Mumbai: Only 31 out of 115 horses sold in big auction at Mahalaxmi Racecourse
RWITC's auction that returned to town after 20 years, ends with tepid response
Equine time as the bidders take their time looking at the horse. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
The Royal Western India Turf Club's (RWITC's) attempt to rebuild the reputation of its annual equine auction, by bringing it back to Mumbai after 20 years, has failed miserably, going by the statistic that over 75 per cent horses entered remained unsold.
Out of 115 horses up for auction, 31 were sold and 91 weren't because bidders could not match the 'reserve' price (rate vendors had fixed as the minimum acceptable price).
The RWITC had played up the auction during the pre-event, and there was enough buzz with the sale coming back to Mumbai after 20 years. Even the 12 per cent GST on horses could not dampen would-be owners' spending power and spirit, experts had said at the pre-event. Yet, just like how the best of the best fall flat when predicting results of a race, predictions about big-ticket sales fell flat too. The racing industry, and its professionals, chose to play it cool for the auction.
Auctioneer Cyrus Madan (second from left) ups the ante at the auction
Under the hammer
Two stallions Arazan and Speaking Of Which were most in demand, and as many as 11 of the 27 equines sold under the hammer were horses sired by Arazan. They fetched a total of Rs 1.36 crore, averaging a little over Rs 1.2 million per horse. Arazan also set the record for the highest price when Gautam Maini (or Gautam Money, we can call him), in the latter session of moneybags Monday, paid Rs 28 lakh to pick up a filly out of Lovely Kiss. Arazan stands at Villoo's Greenfield farm of the Poonawallas.
Another sire to command big prices was Speaking Of Which, standing at Ameeta Mehra's Usha stud farm in Haryana. Four of his progenies were sold for a total of Rs 71 lakh, averaging over Rs 1.7 million. Had it not been for the money raked in by these two stallions, the auction would have been nothing less than a farce.
One of the horses up for auction gets his chance to strut in the ring, before a packed house
Some of the other sires commanding respectable prices were Excellent Art (Poonawalla), Kingda Ka (Nanoli) and Win Legend (Dashmesh), though not many of their progenies showed up in the auction ring.
Win Legend charged up the atmosphere in the closing moments of the auction when his son, out of Star Selection, made a late entry in the paddock (he was not listed in the sales catalogue) and attracted fierce bidding, finally won by Dr S C Jain, who picked him up for Rs 1.7 million.
At the paddock of Mahalaxmi Racecourse, on Tuesday. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
The open secret
One of the reasons the auction could not generate high excitement and failed to live up to expectations was because the reserve price, which only the auctioneer and the vendor are supposed to know, had got leaked. Many horses saw "dummy" bidding, which involved taking the price close to the reserve price; when no one showed interest, the dummy bidders would "opt out" of the bidding, allowing the horse to be "bought in", or going back to the vendor. "This not only wastes precious time, but also kills the interest of genuine buyers, and makes them suspect the whole process," a veteran trainer told this correspondent on the first day of the auction.
Seasoned auctioneer Cyrus Madan expressed his disappointment quite openly when he saw the "dummy" bidders, after racing to a figure in lakhs, stop short and, despite Madan's urging, refuse to raise the ante by merely thousands, ultimately opting out. "You are all coming so close and then not picking up," he protested, before adding in a lighter vein, "I think my next job is going to be with the Modi government. I have been always asking you for a little more."
11 Number of sold horses sired by in-demand stallion Arazan
Rs 1.36cr Total amount Arazan's progenies fetched at the auction
Rs 71 lakh Total amount 4 progenies of stallion Speaking Of Which fetched
Rs 1.7mn Price at which Win Legend's son was picked up, by Dr S C Jain