David Ellis may have been the leading yearling buyer in New Zealand for the past 18 years, but until Tuesday, he had not purchased a $1 million-plus lot in Australia.

In the space of three hours on the Gold Coast, Ellis, the principal of Te Akau Racing, broke that mark twice, spending a combined $2.4 million for colts by I Am Invincible and Zoustar.

Last year proved a marquee one for Te Akau’s expansion into Australia, with the establishment of its permanent training base at Cranbourne in Victoria, while their star mare Imperatriz won four Group 1s, three of them in the spring.

Under trainer Mark Walker’s name, but overseen by Australian-based assistant trainer Ben Gleeson, Te Akau’s horses have won eight Australian races since the start of the 2023/24 season, to go with the 91 wins Walker has trained with partner Sam Bergerson in New Zealand since August.

Among those to have noted Te Akau’s early Australian success has been the Magnier family of Coolmore.

When they looked for someone to partner with in bidding for an early highlight lot at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, a colt by I Am Invincible, it was Ellis turned came to.

“We thought he was a beautiful colt and we bought him for Coolmore Stud and we’re just delighted that we can train these sort of horses at our Cranbourne stable for them,” Ellis said after the $1.3 million purchase.

“It’s very exciting for us to be able to buy a colt of his quality and have him to train for Coolmore Stud.”

Ellis and Tom Magnier had been in discussions in the Magic Millions auditorium ahead of the first day’s action on the Gold Coast, while patriarch John Magnier had been in touch with Ellis in the lead-up.

Tom Magnier and David Ellis.
Tom Magnier and David Ellis have joined forces at the Magic Millions Yearling Sale. (Photo: Magic Millions)

“I think he’s just been impressed with the results Te Akau Racing has had and wants to be involved in supporting us at Cranbourne,” Ellis said.

“Tom and MV and their father have been supportive for a long time and they want to take that to the next level now that we’re in Australia full-time.”

The Magniers and Coolmore have developed a taste for colts by I Am Invincible, especially since Home Affairs elevated himself to stallion status with pair of Group 1 wins as a three-year-old.

This colt was the fifth seven-figure I Am invincible yearling colt Magnier has put his name to in the past three sales seasons.

With Te Akau-owned Imperatriz also being by the Yarraman Park champion sire, it shouldn’t have surprised that Ellis and Magnier came together to secure the brother to Group 2 winner Shuffle Dancer.       

“We thought that he’d make a Christmas, autumn two-year-old and train on and be a very good three-year-old,” Ellis said. “He’s from Yarraman Park and you can’t get better than that.”

Ellis said the colt will likely race in the navy colours of Coolmore as opposed to the tangerine of Te Akau when he gets to the track.

“It’s very exciting for us to be able to buy a colt of his quality and have him to train for Coolmore Stud” - David Ellis

That won’t be the case for Lot 84, the chestnut Zoustar colt, who will be headed back to New Zealand as part of another Te Akau colts syndicate.

Ellis went to $1.1 million to get that colt, who was consigned by Segenhoe Stud and is out of a sister to Group 1 winner Eagle Way

“He has a great attitude, great pedigree and a very, very athletic colt that I think can run and I think we could be back here for the Magic Millions this time next year. That is what we are hoping,” Ellis said.

“He’ll go into our stallion syndicate and we’ve got a lot of investors already but there are still a couple of shares left.”

Ellis fought off competition from Newgate, James Harron and Hong Kong-based buyer George Moore to land the son of Zoustar, who will go through the Te Akau system before heading to the stables of Walker and Bergerson.

Imperatriz, meanwhile, is building towards her autumn comeback in the Black Caviar Lightning next month before tackling the William Reid Stakes and the TJ Smith Stakes.

“She’s just absolutely flying, she’s going to gallop tomorrow morning and we’re really with the way she is coming up,” Ellis said.