Vin Cox was among the most watched men on the Gold Coast this week as the one-time Godolphin managing director made his public debut as the new boss of powerhouse Yulong.

Cox has always held an audience in this sales ring. Initially it was as a leading bloodstock agent, then as the managing director of Magic Millions itself, and more recently as a regular bidder at the top end as the head of Godolphin’s Australian operations.

His move to Yulong was one of the bloodstock industry’s biggest stories of 2023, with the acquisition mindset of Yuesheng Zhang extending from his enthusiasm for high-quality thoroughbreds, to luring one of the most significant people in the game to work for his burgeoning global outfit.

While Zhang prefers to remain under the radar, his spending has made headlines at bloodstock sales around the globe in the past few years. His outfit has invested around $200 million in bloodstock since 2017, $60 million of that in the broodmare space alone in Australia last year.

Cox’s arrival posed the question of whether that aggressive acquisition strategy would continue or if there could there be greater focus on the yearling market, where Yulong has been active, without being dominant, for the past five years.

The answer, at least statistically, is that there is no discernible change when it comes to yearling investment. Yulong signed for eight yearlings worth $4.96 million last year on the Gold Coast, while this year it was seven, worth $4.71 million under the ‘Highway Farm’ moniker.

Of the seven purchases, three were colts, as Yulong, which has capacity for up to 20 stallions on its Victorian farm, looks to mint its own sires to put to its enviable assembled broodmare band.

Among those was the highest-priced lot of the Saturday night session, a $1.4 million son of Extreme Choice.

“Colts are everyone’s game really,” Cox said. “If you can land the right colt, it improves your business.

“That how we move the meter, we go and find that right colt and the right stallion.”

Yulong has been involved in buying million-dollar yearling colts before. It purchased four last year, two by their own stallion, Written Tycoon, and one each by fellow champion sires Snitzel and I Am Invincible.

It makes sense, With Written Tycoon having turned 21 and in the final stages of his stud career, Cox is plotting, longer-term, what the stallion roster, which currently stands at seven, may look like.

Lot 942, the $1.4 million colt by Extreme Choice
Lot 942, the $1.4 million colt by Extreme Choice out of Mischief Night from Kingstar Farm

Sons of Extreme Choice are highly desirable and Yulong did buy two of his colts last year, albeit at a much lower price point. That price discrepancy is probably a function of the market, as while this year’s Gold Coast sale featured the largest offering of Extreme Choice yearlings yet, 15 in all, the average price of the 12 sold was $728,750, the highest of any Australian-based stallion.    

“When you look at his numbers, it is staggering,” Cox said of Extreme Choice. “He’s an outlier in terms of his statistics and in terms of what he’s done and what he’s achieved, realistically of anyone would admit is a low base, is wonderful,”

With small crops because of fertility issues, Extreme Choice has produced 11 stakes winners from 83 runners from his first four seasons at Newgate, well above the ’10 per cent’ mark for stakes winners-to-runners which makes a sire elite.

“When you look at (Extreme Choice's) numbers, it is staggering,” Vin Cox

Access to the Newgate-based stallion has been managed carefully, with a $275,000 service fee, the second highest of any sire in Australia.

The combination of those two factors has made Extreme Choice an elite commercial prospect with the colt purchased by Yulong the third by the sire to reach seven figures on the Gold Coast.

It is just the second time since 2017 that I Am Invincible hasn’t claimed the honour of being the top local sire at Magic Millions by average. The other time came in 2022 when the final crop of Extreme Choice’s sire Not A Single Doubt, went through the ring.        

The Extreme Choice story and that of Yulong’s burst in investment have run largely in parallel this decade as two of the biggest in Australian bloodstock, but now appear to be crossing over.    

But there was another connecting factor with Lot 942. The half-brother to Group 3 winner Our Playboy is out of a Shamardal mare, who is a half-sister to Yulong’s recently acquired stallion, Pierata.

“He was a much talked (about) horse that we identified fairly early and we saw him in December when we went through the Hunter Valley looking at yearlings and it is great to come away with him,” Cox said of the Extreme Choice colt.

While Cox’s first foray into the buyer’s role at Yulong was closely monitored, so too was the buying strategy of his former bosses at Godolphin in their first yearling sale without him since 2018.

The last Extreme Choice colt Vin Cox purchased for Godolphin, Parkour (Photo: Getty Images)

It took until the final session for one of the world’s biggest operations to get on the board, paying $250,000 for a filly, coincidentally, by Extreme Choice,  

Well, probably not coincidentally really given the last Extreme Choice yearling that Cox signed for in his time with Godolphin was the promising now-two-year-old colt Parkour.

He was set to carry the famous blue colours in Saturday’s Magic Millions 2YO Classic but was a raceday scratching.

Parkour looks the best of James Cummings’ two-year-old prospects and, as a son of one of Australia’s top commercial stallions, could develop into a valuable stallion prospect for Darley, perhaps a final legacy from Cox’s five-year reign in the top job.