Picture: 123RF/ MELORY S
Picture: 123RF/ MELORY S

The saying “one swallow doesn’t make a summer” aptly sums up the 2020 Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale which concluded in Germiston on Saturday night.

It means that “because one good thing has happened, it is not therefore certain that a situation is going to improve”.

The swallow that landed at Gosforth Park was the R7m price tag of the Silvano colt Celestial City, which easily topped the sale. His price was just R2m below the record set by the same stud, Wilgerbosdrift, in 2019.

A full-brother to Hawwaam and half-brother to Rainbow Bridge, the bay colt, born at the end of October, was knocked down to Summerhill Equestrian. This operation is owned by Henning Pretorius, who has bought the legendary Summerhill Stud in Mooi River previously owned by Mick Goss. Pretorius has big shoes to fill.

As a new name in the ownership ranks, everyone wanted to know who would train this expensive colt, but no-one was saying.

Nico Kritsiotis, who shocked the racing world on Thursday when announcing he would no longer be commentating after 20 years with Phumelela, said “there’s a rumour the colt might go to Muis Roberts, but nothing has been confirmed”.

Bloodstock expert Robin Bruss, seen in the company of Pretorius at the sale, did not respond to messages on the subject.

At the close of play on Saturday evening, the aggregate stood at R87m, a 37.4% decline on the 2019 figure of R139m.

The average was R295,136, a 7.2% decline on 2019, while the median — the midpoint of all sales — stood at R160,000, a decline of 8.6%.

The reason for the decline is virus-related: though the catalogue had been out since early April, some breeders made the decision to sell off their farms. This resulted in 184 lots of the 479 catalogued being either withdrawn or not sold.

There were, however, 10 millionaires over the two-day sale, with the second highest price of R4.5m being paid for another Silvano colt, Scarlet Ibis, also consigned by Wilgerbosdrift. Form Bloodstock agency signed the sales slip for the youngster whose granddam, Dancer’s Daughter, dead-heated with Pocket Power in the 2008 Durban July.

A yearling who ticked the boxes for many buyers during the Saturday session was a Silvano colt consigned by Maine Chance Farms. The final bid came down at R2.3m for this early foal,  the second produce of grade 1 winner Pine Princess.

In the sires department, the progeny of champion sire Silvano were pursued as if a ticket to riches, and that is fair enough if you look at the top horses he has produced in recent years. Apart from Hawwaam, the German-bred stallion has also sired Heavy Metal, Vercingetorix, Marinaresco, Power King and Nightingale —  three of this quintet are Durban July winners.

Silvano’s average for his 37 yearlings sold was a staggering R729,189, which is R350,000 more than second-placed Dynasty. The sire of Belgarion, winner of the recent Vodacom Durban July, returned an average of R372,222.

Third place in the stallion log went to Gimme The Greenlight, with his 41 yearlings averaging R204,390. His son, Got The Greenlight, won the Daily News 2000 and finished second in the Durban July.

At the end of the day, the premier league studs will probably be happy with the way the delayed sale panned out. Possibly — when all the sums are added up with travel and staff taken into account — it might not be such a rosy picture for a number of other breeders.

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