Fireworks aplenty in inaugural NZB Kiwi slot auction

Media Release - Tuesday February 27

There were plenty of fireworks in the Karaka sales ring on Tuesday evening at the inaugural NZB Kiwi slot auction, with all nine slots up for grabs far exceeding their $450,000 reserve.

The initial $3.5 million prizemoney on offer in next year’s NZB Kiwi (1500m), with a $1 million bonus up for grabs, was enticing for prospective New Zealand and international buyers alike.

Group One darling Seachange was the first “hero” racehorse through the ring, representing slot one for the NZB Kiwi, and bidding was spirited from the get-go, with an opening bid of $600,000 which soon exceeded $700,000, and was finally knocked down to the $725,000 bid of Singapore businessman John Chew.

The next four slots had a distinct New Zealand flavour, with slot two going to the $675,000 bid of Kerri Spence Bloodstock and Clotworthy Racing, slot three knocked down to Wexford Stables for $700,000, well-known owner and industry supporter Daniel Nakhle made sure he was in the mix when securing slot four for $675,000, while Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis ensured his ‘King of Karaka’ title wasn’t lost when his $675,000 bid bought slot five.

Te Akau Racing director Karyn Fenton-Ellis was rapt her husband was able to secure a slot, but said it was unnerving going into the auction not knowing what to expect. 

“We had spoken to numerous people that we knew were registered, as the New Zealand industry is quite a compact industry, and no one knew what to expect,” she said.

“When we come to the Karaka yearling sales, we have a game plan and know exactly what to expect. David Ellis never gets nervous and we know exactly what we want to do, he has bought some very expensive yearlings here. We sort of had a game plan, but it had to be a bit flexible.

“We talked about this (NZB Kiwi) and we said given Te Akau Racing’s success with (trainers) Sam (Bergerson) and Mark (Walker), and the whole team, we were taking a slot home for our owners.”

Te Akau Racing are hoping to have a number of contenders for what will be the southern hemisphere’s richest three-year-old race, and Fenton-Ellis said they already have a transparent system in place to identify their contender.

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“We have got a very good process that we have already decided on because we may have a number of contenders,” she said. “We will be very transparent with an independent third-party involved so that every owner and every horse in the Te Akau stable know they are equally considered and it will be a judgment made on merit.”

Australian businessman Ozzie Kheir has been a strong supporter of the New Zealand thoroughbred industry, sourcing many of his racehorses from this side of the Tasman, and he ensured there would be a trans-Tasman element to the NZB Kiwi when he secured slot six for $700,000.

Entain New Zealand took Kiwi punters on a whirlwind ride when securing a slot in last year’s A$20 million The Everest (1200m) and their representative I Wish I Win just came up shy when runner-up to Think About It. They are hoping to replicate that excitement on home soil after securing slot seven for $700,000.

 

Chief executive Cameron Rodger had been the underbidder on a number of previous slots, so was delighted to finally come out on top with just a couple of lots to go.

“I was nervous,” Rodger said post sale. “They were opening and going higher and faster than we ever dreamed of. We had to revise the strategy there. I had the CFO (chief financial officer) next to me so we had to make a few emergency budget increases, but we got there, so we are pretty happy.

“There were a great number of bidders early on from a different range. We didn’t want to be last, so that was the strategy, but the market found its price really well, so I think everyone will be pretty happy with how it turned out.”

Rodger said the process of filling their slot had already started.

“We have had a look at who didn’t get one and we are probably going to start conversations as we speak and that is the beauty of a slot race, it gets you engaged and talking starts right from the dot,” he said. “Hopefully we can have a few on our radar soon.”

Rodger was pleased with how the slot race has been received and he said that has been reinforced by the heavy level of interest in the evening’s auction.

“I think the action you saw today is a vote of confidence in the industry about where things are and where things are going,” he said. “That is important to us and we believe in the path that everyone is on at the moment, so bring on 2025, we can’t wait.”

Cambridge trainer Andrew Forsman is hoping eight is his new lucky number after paying $675,000 for the slot, while Cambridge Stud principals Brendan and Jo Lindsay were intent on securing the final slot of the night, and went to $700,000 to fulfil that.

“At the end of the day it is $3.5 million in prizemoney, plus a $1 million bonus. New Zealand has never seen anything like this before,” Brendan Lindsay said.

“Jo and I have to be a part of it and we were always going to buy lot nine. We decided that we were going to buy lot nine no matter what happened – last in, first out. We would have gone a bit higher. We made our mind up that we were going to buy the last lot.”

After the dust settled, the nine slots sold for an aggregate of $6.225 million, with an average price of $691,667, and a median of $700,000.

The remaining five slots for the NZB Kiwi have been allocated to Auckland Thoroughbred Racing, Waikato Thoroughbred Racing, RACE, and the Canterbury Jockey Club, with New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing holding the final slot for promotional purposes.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bruce Sharrock was rapt with the outcome of Tuesday’s auction.

"Tonight exceeded all expectations and sets a new standard for the New Zealand racing industry,” he said.

"The best part was how excited our participants and stakeholders are, and it sets us up extremely well for the future."

NZTR chairman Cameron George echoed those sentiments and said it was great to see international interest in the concept.

“It’s an outstanding result for the industry and we are really proud of the fact that people around the world were participating,” he said. “We are looking forward to the next 12 months and how we can make this race the great event we can have in New Zealand racing.”

New Zealand Bloodstock has been instrumental in the launch of the NZB Kiwi and managing director Andrew Seabrook couldn’t have been happier with Tuesday’s outcome.

“It’s the first time that a slot race has been auctioned anywhere in the world. Everyone went into the unknown and what unfolded was quite incredible,” he said. “It’s great to see global participation and there is an amazing buzz here at Karaka.”

 

Results

Average - $691,667

Aggregate: $6,225,000

Median: $700,000

 

Slot 1: John Chew - $725,000

Slot 2: Kerri Spence Bloodstock and Clotworthy Racing - $675,000

Slot 3: Wexford Stables - $700,000

Slot 4: Daniel Nakhle - $675,000

Slot 5: Te Akau Racing - $675,000

Slot 6: Ozzie Kheir - $700,000

Slot 7: Entain New Zealand - $700,000

Slot 8: Andrew Forsman - $675,000

Slot 9: Cambridge Stud - $700,000

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