It took trainer Roger James several moments to compose himself after he set the auction ring alight at Karaka on Wednesday when he went to $900,000 to secure a ‘once in a lifetime’ colt at the National Yearling Sale.
One of the most experienced and respected judges of young horseflesh in the country had never before ventured into the rarified air that surrounds a yearling of the calibre of Lot 508, the colt from the first crop of champion Australian three-year-old The Autumn Sun out of the More Than Ready mare Pristino, who was offered through Dave Duley’s Landsdowne Park draft.
With a pedigree page littered with black-type winners, including his half-sister Dijon Bleu, the champion three-year-old filly in the 2017-18 season in New Zealand and a host of Australian stakes performers such as So Pristine, Restored and Swift Witness, the colt was one of the star attractions of the sale.
James was a picture of calm during the fierce bidding war that erupted around the auction ring but was visibly shaking later as he attempted to explain the feelings he was experiencing around the purchase.
“Elated is probably the best word I can use,” he said.
“I’ve been coming to these sales for probably fourty years now and I don’t think I have been hotter on a horse ever.
“I just loved him from the day I saw him.
“I just can’t explain it and I can’t remember whether I have bid, bought or been disappointed on a horse of his quality before, as I think there is just not a box he doesn’t tick in my respect.
“Both Robert (Wellwood) and Sally (Gumbley) were as hot on him as I was and they are my main support team.
“We thought it was going to be hard to do, but it was quite amazing the support we received as we haven’t done a big lot of work to get him filled with owners, but we are over three-quarters done, which includes Australia.”
James was so keen to secure the horse that he had been counting down the hours and minutes until he went through the auction ring.
“It’s been an interesting day or two and I just wished it was on the first day,” he said.
“I had probably seen him around six times, although sometimes you can overdo it.
“We had a strong consensus about him and it was a matter of thinking how we could put it together.
“I have been pretty tense as I’ve never been to this level to buy a horse and in the last hour before he went through the ring, I probably wasn’t very good company.
“I’ve said for a long time the one race I’d like to win is a Cox Plate (Gr.1, 2040m) as I got beaten a neck with Silent Achiever, so hopefully this is our guy.”
James had plenty of firepower left, going to $625,000 to secure lot 635, the Savabeel filly out of Group Three performer Symphonic, from the draft of Haunui Farm.
The sale capped a strong showing from the Landsdowne Park operation’s Book 1 draft with principal Dave Duley thrilled to cap off three days of selling with such a momentous result.
“This sale is really special as I have been associated with the mare since day one,” he said.
“The breeders are such great people, all of them.
“All of us were involved in planning the mating. To us it was the perfect cross and the result is the best walking colt I have ever seen.
“He was very popular and his purchase price was way beyond the reserve.
“A super result on the back of another good result we had yesterday.”
Duley was referring to Lot 424, the Tivaci filly out of Gr.3 Lowland Stakes (2000m) winner Miss Selby who went to the bid of Tony Fung and John Bary Racing for $420,000.
Landsdowne Park sold 16 of the 18 lots catalogued in their Book 1 draft at an aggregate of $2.837 million. – NZ Racing Desk