Go and see a man about a racehorse
THE phrase "I'm going to see a man about a horse" isn't used as often as it once was - and you can see why when considering the Cape Premier Yearling Sale currently under way.
These days one receives sizeable quantities of digital marketing bumph for horse sales - and none more so than this one.
You can be lulled into a dangerous feeling that there's no need to see any "man" in person to get the lowdown - any purveyor, pin-hooker or "Honest John" independent expert. You can suss out horses on offer right there at home, your excited face bathed in the glow of your clever pad-tablet-device thing.
Banish such thoughts. This is a high-risk business and you need the best advice about how to spend that spare million or two rattling about in your wallet.
Cape Thoroughbred Sales has exhorted people to travel to Cape Town for the auction - by extolling the eternal beauty of the visdorpie and the party vibe leading up to its biggest horse race, next weekend's J&B Met.
A cheerful crowd of excited people packed around a sales ring unlocks shackles of financial inhibition. Buyers succumb to a heady atmosphere, fall in love with certain beautifully groomed creatures and start bidding wars with similarly infatuated - if not intoxicated - people.
It's only money, honey.
Cape Premier kingpin Robin Bruss has worked to draw international buyers, in particular - with YouTube messages and the like.
As Robin emphasises, South Africa offers the best thoroughbred value for money. Our horses win stakes races all over the world, yet on home soil they sell for a fraction of the amount that similarly bred young horses go for elsewhere.
Some foreigners have caught on and will be at the Cape Town International Convention Centre venue today.
But the big breakthrough - to push prices closer to world norms and bring foreign currency flooding in - hasn't quite happened yet.
At the 2011 Premier, Sheik Hamdan al Maktoum of Dubai bought Soft Falling Rain for R350000. That's looking like a real bargain now, with the colt becoming SA Champion Two-Year-Old after four unbeaten runs - before he shipped to Dubai and trotted up in his debut there.
Sheik Hamdan didn't need to be in Cape Town to bid on the yearling. But he did rely on his "man about a horse", champion trainer Mike de Kock, to do the business.
While there might be bargains on an international level, the CPYS is rather rich fare for local buyers.
Last year, 21 horses went for more than R1-million each, with the average price R407000. The aggregate was R107-million, with foreign spend being R19-million.
South Africa's thoroughbred market held up remarkably well in the recession and burgeoned last year.
This sale should continue the trend, with attractions including eight offspring from super-sire Jet Master's final season, dozens from boom sires Var and Trippi and, of course, that old "Met fever".
KENILWORTH, TOMORROW: Cape Flying Championship (Race 7) - 9 Via Africa, 1 What A Winter, 8 Chave De Oura, 3 Magico