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

World-renowned auctioneer John O’Kelly is a regular on the rostrum at the Cape Premier Yearling Sale in January, but the Irishman has more on his plate in 2023 than in previous years.   

Tattersalls in the UK, the company O’Kelly works for, has been named as “powering” Thursday’s sale at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. That means he will have to put in extra work to attract European buyers.

The return to the Convention Centre — on the advice of Grant Knowles — is an interesting move. It was held on a Cape stud farm a year ago and this venue will not come cheap. But it does bring the action a lot closer to the heart of the Mother City.

One thing is certain, O’Kelly will have done his homework before Thursday’s sale. In a 2018 interview with Racing Post, he said that in preparing for a sale “you do your homework, look at the horse, and talk to the consignor. He or she has put in three years hard work, and you’ve got just two minutes to sell it.”     

The home side have done their bit to attract buyers with the introduction of the R1m Cape Racing Sales Slipper, a race for graduates of the sale to be run on Met day each year.

Cape Racing executive Justin Vermaak told the Sporting Post: “We are trying to build this sale into a premier platform for forward type of horses, and putting on an early juvenile race for the graduates will hopefully help attract horses of this type to the auction each year.”

Yearling sales are notorious for making big headlines. Here are some of them.

Seattle Dancer:  In 1985 Coolmore’s John Magnier and Robert Sangster (who became quite involved in SA racing) bid $13.1m for a son of Nijinsky at Keeneland.

Greek Monkey: Coolmore were also the buyers of this two-year-old named after a golf course in Barbados. The colt cost $16m.

Snaafi Dancer:  Here’s proof that big money doesn’t guarantee a top horse as Sheik Mohammed went to $10.2m to secure the colt, who proved a flop on the racecourse and at stud.

Most of the leading studs are represented at Thursday’s sale and — with racing in the province on a better footing than 12 months ago — vendors will approach the event in buoyant mood.

Cape Racing Sales’ Grant Knowles wouldn’t name the yearling he expected to top the sale, but this writer feels Winterbach Stud’s Master Caspar (lot 56) could get the catalogues waving in the direction of O’Kelly and Andrew Miller.

Master Caspar is a half-brother (by Querari) to Computaform Sprint winner Master Archie.

Muzi Yeni missed last Saturday’s big meeting at Kenilworth, but the popular jockey has four booked rides at the Vaal on Thursday and the pick could be Roy Magner’s three-year-old Thunderstone.

This is the first time Yeni has partnered the son of Soft Falling Rain who finished four lengths adrift of Cousin Casey in the 1,400m Golden Horseshoe at Greyville on Durban July day.

Paul Matchett’s three-year-old River Romeo won his maiden in good style, but that was at Turffontein in July. It remains to be seen whether this R800,000 son of Pomodoro is ready to fire after a seven-month absence.


1st Race: (16) Three Strands (13) Impersonation (6) Ponderosa Pine (2) Rosslyne

2nd Race: (1) Swing Upon A Star (2) Karangetang (4) Highest Honour (5) Mandalay

3rd Race: (1) Thunderstone (3) River Romeo (4) Toffas (6) Libeccio

4th Race: (3) Burmese Tiara (1) In Cahoots (2) Admiralty Arch (5) Global Breeze

5th Race: (4) Arlington Action (8) Great Affair (7) Earl (3) White Fang

6th Race: (5) Lil Miss Moneybags (4) Rose For Trippi (3) Big Eyed Girl (6) Insatiable

7th Race: (7) Beaded Gown (5) In The Ether (3) Prayuponastar (8) Quick Run

8th Race: (2) Meteoric (1) Cool Winter (3) Pinch Hit (5) Defender Of Rights

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