Do Sales Date Clashes Matter? – Turf Talk: 13 February 2017

THROUGHOUT the Noughties, the dates of the National Yearling Sale were dizzying. Mid March, late March, early May, late April, early May again then stability in late April.

There may have been some dancing around Easter involved. South Africa’s staff-driven shut down over Easter is notable whereas the 2017 Easter Weekend will see the horses and the circus at Newmarket for sales inspections at a fully staffed complex.

In this writer’s orbit, the only real NYS clash came twice with Newmarket’s 2xGuineas Weekend – very early May. In our case, SA took precedence but we all ducked and dived.
It is therefore interesting to see that the new BSA has moved the Nationals from its late April slot to early May for 2017, into the Guineas Breeze Up, concluding the night before the Guineas Weekend. Domestic considerations will have caused this change. And you might say ―So What?‖ when it comes to overseas events.

Well… South Africa is somewhat infamous overseas for moving sale dates around, and we (in South Africa) are very short of yearling buyers.

The National Yearling Sale – ideally a consolidated single sale in Joburg in April whoever runs it – could surely be marketed to UK and Irish folk now or in the future, way more than now. But not by saying ―Hey guys, skip Tattersalls and both your Guineas and come to NYS‖. It is the bloodstock agent community that does the sales job, whether clients are in attendance or not.

The opportunity is there. Crikey it was hard to the point of near impossibility to plough a lone furrow and spend 1 million or 2 million rand at CPYS. One of the great successes – perhaps achievements of a vision – of that sale is the remarkable attendance amongst top end players who are willing to participate in partnerships racing in South Africa. Such combined power will account for the choicest yearlings. The same thing has been happening around the world for 30 years or more. C’est la vie.

So why not push like hell for northern people to come to Joburg in April? The weather’s beautiful and the Kruger is round the corner. Ah! We’ve moved it into UK Guineas Week.

In 2016, the Ready to Run Sales dates changed – perhaps for unavoidable reasons to unavoidable alternative dates. This is no blame game, costly though it was, but an analysis of the effect for future reference.

A notable number of yearlings bought by overseas interests at CPYS have been for resale in the Ready to Runs. This has been a means of playing in the SA game. Our own pinhooking for that purpose has been from CPYS, Book 2/March, the Nationals and even the 2 year old sale.

Professionals wish to attend the sale to analyse real interest and manage lots through the ring, especially as the buying resources have dwindled and so many are cynical about horses being for sale or not. And to enjoy the visit as well! However the Cape sale was put back into the thick of UK Yearling Sales and the Joburg sale into the unmissable Foals Sale.

The whole Ready to Run programme is surely due for another upheaval soon anyway. So maybe these factors can be taken into account when trying to regrow.

The BSA Yearling Sale in the Cape is a couple of days before CTS March. Is that a clash or a convenience?

My view is often written. One sale please. One that could still be as important as any in South Africa. So it is a domestic clash. It is an international one as well.

I am unwavering in my view that a sale in the Cape in March could attract overseas participation to bolster our dissipated buying resources. It wouldn’t take much but it would take an effort. But not if it is plonked in Cheltenham Week as both of these now are.

We wouldn’t plan a sale in Royal Ascot Week (partly because some South Africans will fly north for it) but Cheltenham is more popular, more fundamentally sporting and fun driven – the very characteristics that could bring more people-on-a-budget from overseas in March. Something to bear in mind for the future.

The Cheltenham Festival is very popular.

The Cheltenham Festival is very popular.

The proximity of one sale to another is generally regarded as divisive in all senses. But am I being hypocritical to say that, looking at the northern hemisphere?

Yearling Sales in France, UK and Ireland run consecutively August-October inclusive except for two weeks which you can fill in with Keeneland if you like. September-October sees nearly 4,000 year-lings go through covering 20-something days, made up of Tattersalls Ireland, Goffs and Tattersalls Newmarket. Are they not door stepping each other?

The crucial different factors are the sales circus; the critical mass of each sale and the seasonal nature of the exercise.

Bloodstock consultants, racing managers, syndicate managers – they are all the same animal, needing each other and some all rolled into one – are dedicated to attending sales and doing most of the buying. Owners and trainers might come or might not but both will mostly use agents. Each has his or her own way, but the exhaustive inspecting, reporting and research are done by the sales circus. Many have a free hand. Many have one tied behind their backs. But above all they are the people who must be there.

It is all over in a blur of long days and a few long weeks. Each sale serves much of the industry and has its own critical mass. Then done and dusted. Move on to breeding stock. Not spread over eight months of mostly small events plus the Ready to Runs.

Perhaps we can consolidate to meaningful critical mass and keep an eye on overseas dates. – tt.