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Picture: 123RF/ MELORYS
Picture: 123RF/ MELORYS

Ask any rugby fan who is the greatest New Zealander and they’re likely to name Jonah Lomu. Ask bloodstock experts who they respect most from the same country and their answer is likely to be Steve Davis.

In 1994, Lomu became the youngest All Black when selected at the age of 19. A year later he was in the Kiwi squad which was famously beaten by SA in the World Cup — a win that delighted Nelson Mandela.

Five years later, Davis accepted an invitation to be one of the auctioneers at the National Yearling Sale and so began a relationship that has lasted longer than most marriages.

Davis arrived back in SA last Sunday to give himself time to prepare for the sale at Germiston on Thursday and Friday.

“It’s my 20th year on the rostrum here — I guess that’s some milestone though I think Andrew Miller [fellow auctioneer] is one year ahead of me,” said Davis.

Covid prevented the popular New Zealander from making the trip for the past two years, but he is predicting that most breeders are going to be well pleased at the close of play on Friday evening.

“I’d say SA bloodstock is in a green shoots situation — there are positive signs that the industry can build from here after the difficulties of the past two years.

“If the quality matches the pedigree — which I believe it does after viewing a good number of yearlings — then we’re on course for a successful sale.”

Davis says the Australian bloodstock industry is “booming”. He points to a clearance rate of 95% at the Magic Millions sale.

That’s something Bloodstock SA needs to address. At the 2021 sale — admittedly an abnormal year — a total of 91 yearlings of 462 catalogued were either withdrawn or not sold.

Understandably, Michael Holmes, Bloodstock SA executive, is as optimistic about the two-day sale as Davis. “There has never been a better reason to buy a racehorse.”

Certainly, the announcement by Adrian Todd that the possibility of exporting horses to Europe could be a reality after an EU audit in October couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Still, some doomsayers say they’ll “believe it when I see it”.

Davis makes a good point when he says buyers will have to get used to “the changing of the guard”.

“In previous years, it was stallions such as Captain Al, Silvano and Dynasty who buyers felt safe with. Now there’s new names on the block and many have been imported with outstanding pedigrees.”

One of those new names is Fire Away, a son of War Front now standing at Mary Slack’s Wilgerbosdrift Stud. Towards the end of the sale his son Hope And Dreams, a half-brother to Rainbow Bridge, will come under the hammer of either Davis or Miller.

If it’s Davis, he’ll be concentrating on the action with the same intensity as now-deceased Lomu on his rugby debut 28 years ago.

• A total of 451 yearlings will be offered for sale at the TBA complex over Thursday and Friday. The starting time on both days is 10am.

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