|Rob McAnulty is a
popular sight in any thoroughbred breeder s barn. Here is a profile of one of the
sharpest brains in Australian and South East Asian racing.
When an individual buyer can claim the winners of 22 Group One races
and more than 100 stakes wins in total from stock bought out of Australasian yearling
auctions, its a reasonable assumption that person knows a little of what they are
When Auckland-based bloodstock buyer Rob McAnulty, the
owner of this impressive record, freely states that the Gold Coast Magic Millions sale in
January is the yearling sale he enjoys most of all, it is worth finding out just why.
Rob McAnultys name is as well known through
Australasian and Asian thoroughbred circles as are the names of some of the horses he has
been instrumental in taking from the yearling sales onto the track. Names like St Covet,
Mouawad, Mr Vitality (HK), Great Command, Tristalove, All Thrills (HK), Crystal Palace,
Danske, Our Tristalight and San Luis have made the sight of McAnulty walking into your
barn just about the most welcome one any vendor would want.
Even while he describes himself these days as "his own
best client", McAnulty is making yearling vendors at the Magic Millions sale on the
Gold Coast happier every year.
"Its my happy hunting ground", McAnulty said.
"The sale is on at the right time, in the right area
and at the right location. The presentation of yearlings is excellent with some very
professional studs already having half-done the selection process for buyers. I am able to
combine my business with a family holiday after Christmas and it is a fun place to
"On top of all that, I estimate that I have something
around 90 per cent winners from the yearlings I have purchased there over the years, so
its little wonder I keep coming back for more."
For more than a dozen years Rob McAnulty has been on the
front bench of yearling buyers in Australia and New Zealand in terms of purchasing power
and results generated. Over that dozen years his business structure has changed
considerably but his taste for top-class yearlings has just become stronger.
"When I first started buying in bigger numbers from
the sales I was operating an office in Hong Kong as well as one in New Zealand," he
"I was able to determine Hong Kong buyers needs
and demonstrate that I was prepared to make a genuine commitment to meeting those. I
believed then, and believe even more today, that the yearling sale ring is the best place
to buy horses and have said so to clients who were willing to wait with their
permits or who wanted to race in Australia. Before long I was in action in virtually every
sale, buying 25-30 yearlings over a summer alone."
"We bought some lovely horses for Hong Kong like
two-time Horse of the Year Mr. Vitality and the multi-million dollar winner All Thrills
"At the same time, clients from Hong Kong raced the
champion fillies Tristalove and (Our) Tristalight in Australia and New Zealand under my
management after I had bought both in the yearling ring for $250,000. Both were Group One
winners. Even though they no longer own them, it is wonderful to see both have now
produced Group One winners themselves."
Pedigree followers will be familiar
with the Sir Tristram mares, who reside these days at Sir Patrick Hogans Cambridge
Stud. They will note the powerful effect Danehill has had on both as sire of Our
Tristalights Group One winning son Danske and Tristaloves high class 3YO son
It was an influence McAnulty saw coming. He was was able to
capitalise on it by purchasing, syndicating and racing Danske through to Group One success
in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas before selling him to stand at Windsor Park Stud.
This complete package concept -managing from the yearling
sale ring to the stallion barn - was an approach Rob McAnulty had successfully undertaken
twice previously, with Magic Millions graduate St Covet and with Octagonals younger
(but sadly less fertile) brother Mouawad.
The purchase of St Covet from the Magic Millions sale on
the Gold Coast in 1993 was one of Rob McAnultys most successful yearling buys.
The son of Covetous from a Sound Reason mare cost McAnulty
and three Hong Kong clients just $18,000. Racing out of the stable of David Hayes in South
Australia, he galloped his way to the top of the Australian 2YO Free Handicap in his first
season on the track.
St Covets six wins at two included the Group One AJC
Sires Produce Stakes and the Group Two Canberra Black Opal Stakes. His seconds included
the Group One Golden Slipper Stakes and one in the rich Gold Coast Magic Millions
incentive race linked to the yearling sales.
"St Covet was a fantastic racehorse," McAnulty
"He showed his true ability when he thrashed the horse
which beat him in the Slipper, Danzero, by over three lengths in the Sires Produce at
Randwick, then at three went on to win the Caulfield Guineas, one of the toughest classics
in Australia to win."
"When Queensland stud owner Jon Hasler expressed an
interest in him, we sold a half-share in St Covet to Glenlogan Park for A$600,000, meaning
the original partners ended up with close to A$2 million from a A$18,000 yearling
Mention of St Covets long neck second behind Brave
Warrior in the Magic Millions Classic leads naturally to discussion of the rich bonus
incentives attached to the Magic Millions concept and, surprisingly, McAnulty is
relatively ambivalent towards them.
"There are two angles you can take at the Magic
Millions sale," McAnulty said.
"You can try to find a horse for the race the
following year and while the race itself is incredibly tough, the types are there to win
it with. However, you can end up paying a premium on these particular yearlings because
every other major buyer is after them too."
"Over all the years
I have bought from the Magic Millions I have only had two runners in the race St
Covet and St Rory who finished fourth in his year."
"The other approach and the one I generally
employ now is to stop thinking about one race 12 months later and to concentrate
instead on buying an athletic, well-made racehorse. By doing this you actually put
yourself in a position to buy at genuine value levels."
"Virtually every horse at the Gold Coast sales complex
has been pre-selected by the studs and the sales company so we are left with a catalogue
of quality types, even if some of the pedigrees may not match the true blue-bloods on
offer at Karaka or Sydney in Easter."
"Buying a great type is a logical way to go at the
Gold Coast but so too is the idea of buying a horse you are confident will develop into a
good type. You can often buy these horses way below levels you would have to pay at other
major sales, so the ability to determine which yearlings are perhaps at the wrong sale is
another way to enhance your buying."
"Time is a horses best friend and if you are
prepared to give yearlings bought from the Gold Coast that little bit of time, you can
really boost a horses racing career."
Continuing this theme, Rob McAnulty expands further on his
"If you go to the sales looking for a classic horse,
you can often end up with a Cups runner. Similarly, if you go looking for a Cups horse,
you can end up taking home a hurdler. Everything takes longer with horses than most people
think, so I find that by going to a sale with a strong emphasis on juveniles, you can
often find yourself in the cheapest place to buy a classic horse."
"By shifting my thinking a year along, by saying that
the sale is actually bigger than the race, I believe I can find, and have done so, some
incredible value at the Gold Coast Magic Millions."
McAnulty cites the Queensland Oaks winner Crystal Palace, a
A$230,000 purchase, as a prime example of this point.
"Here was this filly, a full sister to a 10- time
Group winner of over A$3 million in Naturalism, who was clearly in the wrong sale."
"She should have been at Karaka or at Easter, so I was
delighted to pay just $A230,000 for her," he recalls, "and even more delighted
when she won the Eulogy Stakes in New Zealand at three then went on to win the Group One
Queensland Oaks in the autumn. Her first filly foal by Danehill sold for A$300,000. Today
she looks like a positive bargain."
"Another in the same mould was the outstanding Sunday
Silence filly I bought from the Magic Millions in 2001. She was beautiful and worth every
cent of the A$700,000 she cost me. She wont be asked to do too much at two but I
believe she will be a star at three."
Over the last couple of years, Rob McAnulty has stepped
back from the big client base he had in Hong Kong, preferring to operate on behalf of a
few selected friends and of his own accord.
"From the start I have operated with my own bank. If I
saw a horse, I bought and paid for it and then sold it on if a client wanted it and this
process set me apart from most bloodstock agents."
"Today I am my own biggest client but I have always
been a trader. We sold Great Command to Hong Kong after he had won the New Zealand Derby.
He would have been a wonderful horse up there but sadly died from anaphylactic shock
before racing there."
"My buyers also appreciate the quality I have been
able to buy at the Magic Millions and I have found yearlings bought there are the easiest
to trade on at a profit as breeze-up juveniles. We find the process of bringing them back
to New Zealand and breaking them in early, even before Easter, really settles them down
and they thrive ahead of either a 2YO career or on-sale."
"We then decide whether to sell them on or race them
ourselves which in New Zealand these days is really an exercise in being able to see and
enjoy them rather than make the sort of money available on the tacks in Australia or
latest star was one which may have slipped through the buyers net when he was
offered for sale at last Novembers Ready to Run sale in New Zealand.
Purchased for just A$42,500 at the 2000 Gold Coast Magic
Millions, this son of Flying Spur from Star Style Girl was bought back by McAnulty at the
Ready to Run sale for NZ$300,000, syndicated among friends and then as San Luis he
collected wins in the Group One
Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes and the Group Three Lion Red
Classic and was runner up in the Group One Ellerslie Sires Produce on his way to
being named Ford Champion Two Year Old for the 2000-01 season.
While Rob McAnulty is always willing to chat about his
impressive record as a buyer, he saves special praise for the team behind the Magic
Millions sale, stating they make it easy to attend, easy to buy and easy to enjoy.
"The sale has had a chequered past but with its
current owners and management, they are doing everything well. The marketing material is
exciting, not dull and boring because you dont go there to get bored. The welcome
they give you is as warm as the weather and the excitement levels are high with the high
profile racing they and the Queensland government support the sale with," McAnulty
"With such a complete package, you can understand why
the likes of New Zealand Bloodstock are perhaps a tad miffed with no opportunity to host a
high-profile meet around their sales."
"The atmosphere, the product on offer and the results
that just keep coming will see me in action at the Gold Coast Magic Millions for a whole
lot of years yet."