TBV recently took Age reporter Michael Lynch on a tour of Victorian breeding farms in the Macedon Ranges and Nagambie regions.

The following story by Michael was published in The Age on the 23rd of February.

Victoria’s racing eyes may be firmly set on Caulfield for a huge afternoon of Group 1 action on Blue Diamond Day this Saturday, but trainers, owners and breeders will cast their gaze north to Oaklands Junction 24 hours later when sales house Inglis hopes to auction the first $1 million yearling sold in Melbourne.

The Inglis sales at Sydney over Easter, along with the glitz and glamour that is the Magic Millions yearling sale on the Gold Coast every January, usually produce the highest-priced yearlings sold in Australia every year.

But the Inglis Premier Sale in Melbourne has become known as the place to find a real bargain.

High-quality runners can be had for prices much less than they might fetch if they were sold in Queensland, where a series of multimillion-dollar, sales-related races for graduates of the Magic Millions auctions drive up prices, or in NSW, where most of the industry’s heavy hitters congregate over Easter.

The Melbourne sales have, in recent years, thrown up a series of top-class runners headed up by the incomparable Black Caviar, who was sold as a yearling at Oaklands for $220,000 by Rick Jamieson’s Gilgai Stud, where a statue of the brilliant unbeaten racemare now stands as a legacy to her place of birth.

The Victorian industry has been attracting serious investment and some major players in recent years as concerns over mining and resource industry development have cast a shadow over the famed breeding houses in NSW’s Hunter Valley, and local studs are hoping to capitalise over the uncertainty by making a statement at the Melbourne sales, which start on Sunday.

Last year the  most expensive yearling sold at the Melbourne auctions was the colt now named Ducimus, who was bought by Hong Kong interests for $700,000, while Three Bridges Stud got $750,000 for a son of Exceed and Excel in 2008.

Ducimus, a son of Snitzel in the Team Hawkes stable, has already paid back $85,950 of his purchase price after winning both his starts, a maiden at Ballarat and the listed Talindert Stakes at Flemington last Saturday when he had to survive a protest from the runner-up after jockey Noel Callow caused interference in the closing stages.

This year the Victorian industry and local studmasters are hopeful that the first youngster to crack the million-dollar mark will be sold at Oaklands, with Gilgai Stud’s half-brother to The Quarterback, the winner of the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap last season, set to go under the hammer.

Described as an exciting type, the yearling is by the speedy sire I Am Invincible, who has already produced the group 1 winning sprinter and now stallion Brazen Beau, out of Soreena, whose union with Street Boss produced The Quarterback.

Other high-profile lots for sale include a pair from Adam Sangster’s Swettenham Stud complex, a filly out of classy racemare Members Joy (also by I Am Invincible) and a colt by Redoute’s Choice out of Hidden Energy whose half sister last year sold for $625,000.

But it’s not all about the big-money studs and the blue-blooded yearlings. As anyone who follows racing knows, pedigree only counts for so much, and many inexpensive horses have turned out to be champions.

Two breeders hoping to make an impact at what will be their first foray at the Melbourne sales are husband-and-wife team Gary and Helen O’Meara, who run the small Miranda Park stud just north of Melbourne.

Gary was for decades a teacher in Essendon, where his subject was Chinese, having met his wife in Beijing when the pair were students studying the language in the 1980s.
Having retired from teaching humans, Gary opted to breed and teach young horses and he and Helen are looking forward with excitement and trepidation to their first exposure to the big time.

“It’s something that we have always wanted to do and we enjoy the life on the farm and the horses, so hopefully our four will attract plenty of interest,” he says.

The Miranda Park quartet is made up of three colts – by Reward for Effort, Artie Schiller and Reset – and a filly by Turffontein. The Artie Schiller colt could get a major boost if Blondie, a two-year-old filly to whom he is related, can pull off a surprise in Saturday’s Blue Diamond.

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