Emotions run high as Winx’s only foal is sold to part-owner Debbie Kepitis at world record price of A$10m | Topics … – Thoroughbred Racing Commentary

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Standing room only: not a vacant seat in the house as the Winx filly lights up the board at A$10m. Photo: Sharon Lee Chapman

Photojournalist Sharon Lee Chapman was on hand to capture the drama as the most-talked-about yearling on the planet went through the ring in Sydney – and was sold to Winx’s emotional owner Debbie Kepitis

Australia: The prices might have been running high but the emotions were off the scale on Monday [April 8] on a day of incredible drama in the sales ring when the only offspring of Winx was knocked down to the mighty mare’s part-owner Debbie Kepitis for a staggering A$10 million ($6.6m/£5.2m).

That figure is a world record for any yearling filly – and double the previous record price of A$5m for any yearling in the Southern Hemisphere.

“I am privileged to have been able to secure this filly on behalf of my family,” said an emotional Kepitis, who acquired the filly outright under her Woppitt Bloodstock banner. 

“She’s Australian forever and she’s going to be just fabulous,” added the vivacious purple-haired owner, who raced the legendary Winx in partnership with Peter Tighe and the late Richard Treweeke.

When Winx gave birth to her first live foal on October 7, 2022, the racing world issued a collective sigh of relief after a series of trials and tribulations. She had lost her first foal by I Am Invincible, and was then given a year off before visiting Coolmore Australia’s high-flying stallion Pierro.

Nobody anticipated that nearly 18 months later, the most famous foal on the horse racing planet would be offered for sale at public auction. 

Fast forward to April 8, 2024, and the filly known affectionately as ‘Lot 391’ amid a frenzy of pre-sale publicity at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale was consigned as part of the Coolmore draft.

The excitement around the sales complex was palpable ahead of Monday’s sale. With buyers from all corners of the globe in evidence at the Inglis Riverside Stables in Sydney, everyone was talking about ‘The Filly’ at one of the most eagerly anticipated bloodstock auctions ever seen.

Maximum capacity

The auditorium started to fill half an hour before ‘The Filly’ walked in, and soon it was standing room only as everyone from diehard Winx fans to staff from every vendor on the complex jostled for their chance to witness a slice of history. With no vacant seats available, the ramps were crowded to maximum capacity and it was five deep at the back.

As Lot 391 made her way into the ring, you could have heard a pin drop, almost as if no one dared breathe awaiting the opening bid.

There had been days of speculation regarding this opening bid, with anything ranging from A$1 million to A$3m forecast. In the end, it was dead centre at A$2m from Inglis Bloodstock’s chief executive Sebastian Hutch.

The ball had been set rolling; we were in for a hell of a ride as bids flew in from everywhere around the room – and everywhere around the world. 

Next to jump in at A$2.5m was US investor John Stewart of Kentucky-based Resolute Racing, with Inglis managing director Mark Webster acting on his behalf. Given Stewart’s bullish statements before the sale, where he labelled the Winx filly as a “collector’s item” and pledged to do “whatever it takes” to get her, his interest was hardly surprising.

Raw emotions

Stewart had every right to fancy his chances – but maybe he hadn’t counted on the raw emotions involved here when it comes to Winx and the Kepitis family. 

As has gone down in Australian racing folklore, Winx won 37 races for her partnership owners, including an incredible 33 in succession and 25 at G1 level including no fewer than four Cox Plate triumphs. She had a total of 176 weeks as #1 in Thoroughbred Racing Commentary’s Global Rankings – easily the longest stint at the top in rankings history.

John Stewart may have been desperate to attain Winx’s sole offspring, but nothing was going to stop the Kepitis family from retaining their special girl, which in effect meant buying out the other partners.

Bids traded back and forth, with Stewart on the phone with Mark Webster. But Stewart said he was out at A$10m, which was to be Debbie Kepitis’s final winning bid. In a heartbeat, Winx’s filly created not only an Australasian record price for a yearling but a world record price for a yearling filly.

Maybe it was destiny that she ended up as the property of the family who had set up the camp chairs in the laneways at the farm and sat for hours watching their beloved Winx and her only foal.

Time for a hug: Winx’s trainer Chris Waller congratulates Deppie Kepitis. Photo: Sharon Lee ChapmanAs the hammer came down at the conclusion of the sale, the tears flowed freely as the enormity of the occasion overcame the whole Kepitis family, Debbie and Paul and the girls.

The result everyone wanted

When trainer Chris Waller walked over to congratulate Debbie, visibly emotional, it was evident that the result was a result that everyone wanted.

“I didn’t come here to buy this horse originally,” admitted Kepitis. “We put her up for auction and then in the past few weeks, all of the family, we started to miss our ‘daughter/granddaughter’ so we just decided as best we could, if we could get her, we would.

“Thank you to everybody around the world who has taken this on board, it’s been thrilling to watch it and we’re lucky enough that we came out winners.’’

Coolmore’s Tom Magnier admitted he had never witnessed anything like what he did at Riverside. “You wouldn’t see this anywhere else in the world,’’ Magnier said.

“You wouldn’t see the build-up, you wouldn’t see the hype and atmosphere today, I’ve never witnessed anything like it at any auction house around the world.

“It’s just the perfect story,” he went on. “I knew she was going to make a very high figure because somebody is buying history. She is a classic, a collectors’ item and there’s only one person who deserved this today and that’s Debbie.

“It’s a dream story. I don’t think you can put a value on a filly like that. It’s just incredible, I’m delighted.’’

John Stewart, who quickly licked his wounds to buy another A$3m filly later in the sale, was entirely gracious, despite missing out on the star attraction.

Where she belongs

“I said before that my goal was for the filly to stay in Australia,” he said on X (formerly Twitter). Congratulations to Debbie Kepitis and everyone in Australia! The Winx filly is right where she belongs.”

Happy families: the Kepitis clan, including Debbie and Paul, are all smiles after securing Winx’s filly outright. Photo: Sharon Lee ChapmanIt was hard to disagree. Winx is the people’s horse; she is Australia’s horse. As such, it is only fitting that her only filly stay in Australia, to graze and grow on the beautiful pastures of Coolmore like her mother before going into training with Waller.

Only time will tell what Lot 391 will achieve on a racetrack or in a breeding barn. 

However, for one family who adore Winx and have waited with bated breath for her first filly, it was worth the wait to finally own her outright.

• Visit the Inglis website and the Sharon Lee Chapman Photography website

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