A couple of self-made Scottish entrepreneurs and an Arab Sheikh took centre stage at Friday night’s opening session of the annual sale of South Africa’s best young thoroughbreds.
The cream of the crop born in 2006 were offered in the traditional Select Session to open this year’s 600-strong National Yearling Sales. Between them, 73 premium-class horses sold on Friday, fetching an average of just under R1m each, up more than a quarter on the 2007 Select Session.
Two fillies sold for R3m each coming the closest in four years to the country’s record price of R3,3m set in 2005. Foreigners once again dominated proceedings on the showpiece evening and look set to build on the almost one third they contributed at last year’s sale. Non-SA buyers have raised their contribution every year since they spent 1% of the total in 2002, increasing it in consecutive years to 5%; 8%; 15%; 25% and last year’s 30%.
Jim Hay, a Scots-born engineer who owns chemicals and construction operation JMH Group, invested a fraction under R10m buying five yearlings. Hay, who turns 58 this year and lives in Dubai, is a recent convert to the Sport of Kings, having led in his first winner at Lingfield in England just four years ago. He has 16 horses in training in the UK at his Uplands Stables establishment in Lambourn which he bought in 2005. Up and coming trainer Stan Moore, a 46 year old former jockey, looks after Hay’s horses at Uplands.
Hay made the UK newspapers’ front pages in February when he acquired historic Savile Row tailor Kilgour for GBP 1,5m. He was assisted in the selection of his Johannesburg purchases by South African trainer Herman Brown, fresh from a dream season in his new Dubai base. The Brown trained and SA-bred Jay Peg won one of the major events at last week’s World Cup night, boosting his stakes earnings to R26,5m – almost 300 times the horse’s purchase price.
The Dubai-based Scotsman bumped South African industrialist Markus Jooste from his usual position atop the list of leading buyers. Jooste, whose R25bn Steinhoff International (JSE:SHF) ranks among SA’s Top 40 corporations, was the second biggest buyer on Friday night, securing eight yearlings for a total of R8,4m.
Jooste’s outlay was fractionally above the R8,3m paid for five yearlings at the Select Session by Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa. The Crown Prince is a substantial investor in South African bloodstock though his band of stallions stationed at the country’s champion breeding establishment, Summerhill Stud of Mooi River. But this is the first time he has been active at the yearling sales.
South African racehorse trainer Mike de Kock, who pioneered his country’s involvement with Dubai racing and is now one of the most successful conditioners in the Kingdom, took instructions on the phone from the Sheikh.
Local mining and wine magnate Graham Beck paid the joint top price. The other R3m purchase was by UK-headquartered bloodstock agency Allan Bloodline, which acquired another beautifully bred filly on behalf of British businessman Philip Brown. This is the first substantial purchase in SA by Allan Bloodline, which bought a horse for R180 000 at a sale earlier in the year.
The fifth highest priced purchase was another with a Scottish connection. Lady Christine Laidlaw, second wife of Scotland’s second richest man Lord Irvine Laidlaw, will pay the R2,5m which it cost to secure a colt called White Hills, whose mother was imported to SA in foal to the top British stallion Pivotal.
The Laidlaws spend part of the year at reputedly South Africa’s most expensive home, Goede Hoop in Noordhoek on the Cape Peninsular. They bought the 23 200 sq/m estate in November 2005 for R106m. Lord Laidlaw was listed at number 100 on the latest London Sunday Times’ rich list with net assets of GBP 730m (R11,3bn).
Like compatriot Jim Hay, and other big buyers like Jooste and Beck, Laidlaw is self-made, having established what became one of the world’s leading conference organisers, the Institute for International Research, in the early 1970s. Since selling the business a few years ago, he has indulged himself with a 185ft yacht berthed at his official home in Monaco (and called the Lady Christine, naturally) and more than a dozen vintage racing cars.
A sad omission from the leading buyer’s this year was Premier Group scion Lawrie Jaffee who passed away earlier in the month. Other notable absentees from previous Select Sessions were former SA champion trainer and now Hong Kong-based David Ferraris, Investec (JSE:INL) managing director Bernard Kantor and Bidvest (JSE:BVT) founder Brian Joffe.
The sale continues on Sunday afternoon.
TOP TEN BUYERS – SELECT EVENING of SA NYS 2008
Dr Jim Hay (Dubai)
Markus Jooste (SA)
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa (Dubai)
JT Freeman Bloodstock (SA)
Chris van Niekerk (SA)
Philip Brown (UK)
Graham Beck (SA)
Lady Christine Laidlaw (Monaco)
Mike Bass (SA trainer)
Weiho Mawing (SA trainer)