Thank goodness for modern technology and the internet! No internet, no 2020 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale this month - arguably the most prestigious bloodstock sale in the southern hemisphere, now being conducted as an online auction due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19.
Creating world history as the first major Thoroughbred auction to be held on a digital platform, Inglis has been grappling with recent government restrictions imposed on public auctions, and last week announced that its usually glitzy international event has been split into two rounds.
Round one will be a digital auction via its traditional Inglis digital bidding platform. The bidding will open on Sunday, April 5, with the "final countdown" of lots to commence in sequential order from Tuesday, April 7.
Round two will take the form of a live auction at Riverside Stables, Warwick Farm, and is slotted for Sunday, July 5, but will be subject to conditions deemed suitable by Inglis.
The time-honoured sale has a name for producing Group 1 winners and in more recent times these include Golden Slipper winning filly Estijaab; also Funstar, Exceedance, Loving Gaby, Super Seth, The Autumn Sun, Merchant Navy, Trapeze Artist, and Russian Revolution.
While $122 million was generated from its 343 sold lots at its 2019 edition, this year's catalogue has seen numbers decrease from its original 514 lots to about 395, with some vendors withdrawing their horses due to location (interstate and NZ) or by choice.
"We are all in the same boat; we (vendors) just want to sell horses," Arthur Mitchell, Yarraman Park, Scone, said.
Antony Thompson of Widden Stud said, "we are not selling any privately, we are keeping our draft together and supporting Inglis on this journey."
"We will present our whole draft in round one with very fair and low reserves, and if they are not sold, we will probably then break them in and present them at round two at the July sale."
Antony said that they have already had on-farm inspections.
"Now everyone (prospective buyers) realises they are not going to see the horses in Sydney, so they are getting busy and getting around to the farms looking."
Sledmere Stud proprietors Treen and Royston Murphy confirmed the movement of buyers around the Upper Hunter Valley.
"Our number of on-farm inspections have increased, and we might have about 70 people come through by the end (of inspection time); in a normal season we would probably have about 30," Treen said.
Treen admitted that Sledmere had seven different groups inspect its yearlings on one day which was unusual.
"Things are changing every day, but right now we are just trying to sell horses, so while people have the ability to look, we will show."
"The first priority is to sell them in round one, and we won't make any calls until that is completed."
Sledmere also came to the rescue of breeder Chris Watson of Mill Park, Meningie, SA, its 10 horses arriving at the Scone property last week.
It could be that non-Hunter Valley studs may be at a disadvantage if some prospective buyers are not prepared to travel elsewhere to inspect their youngsters. This could include regular sellers Newhaven Park, Boorowa, with 19 yearlings, and Corumbene Stud, Dunedoo, 12 yearlings, both vendors to offer their drafts online via round one. However, Inglis is endeavouring to organise some on-farm inspections.
"It's very hard as you have the yearlings ready now, so we don't know what we are going to do for the next three months (before the round two sale)," Corumbene Stud manager Toby Frazer said.
"You can't keep them (yearlings) in for the next three months if they don't sell in round one. I've also got other yearlings here that are off to the Magic Millions (June National Sale), so I just don't know how we will work it."
The major Easter vendor omission is Arrowfield Stud, the Scone located property being among the leading breeders and sellers at Inglis over numerous years.
Arrowfield's principal, John Messara, has his own ideas about withdrawing the sale's largest catalogued draft of 63 horses, preferring to sell their horses privately.
While Mr Messara stressed the withdrawal was no fault of Inglis, he said that it was a risk stud connections were not prepared to take.