YOUTHFUL Justin Vermaak of Vermaak Equine was the second biggest buyer by lots at the recent BSA National Yearling Sale. We caught up with the 31-year-old to get the latest news.

You’ve been travelling a lot in the last few years. What knowledge have you gained from breeding jurisdictions in places like Argentina and Australia?

I think it’s the same as any other business or industry, it opens your eyes, especially in our case, to a much bigger industry, you actually then only realize how cut off from the world we are. All other racing nations enjoy this “crosscompetition” in races all over the show and here we sit, struggling to get horses to compete regularly enough, it is a shame. Hopefully some arrangement is forthcoming for export otherwise our breeder pool will keep shrinking.

Do you prefer Yearling Sales or Ready To Run sales?

Yearling sales for sure. From a costs point of view, and for trading RTR’s are helpful as they are late in the year and owners wait less time for a return, but I think more quality is present at Yearling sales if you put in the leg work. Gallops can be very misleading, jockeys and trainers can’t tell you what can run or can’t run until three runs, never mind three gallops!

You have been on the scene as an independent bloodstock agent since leaving Maine Chance, but with 19 individual purchases at last week’s Nationals you’ve made a big statement, what is the story behind the purchases?

I have joined Laurence Wernars and Johan Janse Van Vuuren on the bloodstock side recently which has been a great move for me and hopefully I can add to the team. I think historically you can see how when bloodstock agents team up and work closely with a stable there is certain upside for both if doing a good job, I am sure that will work out here. Johan is a top class trainer and Laurence is a brilliant man to work for, away from racing I am always listening to his insight. We are setting up a nice “owner/breeder” set up for him with the intent of racing our best progeny and adding a select few yearlings to the crop each year to keep replenishing the quality. It was fantastic sale and it was a real buyers market in the middle end, which is where we struck.

Was the intent to buy that number of did you manage to grab extras thanks to it being such a buyer’s market?

It was really hard at the top end, some of my top lots obviously went for big money, there were horses I had valued at around the R500k mark which were selling for R750-R1mil and just out of my range, but there were horses I valued at R500k which dropped for much lower, sometimes even half that and that is where we got our strong numbers from. Thankfully Laurence brought some of his esteemed partners into the bulk of them which helped to stretch the budget.

Tell us about the purchases and are all 19 for Laurence and Johan?

Fourteen were bought for Laurence, of which I think 10 are bound for Johan, the others are for Laurence’s other trainers Alec Laird, Gary Alexander and Brett Warren. We bought some exceptional Oratorio colts from Pippa Mickleburgh at Avontuur, she is a phenomenal breeder and I think the Taberers are exceptional people and great ambassadors for racing, so we like to support them. Also Laurence and Johan have done exceptionally well with Oratorio, Divine Odyssey in fact being Laurence’s first home bred group winner. We also bagged some smart Gimmethegreenlight’s from Mauritzfontein and a filly by Oratorio from the Fillies Guineas winning Argentine mare Emerald Beauty, a future mare no doubt! I loved a Duke Of Marmalade colt at Ridgemont Highlands which we got as well, plus they graciously kept a leg in the horse with us. An example of how the sale went would be another lot we bought from Ridgemont Highlands, a Pathfork filly from the sister to Potala Palace was going for R75 000, she wasn’t on the final list but scored highly and at that price we had to go R100 000 and we got the filly. Another one for stud! I also signed for two purchases for Paul Matchett and his clients, Paul is a fantastic trainer as he has shown this year and we have had luck together with Brave Mary already. I look forward to racing the odd horse with him this year in my personal capacity, with his eye he is a trader’s dream! The last two will be raced in the Cape with Glen Kotzen, to be put together with some of his clients, one of them was the Global View brother to our Gr1-placed Herodotus.

Will the Global View buy be in the green and black of Green Street Bloodstock?

I am not sure at the moment, he will be raced by the same owner partnership as his brother but it is likely that he will race in the individual owners’ names directly
with Glen. I have not been active in buying yearlings for Green Street for SAF for a while. Unfortunately due to the low stakes and lack of export/trading opportunity, syndicating in this country is only really financially viable if stables/trainers do it while filling their boxes or breeders can do it, selling their progeny. It has been a fun ride but we are doing really nicely in Singapore and have a load of horses on the way there for next season which is where I will be concentrating my time. My main Green Street trainers in SAF have the staff and set up to handle the admin so it is easier for me to let them do it and just do the selecting of the horses for our clients who can race in their own name with the trainers. This way there is no worrying about getting accounts out and doing change of ownerships and authority to acts while in a different time zone! Plus, whether winning in green and black or not makes no difference to me, as long as they are winning!

Singapore sounds exciting. We have been monitoring for a while and seen some of the winners but it sounds like a more permanent move is on the cards?

I have been commuting since 2017 and I think with the set up of horses we will have there next year, it will be soon be time to set up with my own apartment base and give it a good crack, horse racing is such a global industry which we unfortunately miss out on and I know being based there will help set up Green Street International to take the next step, with the quality we have racing there next season. I can still stay very active in the SAF industry from there, in my role with Laurence and Johan and will still be at all the major sales, hopefully the code is cracked with regard to the export protocols of our horses and we can race our own locally bred horses in Singapore, it will be much easier for us and less air miles for me!

From Turf Talk Newsletter, ‘7 Questions’ Series