It’s about 6.45am in Sydney and Sebastian Hutch is up and about.

As CEO of Inglis, Australia’s largest and oldest thoroughbred sales company, the Cork native is an early riser. It’s just as well given the demands of the job.

These past few weeks have been particularly hectic for the 39-year-old, between the build-up and aftermath of the world record A$10 million achieved for the Pierro-Winx yearling filly.

Interviews with Inglis themselves, and all those connected with the sale, have been in high demand from interested parties worldwide.

“There was huge media interest in her, even two weeks beforehand when we did a press day at Coolmore Australia,” Hutch commented. It even made the 7NEWS on the Sunday evening which is watched by some 1.3 million people.

In an earlier television interview, he noted: “Winx is the most accomplished racehorse in the history of the Australian thoroughbred. Very, very rarely a female progeny from a mare like Winx would get offered for sale anywhere in the world. I think that helped heighten the interest not just domestically but internationally.”

During her career Winx won a staggering 25 Group 1s and some A$26 million in prize money.

Thousands of racing fans descended on Inglis’ Riverside Stables in Sydney on April 8th to witness the sale of the century, with an estimated 550,000 from almost 100 countries also tuning in to their website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Not only was it a massive coup for Inglis to have her in the catalogue, but also for Australian racing which offers over A$900 million annually in prize money.

“It’s a huge industry and 95 races will be run in Australia this year that are each worth A$1 million or more. There’s racing every single day. It’s in every big city every Saturday. There’s no trade paper - the form is carried in the daily papers – and there’s free-to-air coverage. “Betting is a cultural ‘norm’ and we have the Tote in pubs. The racing product here is so good and the narrative is so easy to follow.”

Family background

Given his incredible knowledge of the business, it is not surprising that Sebastian Hutch was immersed in thoroughbreds from a very young age. Unlike his brother William – now an architect in New York – his connection to horses has remained steadfast throughout.

Their parents are Kanturk veterinary surgeon Dan Hutch and wife Vanessa, who bred and owned the high-class dual-purpose mare Missunited.

Roll back another generation and Vanessa’s father Frank Feeney raced Mistigo to win the Irish 2000 Guineas in 1968, while Dan’s parents Frances and Liam Hutch bred the dual 2000 Guineas winner of 1987, Don’t Forget Me.

Vanessa’s sister Antonia Devin is also deeply involved in horses. She bred the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard from Haras du Mesnil which she runs with her husband Henri. Their son is the up-and-coming trainer Henri-Francois Devin.

Hutch’s interest in horses continued right through school. For his secondary education he attended Glenstal Abbey in Limerick and was in the same circles as Ryan McElligott, Roger O’Callaghan, Andrew Moore, Sam Curling, Fozzy Stack, and the Magnier boys. “We had a racing club which enabled us all to go racing a few times each year which was brilliant.”

From there Hutch went on to study business and legal studies in UCD.

Coolmore experience

He spent his summers establishing his CV with the likes of John Oxx and also Neil Drysdale in California. He also spent a few months at Primus with Richard Henry.

From there he was given the opportunity to work in the Coolmore office, selling nominations and reading pedigrees. “Christy Grassick was great to me and Harry King was such a fountain of knowledge,” he said.

Hutch graduated from college in 2007, but by his own admission he was never keen on the idea of becoming a solicitor.

“Christy approached me one day and said there was a job at Coolmore Australia. James Harron was leaving and Michael Kirwan wanted someone to join the office.”

Hutch said he had little interest in going, but felt it would be beneficial, even if only short-term. “I flew down in August 2008. I was still in an academic mindset. I knew no-one, but Tom Magnier was very good to me.”

Hutch first worked in nominations and quickly climbed up the ladder to the role of Sales, Marketing and Racing Manager. “It was a great place to learn. Michael gave me great opportunities and Peter O’Brien, who was stud manager at the time, was an amazing man to learn from.”

It was an era which saw Encosta De Lago and Fastnet Rock become champion sires, while he witnessed both Winx and top sire Vancouver being born on the farm for their breeder John Camilleri of Fairway Thoroughbreds.

New challenge

What started out as a four-month ‘trial’ turned into a decade at the Coolmore powerhouse before he was presented with a new challenge. “I was at a juncture in my career when I was approached by Inglis that a change seemed like a good idea. It was the spring of 2018.

“Coolmore is significant for so many people and I loved my time there. Tom was very supportive when I left. It was a big enough decision to make.”

Hutch took up his new role as General Manager of Bloodstock Sales at Inglis in November 2018. The appointment was part of a restructure of the senior management team which had been implemented when relocating to Riverside Stables earlier that year. Prior to that Inglis had been based at Newmarket near Randwick for almost a century. Hutch said it was good timing on all fronts. It was also through Inglis that he met his future wife, Kate. They now have a young son, William, who is seven.

“Although Kate no longer worked there when I started, she had introduced me to a lot of people.”

Just a few years earlier the Inglis Digital platform had been introduced, and so Hutch was joining the team at a very exciting time. Indeed, the fast-growing platform proved to be the saving grace when the pandemic hit in 2020. In what proved to be extraordinary circumstances Part 1 of the Easter Yearling Sale, amongst others, was held virtually. This sale saw seven lots fetch over A$1 million each.

CEO appointment

When Mark Webster made the decision to step back from the day-to-day running of the bloodstock business in 2021, Hutch was deemed the perfect successor as CEO.

“It is not something I gave a lot of thought to,” he said. “The company is family-owned and over 150 years old. It has tremendous history, and I am proud to be associated with it.”

Figures now prove that Inglis is growing rapidly under his leadership. In 2022 and 2023 the online platform turned some A$90 million in sales.

Hutch says this has been a game-changer for Australian racing. “One in every five races won in Australia during a calendar year are won by horses offered through Inglis Digital,” he noted.

These include the Group 1 winning mare Mariamia who was purchased at the 2022 March (Early) Online Sale for A$335,000 and was crowned Inglis Digital Horse of the Year in 2023.

Piccadillies, a winning half-sister to Fastnet Rock and in foal to St Mark’s Basilica, was the star entry for the 2024 (Late) March Online Sale and secured by Eddie and Eimear Irwin of Marlhill House Stud outside Cashel for A$300,000.

“Inglis has undoubtedly the busiest sales calendar in the world now between live and online auctions. We have the largest weanling sale and the largest two-year-old sale in Australia.”

Hutch said the key to its success is the team. “It is a huge operation, but everyone here is motivated to be engaged in the market.”

Five yearling sales are held each year – three at Inglis’ Riverside complex in western Sydney and two at their second complex at Oaklands north of Melbourne.

Ahead of the Easter Yearling Sale in early April, viewings began last August. Around that time Inglis was approached by the owners of the Winx filly. “I have a good relationship with them, and they were keen to know what she might be worth. We were asked if we could put forward a pitch to possibly have her offered at the sale.”

Sales facilities

Hutch said a lot of factors came into play, not least the facilities. “We have a world-class sales complex at Riverside which cost over A$150 million to develop. We have 800 boxes, a hotel – it’s second to none.”

The entire team at Inglis were thrilled when the pitch was successful, and they could make it public that Winx’s first live foal would be offered at Riverside. “From the moment we announced it in September the interest was huge,” he added.

Coolmore Australia has been closely associated with Winx since her birth there in September 2011. It was not surprising that she not only went back there to be covered by their top sire Pierro, but then to foal down.

She sadly lost her first foal by I Am Invincible in 2020. She is now in foal to Snitzel.

Given their reputation as one of the biggest and best in the business, Coolmore were also the choice as consigners for the yearling who was snapped up by her original co-owner (and that of Winx) Debbie Kepitis of Woppitt Bloodstock.

The A$10 million tag became a new record by a long shot as the previous highest price for a yearling filly sold in Australia was A$2.6 million.

Naturally it was going to make the headlines across the globe, and the publicity for the sales company was enormous.

Afterwards Hutch said: “It was a real privilege for our company to have the opportunity to offer a horse of her magnitude and for it to play out the way it has and to facilitate this scale of interest that we’ve had has been incredible.”

“To have every major television network, every major newspaper, so many national radio stations here at Riverside, the images and vision that are going around the world paints our industry in a magnificent light and I’m really proud that we have helped play some small role in that.”

Looking ahead, 2024 is expected to be a bumper year for Inglis, with 32 sales in total scheduled. Of those 22 are online.

“We are now looking forward to our Chairman’s Sale on May 9th,” Hutch commented.

One of the spotlight entries is the Group 1 superstar, She’s Extreme, offered as a prospective broodmare.

“We have offered many top-class fillies and mares in the relatively short history of the sale, but She’s Extreme will be arguably the most talented breeding prospect that we will have ever offered through the Chairman’s Sale.

“It has grown into a must-attend event in a very short space of time. I think it’s fair to say it’s recognised as the most enjoyable evening on the Australian sales calendar.

“It’s a lot of fun, and effectively a cocktail party with a horse sale added in,” he concluded.