I like to think I'm an open minded person, and recognise we are in a global industry, but when is enough enough? Like all good things in life, we need a sense of balance and proportion. Excess in any pursuit can lead to distorted results, and unhappy particpants. When Black Caviar graced the turf at Royal Ascot, she was one of a handful of Australian breds competing in her majesty's carnival. On that basis, the Australian's felt welcome. All was in proportion.
Aside from concerns expressed by leading Australian trainers in recent days that we are allowing too many European trained horses to compete in the Melbourne Cup which limits the opportunity for locally bred and trained horses, I believe Australians should also think carefully before rushing overseas to buy older staying horses. Obviously Europe has tradtionally provided a good source of stayers , but there is also a good case to provide greater support for home grown middle distance and staying horses, particularly over the next few years with so many top staying bred stallions now standing in Australia. Owners who jump on the import bandwagon may be doing themselves a disservice by overlooking the opportunities that present closer to home. Although we hear of the successful imports, there are many that don't perform. I question how much money is being spent on tried horses from Europe and the USA, there can only be one winner of the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup each year. So far this year we have seen the Caulfield Cup go to a raider owned by a Sheik from Qatar trained in France, with second placing to an Australian bred and third to a New Zealand bred. It was pleasing to see this years runner up Alcopop was sired by 1994 Melbourne Cup winner Jeune, who unfortunately did not get the support he deserved at stud in Australia and provides a good example of why we should support our own.
Remember, the imports in this years Caulfield Cup did not place. In fact, the imported horses owned by Australian connections in last weekend’s Caulfield Cup earned a total of $200,000 in prize money, from a pool of $2.6m. Last year's Caulfield Cup was won
by an Australian bred. The first 6 home in last Saturday's Cox Plate were Australasian bred, despite many imports and raiders targeting the race in recent months. Obviously Glencadum Gold is one import that has recently performed well in Sydney winning the Group 1 Metropolitan, but there are many expensive imports that will not achieve this type of success.
As someone with an eye on our breeding industry, if an Australian wanted to purchase a stayer from Europe or the USA, I would encourage them to purchase a racehorse with breeding potential such as Americain, rather than a gelding with no residual value and offering no upside to our breeding and racing industry in the long term. I’m not suggesting we should not import quality bloodlines that can add to the diversity of our bloodlines, but I am worried that the frenzy in the media at present regarding imports is unbalanced and could lead to an over investment from Australian racehorse owners, particularly when buying expensive geldings.
One of the perceived threats posed by the burgeoning trade in imported tried stayers is to diminish the finite amount of money owners have to spend on horses directly impacting yearling sales. Despite assertions by some media commentators that yearlings are too expensive, the average price of a yearling sold at auction in Australia is around the $60,000 mark. The average price being paid for good quality tried racehorses in the northern hemisphere would be closer to $500,000 - with many well above this price. It costs around $40,000 just to transport a horse from Europe to Australia - just shy of the average Australian yearling price.
When Australian's started buying tried horses from Europe five to six years ago they could be purchased for $100,000 - $200,000 but due to increased demand the price has sky rocketed.
A criticism of Australian breeders from some in the media, mostly directed at studmasters, is that we don't have the want or the capacity to breed stayers. There may be an element of truth in this with some studs clearly focused on producing sprinters, but there have always been breeders in this country that have demonstarted an ability to produce stayers - the question is whether they have been given the right level of support. At Inglis, we recognise the need to provide much greater support to breeders and buyers of stayers but acknowledge we could have done more in the past to support stayers. There is absolutely no reason why Australia can't develop a reputation for producing stayers, to complement our excellent record of producing sprinters like Black Caviar.
The current line up of staying perfomed stallions standing in Australia will, over time, boost our local classic and staying stocks to a considerable degree. We are blessed to have stallions such as High Chaparral, New Approach, Street Cry and Authorized among them. And what a revelation Redoutes Choice and Fastnet Rock have become, producing very versatile horses that can perform as two year olds and in the Blue Riband classics. The stocks of Reset and Savabeel are also on the rise. Lets not forget their sire Zabeel and the top stayers produced from our friends in NZ, it's worth mentioning the great Might and Power came from over the ditch and was sourced from the Easter Yearling Sale, like many other well performed NZ breds.
On that note, Inglis will be actively encouraging the industry to support the home grown product via the Blue Riband session of the Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale in 2013. This will be a session of 40-50 well bred and conformed yearlings that we feel could perform in the Blue Riband events, and of course the cups. This initiative alone will not turn around the tide, but I encourage all Australians to think about this issue and look at what they can do to produce and procure more staying types in their own backyard.