A GLOBAL upswing in Thoroughbred prices and the lure of a $10 million race day in 2016 on the Gold Coast are likely to drive prices at the annual Magic Millions yearling sale, which starts on the Gold Coast on Wednesday.
Along with luxury yachts and art auctions, yearling prices are a key indicator of global discretionary spending.
In the northern hemisphere, Thoroughbred yearling sales over the past two years have been at their highest levels since the 2008 financial crisis.
"The bloodstock market the world over is demonstrating its resilience," Magic Millions managing director Vin Cox said.
"Admittedly, the northern hemisphere is returning from a lower base because they were hit much harder by the GFC than we were.
"But certainly prices are now coming back to pre-GFC levels, both in the United States and Europe."
In October, Europe's most prestigious yearling sale, Tattersalls, recorded a record day for any yearling sale in the region when 123 lots were sold for 28.93 million guineas ($60 million) at an average of 235,203 guineas and a median of 150,000 guineas. That equated to an 87 per cent clearance rate.
At the same sale, a colt by Shamardal out of Cassandra Go fetched the highest price for a yearling in 2014 when it went for 1.7 million guineas. In 2013, a filly sold at Tattersalls for the world record price of 5 million guineas. Guineas is traditional "horse currency". A guinea is worth £1.05 ($2).
In the United States, the all-important September Keeneland yearling sale also held up well.
In 2013, sales grew 27.6 per cent and Bloodhorse magazine dubbed it the "dawn of a new cycle".
The September 2014 yearling sale mirrored sales figures on the previous year, grossing $US280 million and an average price of $US100,000.
In December 2014, Racing Queensland and Magic Millions said they would stage Australia's richest race day in January 2016, worth more than double the $4.7 million up for grabs at the Jeep Magic Millions race day this year.
Magic Millions race day is the largest sales racing initiative in the world. Only horses bought at the Magic Millions sales can compete.
"Who doesn't want to be part of a $10 million race day?" Mr Cox said.
Of the 916 yearlings listed for sale between January 7 and 12, he said: "We're not hoping to break 'highest prices' records.
"We're hoping for increased turnover and to spread the love. The clearance rate last year was 89 per cent. If you're selling nine out of 10 horses, that is well above a pass, but we are still keen to do even better.
"We have the horses and we have the buyers. It just depends where their egos and wallets finish."
Magic Millions last year overtook William Inglis and Sons as the country's biggest bloodstock agent by total dollar turnover.
At the close of 2014, Magic Millions had sold $219.6 million worth of horses compared with $194.6 million by Inglis. Harvey Norman chief executive and Magic Millions co-owner Katie Page said: "We are indeed looking forward to a fantastic sale off the back of the return of Zara Phillips as the patron of Magic Millions racing women, and the anticipation of a $10 million race day in 2016, which will become the richest race day in Australian history."
The Magic Millions Gold Coast horse sale began in 1986 and was bought by Gerry Harvey in the early 1990s.
Inglis is one of the oldest continuous horse sales in the world, established in 1867 in Sydney. Inglis managing director Mark Webster cautioned the figures reflected two large dispersal sales that Magic Millions handled last year, including Nathan Tinkler's Patinack Farm, which will not be repeated in 2015.
The Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale remains the southern hemisphere's most prestigious sales, where the highest pedigree yearlings are on offer.
In 2014, the Inglis yearling sale finished with a healthy clearance rate of 83 per cent. It was hailed by Mr Webster as the best since the "all-time highs of 2008". Inglis bagged just under $91 million, on a par with 2013 results.