here and in Australia.
If the main yearling sale is moved NZB will look to hold an online sale in that late January slot, with online sales becoming far more normal since Covid-19 became part of our lives.
But holding the main yearling sale in April as an online sale would be a last resort.
"We are a long, long way from next April so we are not thinking about that yet," says Seabrook.
"But we have had some really positive responses from leading buyers, even trainers like Chris Waller, about how they would respond to a delay in the sales.
"The reality is most of the overseas buyers don't come here to buy early season speed two-year-olds so a slightly later sale, with the horses maybe three months more developed, won't bother many of them."