July 1, 1989 had marked a turning point for Australasian racing and breeding. Bart Cummings had signed for a stable full of exorbitantly priced yearlings at sales across Australia and New Zealand, but when the time came to pay for the young horses, the Cups King’s backers deserted him.
Jonathan D’Arcy, a junior member of the Inglis team at the time, recalls that this put the sales company in a bind.
"Inglis and the other sales companies, we pay out on 42 days, no matter if we’ve been paid or not, we have to find the money to pay the vendors,” he said.
“But that left us owing a lot of money to the bank, and the bank looking on and saying, ‘Well you’ve got all these yearlings, what are you going to do with them?’ so the Night of the Stars concept was launched.”
The Night of the Stars Sale was an amazing act of bipartisan cooperation between sales companies, designed to recoup the money paid for 67 yearlings across multiple sales. Joe Walls was working for Wrightson’s Bloodstock, now known as New Zealand Bloodstock, at the time.
“I was working for the company in Sydney, I worked there for two or three years,” Walls remembered.
“We said to Inglis, who had agreed to run the Sale at their complex… 'We’d like to be involved in seeing what we could get for these horses, because it would be good for our pocket!'
“I was the one who stood up and sold the Wrightson's horses, if you like, at that time.”
The night itself
After the purchases, by now 2-year-olds, had been brought to the Newmarket sales ground, the scene was set. How it would go was anyone’s guess.
“I remember the two… lead-in days, a lot of people that had come out from the city, a lot of people dressed in suits, thinking there was blood in the water,” recalled D’Arcy.
“(Prospective buyers were) thinking that these horses were going to make a lot less than what Bart had originally paid for them. Circumstances had changed a lot, the economy was in a steep decline.”
“(Prospective buyers were) thinking that these horses were going to make a lot less than what Bart (Cummings) had originally paid for them. Circumstances had changed a lot, the economy was in a steep decline.” - Jonathan D'Arcy
The podcast details whether those sharks were correct in their assumptions but also dives into some of the notable graduates of the Sale.
“Probably the best horse to come out of the Sale was a horse called Pharaoh, who won a couple of Doncasters,” revealed D’Arcy.
“Ironically, he was bought by Tommy Smith, who for the preceding five or six months had fought his own battle… Tommy was able to pay his debts… so he turned up full of T.J. Smith bravado and he bought a couple of horses that night, Pharaoh being the best of them.”
David Hayes also attended The Night of the Stars and was a beneficiary.
“It was incredible, all those fantastic horses,” he remembers.
“I was lucky enough to inherit… a Bletchingly filly called Wrap Around. She won a William Reid and was very competitive behind Schillaci.”
An era’s end begins
Hayes was assistant trainer to his father Colin in 1989, a year in which he was the nation’s dominant trainer and conditioned the Australian Horse of the Year, Almaarad (Ire).
Having nursed the blaze-faced chestnut back to health following an injury, C.S. Hayes designed a brief campaign which resulted in an epic victory in the nation’s leading weight-for-age event.
“In winning the Cox Plate he injured the tendon again and unfortunately had to be retired,” confirmed David Hayes. “You know, he was racing Super Impose and beating him and a lot of good horses. He’s a forgotten horse, when people talk about good horses.”
But it was what had occurred the night before Almaarad’s Plate triumph that had ramifications which linger today; C.S. Hayes announced he was retiring.
“Look, Dad put a lot of thought into it,” explained David Hayes.
“Dad was unfortunately unwell, otherwise he would have kept training for years and years, but he just was finding it too hard with his heart condition.
“So he decided to go out in style and announced his retirement on the eve of the Cox Plate, which he thought he could win, and he did… and then I stepped in the season after.”
Another Hayes’ stable resident, the then 3-year-old Zabeel (NZ), would go on to be an influential sire, based in New Zealand, and the podcast also touches on the annus horribilis the New Zealand industry suffered at this time.