Home » Secret vets, private security and a US tycoon on the end of the phone: Inside filly’s $10m sale

Secret vets, private security and a US tycoon on the end of the phone: Inside filly’s $10m sale

It is the Winx name that makes the horse the most expensive filly in the world, instantly doubling the record price for an Australian yearling at a public auction. The price is high than even Stewart is prepared to go.

“Hopefully, she will do a Winx,” says a tearful Kepitis, the daughter of poultry tycoon Bob Ingham. “But it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t.”

The military-like operation for perhaps the most anticipated horse sale in Australian history has been such that no detail has been left unchecked. Apart from one – as the hammer comes down, the electronic board behind the filly doesn’t immediately recognise that bidding has reached $10 million.

As Kepitis launches one final hurrah to beat Stewart, a bid of “$10,000,…” shows on the board.

No one had ever contemplated whether the board was capable of registering eight figures. They hadn’t needed to. Eventually, the board ticks over to read $10,000,000 just as the filly leaves the ring. What’s a few zeroes between multis, eh?

The filly, who is yet to be named, has had around-the-clock security outside her stall and the past 48 hours have been pandemonium, with buyers and sticky-beakers crowding around for a glimpse of the famous exhibit. By the time she is taken out of her box to enter the sale ring, a coterie of iPhone cameras are ready to capture the moment.

Winx’s filly fetched $10 million on Monday.Credit: Getty

But the question remains: will she actually be any good?

A couple of grizzled old trainers walking past her stall on Sunday shake their heads.

“The good ones just don’t produce good horses,” they grumble.

And they have a point.

The best mares of the past 20 years – such as Makybe Diva, Sunline and Black Caviar – have been flops at stud. They’ve barely thrown a decent horse between them. There is no reason to believe Winx will be any different.

The build-up to the sale of a filly, which will be prepared by Winx’s trainer, Chris Waller, has been anything but normal.

Such was the secrecy around her sale that even veterinarians who have inspected her x-rays and medical report have been forced to sign non-disclosure agreements, preventing them from revealing sensitive details before she went under the hammer.

By the end of it, there is no one more relieved than the man who had to hold her as she paraded in front of thousands on onlookers who are told to hold their applause at the end of the 130-second sale so as not to spook the horse.

Strapper Paddy Sheehan retires to a corner of the barn, where Irish breeding giant Coolmore has been keeping Lot 391 and the rest of its Easter draft.

Sheehan was there for the day when Winx, eventually bought as a $230,000 yearling at the Gold Coast-based Magic Millions, was foaled in 2011. She was up on her feet in less than 10 minutes. Most horses don’t stand until 20 minutes.

Debbie Kepitis breaks down after the winning bid.

Debbie Kepitis breaks down after the winning bid.Credit: Inglis

But the night he remembers most was when Winx tried to give birth to what was supposed to be her first foal in 2020. She lost the foal. It was also an open secret within breeding circles how close Winx came to dying, too.

Did Sheehan fear she wasn’t going to make it?

“One hundred per cent,” he says. “The vets thought it as well. Not many mares come through what she came through. Most mares pass away, but she’s just a tough mare. She’s such a fighter.

“I’ve got a couple of daughters and I said, ‘I have to be with Winx [while she was recovering]’. If we didn’t have the team from Coolmore there that night, she wouldn’t have been here today.

“I’m sorry I’m getting a bit emotional with it all. That’s why this filly means so much to me.”

Before barely a person had stepped on the grounds on Monday, Kepitis and her family had posed for a photo with Winx’s filly in the crisp early morning sunlight. Was it a last goodbye? A see you later? Or just one to hang in the family lounge room?

“We didn’t know what was going to happen this afternoon,” Kepitis says. “We had to tick all the boxes.”

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But few could have anticipated she would obliterate the previous record for an Australian yearling, $5 million paid for a half-brother to Black Caviar in 2013 (he later died without racing from a spider bite infection).

Ahead of the sale, Tighe sat at a table not far from Kepitis and passed a piece of paper around for everyone in his company to guess what she would go for. He wrote down $5,750,000.

“I thought that would be a fair price,” he says. “A couple went $6 [million], but no one went more than that.

“I was speechless. I couldn’t say a word. It was just something you couldn’t imagine. I couldn’t believe the amounts they were giving. I knew Debbie loved the horse and wanted the horse, but I didn’t know how strong she would be.

“They’ve certainly given us something to talk about for a few years.”

And cause to raise a few eyebrows, too.

Because who knows if $10 million can buy a horse with a decent engine.

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