03/28/2008 12:00AM

New big spender emerges in Australia


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Those watching the high-stakes select yearling market at Australia's Magic Millions Conrad Jupiters sale probably expected the sale's two record $2.2 million Australian colts to go to the usual buying suspects: Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum or his opposite numbers at Coolmore Stud.

But a new big player took center stage, to the tune of $19 million Australian. That amount, approximately $17.4 million in American dollars, was what 31-year-old Nathan Tinkler spent for 59 yearlings at the Conrad Jupiters sale. Eight of them were by Australia's highly fashionable Redoute's Choice, including the record pair, who sold for the equivalent of about $2.02 million on sale day.

His name may not be familiar yet to North American breeders, but Tinkler has been making big waves at Southern Hemisphere Thoroughbred auctions since last year. That was when he and his father sold their Custom Mining company's 70-percent interest in an Australian coal deposit for about $275 million Australian; they had purchased the deposit in 2006 for $15 million Australian, according to Australia's Business Spectator newspaper. Since January, he has spent an estimated $25 million on horses at Australian and New Zealand auctions.

Last month, he signaled his serious intent to become a force in Gold Coast racing when he purchased a 60-stall training stable there and lured trainer Jamie Nielsen back from retirement to take over the facility. That was only the latest building block in an operation that already included racing strings in Sydney and Melbourne and a farm in the Hunter Valley.

Tinkler is known Down Under as a media-shy mogul, and indeed he left post-sale comments to Roger Langley, managing director of his Patinack Farm. Tinkler hired Langley, a businessman who previously had no professional involvement in the Thoroughbred business, in 2007, to oversee Patinack. The farm's racing strings are trained by Nielsen, Anthony Cummings, and Paddy Payne, but Langley said this week at Magic Millions that at least one of Tinkler's new Redoute's Choice colts would probably go to Gai Waterhouse.

Before joining his father in the mining business, Tinkler reportedly started his working life as an electrician at coal mines. He and his father, Les, have long enjoyed racing, and Tinkler's paternal grandfather, Norm, was a one-time blacksmith who trained horses in Australia, Les Tinkler told Australia's Gold Coast media this week.

"He always wanted to go a long way into the [racing] industry, and he is certainly doing that now," Les Tinkler said of his son.

Medaglia d'Oro's sibling rescued

Cappucino Kid, a half-brother to popular freshman sire Medaglia d'Oro, has been rescued from a Washington state feedlot, where he was awaiting shipment to slaughter. He's now safely on his way to the Old Friends equine retirement haven in Georgetown, Ky., thanks to the helping hands of the horse rescue operation Save Our Slaughterbound Equines and a group of horse lovers who met on the Internet.

"We're still working on all the details," said Old Friends founder Michael Blowen. "SOS Equines in Washington found him and contacted us, and we're working on transporting him now."

When SOS Equines found Cappucino Kid at the feedlot, they quickly raised $570 in donations from members of Alex Brown Racing, a website that has become a forum for anti-slaughter racing fans, Barbaro followers, and horse lovers. The rescue group purchased Cappucino Kid for $425 and is applying the balance toward his care until he ships to Kentucky.

Cappucino Kid, a 10-year-old Pioneering gelding out of Cappucino Bay, won 10 of 44 starts and earned $248,951. He won his debut at Fairplex Park in 2000 and finished fourth in the Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita in his next start, but he spent most of the rest of his career the claiming ranks. He ran throughout California and finally competed in his last race at Grants Pass Downs in Oregon, where he finished second for a $2,500 tag.

The bulk of Cappucino Kid's "bail money," $425, came from Linda Madsen of Portland, Me., who also has her own adopted ex-racehorse, Moyo Simba.

"I'm a big, big fan of Medaglia d'Oro," she explained. "I've visited Medaglia d'Oro many times and loved him when he was running. I just felt compelled to save his brother. He was due to go to Mexico to be slaughtered on March 27. I just couldn't let that happen."

* The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association has announced it will hold its annual awards dinner on Sept. 6 at the Lexington Convention Center in Lexington.