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Xtension - Goodwood - 29.07.09

Xtension: the Group 1-placed colt is Hong Kong-bound after his sale

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham  

Demand for European horses as far east thrives

THE SALES of high-profile Group winners Xtension and Rebel Soldier to race in Hong Kong have underlined the growing demand for more and better European horses in training to be exported to the former colony.

In Xtension's case, it may also show that stud owners are more tentative in acquiring new stallions – as Gary Elphick of former owners Brighthelm Racing confirmed that they had received no offers from buyers interested in standing the Vintage Stakes winner and twice Group 1-placed colt.

Alastair Donald of Kern Lillingston, who brokered Xtension's sale, said: "The Hong Kong market is pretty strong at the moment. There seems to be more people shopping for [Hong Kong] Derby horses.

Alastair Donald

Alastair Donald: "we tried to buy Xtension last year"

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker 

"When I started doing it the budgets were quite small, but the standard of racing has risen. You used to be able to take a Listed horse over there and win their Derby but now you need a proper Group 1 horse."

One of the resounding success stories ofan export to Hong Kong is Viva Pataca, who won a Listed race for Sir Mark Prescott under the name Comic Strip and has become the all-time greatest earner in Hong Kong, winning over £5.5 million. 

The 1m2f Hong Kong Derby and the jurisdiction's equivalent of the Guineas are four-year-old races, so horses can be exported after the European Classics and still contest Hong Kong Classics.

The owners of Xtension, a €15,000 yearling buy, retained him to run in the Newmarket and Irish Guineas, but were still able to sell him before what will be his peak season in Hong Kong.

"We tried to buy him last year", said Donald. "He's a top-class horse and still running at top form and the owners rightly chose to take the money."

Most of the deals on horses bound for Hong Kong are done privately, as it is easier to cherry-pick better-class horses than it is to find them at the sales - though thisyear's July Sale was topped by the 460,000gns buy Business As Usual, purchased by Kern Lillingston and headed for John Moore's Hong Kong stable.

"Hong Kong is probably the biggest market for proven horses, and Australia is also picking up significantly," Donald said.

"Singapore is too, but on a much lower scale and the odd cheaper horse goes to Macau. Trade to the US has gone down noticeably since the economic downturn."

What do Hong Kong buyers want?
Only a limited number of horses are allowed in Hong Kong, as there is only space for about 1500 horses.

Anyone wanting to own a horsethere must apply for a permit and join a waiting list. Applicants always outnumber the available permits.

Once granted a permit an owner can only register four horses in their name at one time. When you retire a horse you can get a permit for another. 

For this reason, Hong Kong owners are willing to pay good money for proven horses, as their limited ownership means they are less willing to take a chance on unraced youngstock.

Donald says: "They have to be particularly sound horses who like fast ground, with a good temperament. There aren't many races for horses above 1m2f but there are a few over 1m4f, so they are mainly looking for horses who race over 6f to 1m2f.

"As Australasian horses do so well in the sprint races, it's mainly Derby-type horses we look for from the European market."




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