Relying on the Whirligig Of Time – Turf Talk: 6 May 2019

The Globe Theatre in action.

The Globe Theatre in action.

A Shakespearean Fool appears often in the Bard’s plays. He is above the run of the mill fool (= court jester) being able to out-think his social superiors and, in effect, guide the audience. The Fool was beloved of the audiences in the cheap seats. If you visit the Globe Theatre in Southwark you can see where the “groundlings” (always fans of the Fool) sat on the ground.

In Twelfth Night, the Fool is part of a group that has tormented the leading lady’s deluded butler Malvolio. As the play closes and Malvolio is disgraced, the Fool berates him ending with “and thus the whirligig of time has its revenges”. Malvolio shrieks about revenge and runs off. The 16th century “whirligig of time” phrase means in today’s language “What goes around comes around”. This requires a philosophical and patient approach.

And we don’t have time for that. This column a couple of weeks ago reminded about the NYS median in 2010 and its extrapolation to R400,000 today. Last month it was R175,000. Presuming that sales company inspectors at that level must get it right in terms of quality and that all pedigrees fit the bill, logically, the half of the sale that sold below the median – and did not sell at all – must have been pretty good yearlings. For which there was insufficient demand.

ALISTAIR Gordon and Jane Thomas doing their yearling inspections.

ALISTAIR Gordon and Jane Thomas doing their yearling inspections.

The upper end prices and the one spectacular figure have confirmed that major buyers will spend on SA products. This is something to celebrate in the context of EU release, although there should be South East Asian interest at middle levels as well as top.

The recipients of the top prices are by and large the wealthy owners of the best mares. Take the top 10 or 20 sales out of the picture and there are many below barely able to swim against the current. “Below” must be preserved for the sake of all our futures.

A shortfall in institutional income has arisen due to the registration of 22% fewer foals born in 2018. Fewer still in 2019 must be anticipated. The bare facts may suggest that supply and demand will balance and assist price levels but it will not be as simple as that. Many trainers and owners have only continued because they have been able to obtain yearlings as gifts or on leases or very cheaply so will they be able to stock up? If overseas buyers also take a chunk of the crop straight to S.E.Asia, 22% fewer yearlings in 2020 will not necessarily fill fields.

This column writes not only as a consultant/manager in the SA pool, but also as a swimmer against that current. This season so far, there have been 32 Allanbred runners contributing to the fields of 180 races. Down on AEPR from last year although R1.35 million in stakes is not bad, there remains 25% of the current season in which to come with a run.

Issuing covering certificates, we see how hard it is for some respectable breeders to pay 2018 Live Foal fees.

We have created a special payment schedule announced last week. Moves have to be made.

There is a dichotomy in the South African breeding community – those who are recession proof or at least can cope comfortably and those who can’t or are struggling. Experience shows that breeding industries do best when the top looks after and communicates well with the bottom, whether industry bodies, stallion stations, sales companies or any other relatively wealthy players.

It may only have been for an hour or two, but the communication blackout during the strike action at Turffontein generated digital speculation of awful consequences, not all of it polite, some of which went international where some interested parties are watching anyway.

Communication is a key – and could also have been more helpful regarding the huge percentage retroactive hike in foal registration fees already paid.

For only the third time in sixteen years I did not attend the TBA AGM. It was not by my choice. Late last week, my phone ran hot with agitated breeders who also had not attended.

Initially, I fixed on my analogy: you buy a new car; it will take 3 weeks to be delivered; before it is delivered you are told that the price has gone up very substantially. No!

Then a senior breeder issued an angry email railing against the retroactive hikes exclaiming that this sort of action will drive many to the wall.

Breeders at a working person’s level cannot pay lumpsums willy nilly in the current market. They will register what they can afford to register. NHRA has traditionally allowed late registrations even just before racing. So breeders might cancel or postpone thus reducing income not increasing it.

Before saying anything myself, I made calls and learned that support for the move was more or less unanimous at the AGM. Detailed explanation of the need to fund (the very optimistic) SAEHP – the most crucial issue on the current agenda – had been given.

Put that way… fair enough. Presumably the AGM had a quorum and – if exports are resumed – the hike may have been a one-off. QED.

A less minimalist email from NHRA (or TBA or Cape/KZN Breeders) couched in explanatory and appreciative terms, perhaps with the Chairman’s Address attached or précis of it, might have saved the blood pressure of a number of those who may not have “made” the meeting but were as involved in its result as those who did.

Communication is crucial – not only with the “outside” populations and businesses on behalf of racing and breeding, but also amongst ourselves.

Shakespeare cruelly named that character Malvolio which roughly translates to Ill Will. Goodwill is what we need externally and internally and we can’t wait for the whirligig of time. – tt.

Allan Bloodlines

Innovative stallion fee structure, Elusive Fort

ALLAN Bloodlines have announced a newly structured payment system for services to ELUSIVE FORT, the Grade 1 sire and the only son of Fort Wood now standing.

Mare owners will be able to choose between a Live Foal fee of R20,000 + VAT (down from R30,000 for his recent Full Books) or R25,000 + VAT “Pay When You Sell”.

The successful AllanStallions Scales of Fees will apply to either option, enabling lower fees to be paid for multiples.

“We as stakeholders in our SA industry must make efforts to rebalance the equation for beleaguered breeders without whose products there will be too few horses for racing in South Africa” said David Allan. “Paying
stallion fees 16-18 months before selling is increasingly difficult and a decline in the NYS median is what defines the market for the majority,” said David Allan.

He continued “One move we as stallion people can make is to bring benefit to breeders’ cash flows – hence Pay When You Sell – and take the cash flow hit in the syndicate’s and management’s earnings. We also reduce the fee level to something mutually workable in tricky times”. -Press release.