Provoking thoughts on fashion and bargain buys- Turf Talk: 6 March 2017
In 2016, Soldier of Fortune (Galileo) covered 304 mares in Ireland.
Over-production is on everyone‟s lips again in various different contexts but – closest to home for breeders – with reference to the clearance rates at sales. In Europe, the two recent February Mixed Sales (Tatts and Goffs) have grown in size but behaved very differently in terms of clearance.
Tattersalls pushed the envelope in 2016 in sticking to a one day format and having us all there for a 12 hour selling session well into a winter‟s night. No booze or food allowed in the ring, and little time to step away. In 2017, they went to two days and – because there was more on offer – welcomed a huge multi national population including the farthest travelled from Australia, plus the local representatives of overseas buyers who don‟t attend –such as me. The clearance rate was 90% and the average and median soared by 56-60%.
Goffs – where the sale was a one day affair as recently as 2013 – went from two to three days and may, like Warren Beatty, have opened the wrong envelope in going beyond critical mass. There the average and median dipped and the clearance rate was only 64%.
Around 400 of the 750 lots were over-production in your face: newly-turned yearlings that had missed the Foal Sales, which themselves were slaves to fashion.
At Tatts the accent and atmosphere was strongly on ability to race on. Pedigrees and sires have thus become irrelevant with colts and geldings and less relevant than measuring the further upside in a filly before breeding. Timeform tells you what you are buying along with your own research and conversations with “those who know the horse”. To put it bluntly, some vendors might “put away” an overseas visitor with half a story, but not someone they know and see regularly.
To counter that besmirchment, Godolphin and Juddmonte are among those who tell the truth to anyone warts and all. So how relevant were the pedigrees and sires in the first place?
What this quick review above shows is that production of young stock to sell is hitting the buffers unless in a narrow band of fashion. You can guess where I‟m going with this but before arriving in South Africa, let‟s have a quick look at the Irish/UK figures as a mini-story in themselves.
The 304 mares mentioned above are mostly jumping mares. That busy sector is not worried about foaling dates because the results will not be asked to do anything before 3 or 4 years old, so the season is longer.
People still get misty eyed at the memory of Istabraq (a brilliant champion hurdler by Sadler’s Wells who was an excellent sire of jumpers) so they look now to sons of Galileo like Irish Derby Winner Soldier of Fortune. Monsun is grandsire of hero chaser Sprinter Sacre, therefore three of his sons each covered 299, 274 and 248 mares. The list goes on.
On the flat, Kodiac topped the list (again) with 234 mares and lower cost first season Gutaifan (by Dark Angel) covered 203. Dark Angel himself covered 195 at a fee of €60,000 while perennially commercial Acclamation covered 104. Galileo (158), Golden Horn (first season 145), Gleneagles (145), Australia (137).
Holy Roman Emperor at lower cost covered 120 in contrast to Henry the Navigator (25) who has moved on. Oasis Dream (107) has seen his fee adjusted downwards.
Alongside him at Juddmonte Frankel covered 102 mares before he had runners. Champs Elysees, Dansili’s full brother, covered only 60 and has been sold while the only “cheapie” at Juddmonte, Bated Breath, covered 131. Old fellah Invincible Spirit at the top of the tables still managed to get his legs over 151 mares, while stablemate at the Irish National, Free Eagle, covered 112 in his first season. Most of the Godolphins covered 100+ including Exceed and Excel and reverse shuttler Helmet who has done well enough with his first crop. Another travelling back to front is Sepoy, 109. I wonder what Captain Al and Dynasty would have done if reverse shuttling.
OK… back South Africa where some better sales have a clearly visible stallion bias re-sulting from being significantly influenced by somewhat polarised consigners who often use stallions that cover big books. It is inevitable.
CPYS is a much-admired event unto itself where more than 50% of an elite catalogue comes from four consigners. In contrast, some other sales see nice enough “Trainer‟s Horses” going through with no bid. If less experienced owners and groups are not using their own agents/consultants who might advise them in this or that direction, those bill-payers will communicate their own inevitably narrow preferences.
Trainers do the consultancy job as well, many bringing ownership to less fashionable yearlings, but the inertia is in favour of the perceived-to-be-sexy stallions whether affordable or not, whether the best individuals or not. At a time when we are short of buyers, the opportunity to buy reasonably and well at the March and April sales and beyond is substantial.
The not-obvious ones will be the value and many will be very nice, well produced youngsters.
The ultimate proof of the pudding is in auction or private sales of horses off the track. MRS DANVERS in England was minimum bid, buy-back yearling by a stallion who covered only 11 mares in 2016. Sent to lower profile but canny and pleasant Jonny Portman, she won five times at 2 including big stuff and is now worth a fortune. Her form is the thing. Her siblings and antecedents are largely irrelevant. As was her sire– the wrongly spelled Hellvelyn – who will cover more than 11 this year. – tt.