Late flourish raises Karaka Book 2 to complement successful Book 1

By Dennis Ryan

7 Feb 2024

Late flourish raises Karaka Book 2 to complement successful Book 1Dylan Ralph bids farewell to his Circus Maximus-Word Savvy filly

After the best Book 1 National Yearling Sale results in years, stage two of Karaka 2024 was unable to capitalise on that momentum but at least was salvaged by a welcome rally on the final day of selling.
In contrast to the first two sessions of Book 2, the day three clearance rate climbed by 15 points to 78 per cent, landing on 70 per cent for that whole catalogue. At an average price of $43,185 across 275 lots, a top price of $220,000 and a median of $32,500, the figures bore little relativity to what had transpired in Book 1 but were still a near-enough match to recent years.
One statistic that proved the Book 2 buying bench was still prepared to respond to quality was a near 50 per cent increase in sales of $100,000 or more, from 19 in 2023 to 27.
Full final figures for Karaka 2024 presented a positive picture headed by total turnover of $91,842,000 for 748 lots, a significant increase on last year’s $82,158,500 for 742 and the best outcome since 2018 when 916 lots across what was then a three-catalogue sale realised $97,187,750. The record aggregate of $111,148,500 in 2008 still stands alone on National Yearling Sale statistics.
Two vendors to end Karaka 2024 on a high were North Canterbury’s Inglewood Stud and Pukekohe-based Ralph Thoroughbreds with six-figure final day results capping what each could describe as a successful sale.
Inglewood had made headlines even before the first lot went through the ring as the breeder/vendor of Karaka Millions 2YO winner Velocious and two days later sold her Dundeel half-sister to the same Go Racing connections for $300,000. That was the best result amongst the 10 lots sold in Book 1 for a total of $1,455,000, but there was an unexpected bonus still to come.
Inglewood had just three lots in Book 2, adding another $295,000 to the week’s receipts capped by the top price of $160,000 for a filly by first-year White Robe Lodge stallion Ancient Spirit and topping the Book 2 averages table.
“That last Book 2 filly was a bit of a surprise,” Inglewood principal Gus Wigley told RaceForm after he had returned south earlier this week. “We knew she was a good sort but didn’t expect that sort of money, which I guess goes to prove that buyers will chase quality no matter when it’s offered.
“I was pleased to see her go to Ballymore Stables, who already have her War Decree half-brother Force Of Law and thought enough of him to run him in the Karaka Millions (2YO). It was also a good result for Ancient Spirit and I’m pleased for the team at White Robe.
“They’ve been very supportive of Inglewood and us of them, so if Ancient Spirit kicks on it will be great for the whole South Island.”
As well as standing first Zacinto and more recently War Decree at Inglewood, Wigley and his wife Bianca have developed a business model of investment in broodmares and complementing that with a selection of high-profile stallions on both sides of the Tasman each breeding season.
There’s no better example than Karaka Millions 2YO winner Velocious, a daughter Written Tycoon and the Snitzel mare Parmalove.
“She was the most expensive mare we had bought when we paid A$230,000 for her in 2018, but she was a great type and has passed on those qualities to her foals. Her latest foal is a filly by Per Incanto which is an absolute stunner and she’s in foal to Satono Aladdin.”
Back Date, the dam of Inglewood’s $160,000 Ancient Spirit filly, is the result of the Wigleys’ first broodmare investment in 2010 and the seed of an idea to reinvigorate Inglewood Stud as a commercial operation.
“There’s a sentimental aspect as when my grandmother died she left $10,000 to each of her grandchildren and the advice I got beforehand was to invest it in a broodmare,” Wigley recalled. “The mare I bought was Mandate, by Sound Reason and the only filly we got from her was Back Date, who was by Zacinto.
“We’ve done well with her progeny at the sales and the Ancient Spirit filly tops them all. There’s more to come too – she’s got a War Decree colt at foot who’s an absolute belter and she’s back in foal to him.”
Sentiment was also to the fore in Dylan Ralph’s mind when he sold a colt by Circus Maximus from Word Savvy for $110,000 to Brisbane trainer Liam Birchley in the final session of Book 2.
Ralph is the son of successful trainer Stephen Ralph and grandson of one of that increasingly rare demographic of owner-trainers, 89-year-old John Ralph. The latter’s list of winners is headed by The Message, who won 12 of his 57 starts in the late 1990s/early 2000s, including the Gr. 1 Kelt Capital Stakes and New Zealand Stakes.
“The Message took Poppa everywhere, to all the big races in New Zealand, to the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup and even to Hong Kong,” Ralph said. “He was out of Miss Morrinsville, so when her grand-daughter Savvy Words came on the market in the first Valachi Downs reduction sale in 2021, I realised she was the only family member still actively breeding and I just had to buy her.”
Not only did the young Savabeel mare have immense sentimental value, but she has since proven to be a commercial hit. The War Decree colt at foot when she was bought made $150,000 at Karaka two years ago and her latest sale result, the $110,000 Circus Maximus filly, has put Ralph even further in front.
“This was my fifth Karaka sale and it’s been five years of hard work, learning the market and the sale game,” said Ralph, whose brother Mitchell has for the past eight years worked at Arrowfield Stud in the Hunter Valley, where he is a sales and nominations consultant.
“Mitchell is a good sounding board and between him and our father the three of us throw ideas around and shoot straight at each other.
“I came out of this latest sale learning more and happy with my results. I sold both Book 1 yearlings and nine out of 12 in Book 2, which included worthwhile pinhooking as well as good results for clients who I’ve been lucky to pick up.
“I’m also very fortunate that my wife Caitlen is very supportive, even though the horse game is all new to her, and in May our third child will be born, so you could say the future is all good.”