Bobby Zen

by Keely Mckitterick/TTR AusNZ

   Following the sale of the AU$10 million Winx (Aus) filly and his announcement to step back from full-time duties at the end of the year, Jonathan D’Arcy, Inglis’s general manager of bloodstock operations, spoke with TTR AusNZ.

   A few days after Jonathan D’Arcy, Inglis’s general manager of bloodstock operations and auctioneer, made headlines for knocking down the Pierro (Aus) x Winx filly for a staggering AU$10 million to Woppitt Bloodstock, he took the time to sit down with The Thoroughbred Report for a Q&A session.

   While there was news of D’Arcy’s retirement, he was quick to clarify that he would only be stepping back from his full-time role at Inglis. However, he plans to remain involved as part of the bloodstock inspection team and will continue his duties as an auctioneer.

D’Arcy told TTR AusNZ, “I’m stepping back from a full-time position, but I’ll certainly still be around. I will be playing a role in inspecting yearlings with the team in August and September and I’ll be in the auction box for as long as they [Inglis] want to keep me.”


Keely: Jonathan, could you provide readers with some insight into how your career in the breeding and racing industry began?

D’Arcy: Certainly, I am going back a long time, probably before you were born, but I grew up in Brisbane and I was always interested in the thoroughbred industry.

During my school holidays, I’d go and work on a stud farm or I’d go down to Eagle Farm Racecourse and help out a couple of trainers down there.

My mum was a tipster on the radio and had a column in the paper tipping horses, so there was always an interest there and after finishing school I worked for a couple of properties and then to the Agricultural College in Victoria, and as part of that course I ended up doing some experience with Inglis in 1986.

After that work experience I was fortunate enough that John and Reg Inglis offered me a position in the pedigree team. At that stage we wrote pedigrees, they weren’t generated by computers, so we wrote all of them.

At that stage I certainly wasn’t thinking I was going to become an auctioneer. I just enjoyed being around the horses and loved the pedigree side of the business. I was learning a lot, as you do working for a company like Inglis.

A couple of years later Reg Inglis asked me and Vin Cox if we’d like to have a go at auctioning. We both took up the offer, I kept going with it and Vin decided he’d go down more of a sales path where he became a successful bloodstock agent before embarking on his very successful management career.

I stayed with auctioneering because I enjoyed it so much. I’ve been lucky enough to see the world as a company representative and it’s been a very enjoyable career to this date.


Keely: How do you ready yourself for an auction? Do you plan out your approach in advance, or do you prefer to improvise and go with the flow?

D’Arcy: Every auction is different, and obviously a sale like the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale there’s a lot more work that goes into having a think about how you can promote these horses you’re selling. Most auctions we take 90 seconds to 2 1/2 minutes to sell a horse.

So, there’s not an awful lot you can say, you just make sure you’re up to date with the pedigree and what the stallion’s latest racetrack results are. We get all the information on the successful nicks and crosses, but all the buying bench is so well versed in all this information.

They don’t really want to hear a lot about pedigrees–it’s all in the catalogue and so they really want an efficient auctioneering service that can get the horses bought and sold in a good time.

I think we’re actually selling a bit faster these days just to get through the large number of lots that we’ve got on our selling days.

But overall, I don’t think we want to bore people with extra statistics or pedigree information. You just got to be up to date with anything that might help or make a difference when the final bids are called for.


Keely: Throughout your extensive and successful career, who have been some of your influences and sources of inspiration?

D’Arcy: I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of successful people in this industry. Early days, I was learning from the auctioneers that were present at the company. So, that was Reg Inglis, John Inglis and Jamie Inglis.

Down the track we took over Dalgety Bloodstock in Victoria, and that meant that we had the services of Peter Heageny. Peter was certainly someone who I learned a lot of auctioneering skills from. We also worked with Simon Vivian.

I spent a lot of time listening to other auctioneers and I was lucky enough to follow Damien Cooley, who’s a very successful real estate auctioneer. I followed him around for several months just learning how he sold houses. I was lucky enough to do a real estate auction for his company.

An inspiration has been Neville Begg. I am very fortunate to have developed a strong friendship with Neville. Obviously, he’s been a successful trainer in Australia for many years. When he went to Hong Kong, I was lucky to stay with Neville and his wife on several occasions. Neville remained a very close friend and someone I learned a lot about horses from.

I’ve spent time with many successful bloodstock agents like Kieran Moore and John Foote. There’s too many to name. You learn from everyone you’re around, and it’s an industry that you keep learning. You’re still learning to this very day and that’s what makes it interesting. It’s an industry where a lot of people get involved and a lot of people do share their knowledge with you.

I think that’s great for young people coming up through the business that you can learn from all these different people that we’ve got within the industry.


Keely: What is your favourite aspect of your role?

D’Arcy: At Inglis, we have a great bloodstock team. We’ve got about 10 people in the bloodstock team, so we talk to each other a lot. We have meetings almost weekly where we talk about some of the things we need to do, whether it’s for a digital sale or whether it’s recruiting buyers to certain sales. Sometimes it’s about what we need to do to attract yearlings or attract mares for the Chairman’s Sale.

So, there’s always something different happening throughout the year. The most enjoyable part to me is the auctioneering. I love it because I think we can make a difference to the returns for our clients, and I love the theatre of it. I love the fact every sale is different.

When you’re calling bids at a million dollars and seeing the emotion on both purchasers’ and vendors’ faces, that’s a great kick. It’s great to play a very small part in a successful sale. Because the breeders have spent up to 18 months, two years, breeding the mare to get the foal and then foal to a Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale or a Inglis HTBA Sale or Classic or Premier–to get the result for them that they dream of that’s very important for not only myself but all the people in the company.


Keely: Apart from the Winx filly, could you share some of your other career highlights?

D’Arcy: I was lucky enough to sell a mare called Samantha Miss (Aus). She was put through as a racing and breeding prospect as a 4-year-old mare. She’d won the VRC Oaks and was probably one of the highest profile race mares to be sold that year.

Samantha Miss sold for AU$3.85 million – that was a great thrill. I was also fortunate enough to sell Makybe Diva (GB)’s Galileo (Ire) colt at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale when it was held at Newmarket many years ago.

Once again, that was not dissimilar to what we saw play out this week, there was a lot of mainstream media attention there. Makybe Diva having won the Melbourne Cup on three occasions and a Cox Plate. There was a lot of international interest, the colt made AU$1.7 million.

That was exciting but some of the biggest thrills you get are selling horses for AU$100,000 when the client thought it was worth AU$40,000 or selling a horse for AU$80,000 when they thought they were struggling to get AU$20,000.

That gives you as much thrill as selling the high-priced horses. Sometimes a result like that keeps that breeder in the game. It means they can breed the mare again the following year. So, I think it’s very important, and it’s not a cliché but every horse we offer is important. We would like to think that we’re giving every horse the same opportunity to maximise its sale price through our auctioneering team.


Keely: Could you share some of your funniest or most cherished memories from your career?

D’Arcy: I can remember when I was a bit younger and I was actually taking bids in the Newmarket ring, which many people will remember had quite a lot of residential housing around it and a school and hospital across the road.

I can’t recall if it was a Inglis Classic Sale or an Easter Sale but my wife and I lived across the road and we had a young beagle puppy called Jackson. Anyway, I had my back to the auctioneer and was looking at the clients under the tree taking bids and there was a commotion and I turned around and here was this beagle puppy racing straight towards me! It was quite a hilarious moment.

I’m sure there would be a lot of other funny moments around the sales. You get people who are surprised at what their horses are making, absolutely gobsmacked and wonderful things like that. We sold a colt for a vendor from New Zealand one day, who thought the horse was going to make AU$400,000- AU$500,000 and they ended up making well over that mark, selling for AU$1.5 million.

So, that was a bit of fun. You share a lot of jokes and camaraderie with the clients. Many of the people who attend the sales have been attending them for a very long time, you can always have a laugh with them about certain things that happen in the sale ring.


Keely: What positive changes or innovations have you observed in the industry, and are there any aspects you’d like to see improved or altered?

D’Arcy: I suppose the innovations are the way computers are used these days. The statistics are up to date and you can get the ratings that are put out after every meeting. I think that’s certainly a tool that many people use now when they’re buying horses or if they’re trading horses to Hong Kong, those ratings are something that have become very

Prior to the introduction of computers – analytics, statistics, ratings was very much a personal opinion but now it’s solid data behind why horses are bought and sold. One of the biggest changes with the selling of bloodstock/livestock has been the introduction of digital sales.

We’ve been lucky at Inglis to play a role in that. We’re turning over AU$90 to AU$95 million a year in digital sales. But that’s made it a very liquid market so you don’t have to wait three or four months to sell a horse or even prior to this it wasn’t really possible to sell a five or 10 per cent share in a horse.

Now you’ve got a sale every two weeks. So, it’s almost like the stock market, like a trading floor of a stock market and I think that has changed the way people look at trading bloodstock.

We have horses that one year they’re sold as a yearling for AU$400,000 and they have a couple of starts and the syndicate might decide that they’re not exactly going to make a stallion, so they’re traded for say AU$200,000. That horse might win a couple of races for that owner and then maybe nine months later they’re traded again for AU$90,000 because they need to continue their racing in an easier jurisdiction.

Some of these horses have been traded three, four, five times in their lives and at each time it’s important for the owners to be able to conduct that trading. I think the fact we’ve developed a trading platform that assists everyone.

The second part, I think the industry is now much more focused on welfare and the importance of displaying to the world that we care about these horses, not only during their racing careers but their post racing careers.

While there’s still more that can be done and needs to be done, I think everyone is now thinking in the right direction. There isn’t just financial support but also having a think about how we look after these horses once they are retired. So, I feel that was something that was very much required and it’s been a rocky road to get to that point.


Keely: Is there a particular stallion that holds a special place in your heart over the years?

D’Arcy: I was fortunate enough to be around when Danehill was really in full stride. I can remember looking at his fist crop and they sold okay but when they started racing it was quickly understood that he was a breed shaper stallion. Danehill was getting colts and fillies, his sons were going off to stud and were successful – the likes of Danzero (Aus), Flying Spur (Aus), Redoute’s Choice (Aus), Fastnet Rock (Aus).

The fact that we were able to sell Danehills for something like 12 years, the incredible popularity of the stallion and the success they had. Many of them were sold through our Easter Yearling Sale, it was just a great time to be involved.

I remember Danehills regularly making a million dollars, two million and he never had any sex bias. It’s a rare thing to see in a stallion – the term is a breed shaper and I’ve only seen a couple of breed shaper stallions in my lifetime. Danehill was probably the greatest one and to have the opportunity to his progeny for an extended period of time was certainly a great highlight of mine.


Keely: Do you consider the sale of the Pierro x Winx filly to be the pinnacle of your career?

D’Arcy: I suppose a lot of people will because it got all the publicity, and it was certainly probably the most highly anticipated moment of my career.

I just hoped everything would play out well. I was pleased that there was competition, I would have loved to have had a few other people to jump in. However, I know people were trying to have a bid at AU$3 million, AU$4 million and AU$5 million. People have spoken to me afterwards saying we tried to get in but it was just too fast.

I was just delighted to be able to play a very, very small role in what was a great story. The marketing team here and the way buyers were recruited did a massive job.

I think the whole story captured the imagination of the Australian public and the thoroughbred industry around the world – that was great.

As an auctioneer we sell a lot of horses every year but it’s been very enjoyable being part of this sale and it’s very fresh in my mind. It’s an easy one to remember because there’s just been so much written about it and a lot of video content.

It was just a thrill to be involved and I’m pleased that it played out well for everyone. Fingers crossed the filly can go on and continue the legacy that Winx has laid down.


Keely: Has the reality of selling a yearling filly for AU$10 million fully set in for you?

D’Arcy: I practised selling her for about a month before the sale, not every day, but if I was driving for half-n-hour or every couple of days and in my mind she never made AU$10 million. When practising I’d be taking bids of AU$200,000 or AU$250,000 but to be taking bids of a million and a million and a half, that wasn’t something I considered was ever a possibility of occurring.

I don’t think any auctioneer in the world would have imagined they’d be calling bids of that magnitude in such quick succession as how it played out. Personally, I really didn’t think she would be making that sort of money. When you think about it the highest-priced yearling ever sold was a colt at US$13 million and it was a long, long time ago.

The Australian record for a filly was AU$2.6 million, and I thought she’d be making somewhere around AU$5 million because of the interest. At AU$10 million, it is still sinking in for a lot of us. Just a magic moment to be involved in and a horse’s worth is determined by what two people are willing to pay.

Debbie Kepitis had a part ownership of the filly, but she had to pay an awful lot of money to buy out her partners. It was a unique opportunity to buy the daughter of arguably the greatest racehorse we’ve ever seen in this country.


Keely: What would you name the Pierro x Winx filly?

D’Arcy: I quite like a name called An A Nod. Three words, a wink and a nod. Sort of something like that. There’s an old saying, a nod and a wink. So, that’s why I think An A Nod. But I’m sure smarter people than I will come up with a very suitable name for her.

The post ‘In My Mind, She Never Made AU$10 Million’: Jonathan D’Arcy And A Lifetime Of Sales appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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