Scheduling and marketing down the road – Turf Talk: 8 April 2019

Scheduling and marketing down the road

“A layer of bloodstock agents in South Africa would help overcome date difficulties and professionally seek out new owners. But there isn’t one, so work around it.”

That statement comes from the personal heart only up to a point. Knowing that bloodstock and agent were fairly dirty words in South Africa 16 years ago (and an-other 10+ before that), we positioned ourselves in a way that suited us and, we hoped, SA bloodstock stakeholders.

In the global shipping industry, there are two categories of broker. One is “S&P Broker” handing sales & purchasing of new buildings, second hand ships of all sizes and types and eventual demolition for recycling as steel scrap.

The other is a “Chartering Broker” who finds ships to carry 100,000 tons of coal from Richards Bay or 12,000 tons of sugar from Durban to somewhere or ships to be chartered for a period of years to do the same sort of thing.

Without those brokers, the global shipping industry in all its national and international forms wouldn’t happen. Finished goods, bulk cargoes of food and fuel, solid, liquid or gaseous, break-bulk cargoes that hold the economies of poorer nations together wouldn’t move – certainly not efficiently, innovatively and competitively.

RICHARD’S Bay Coal Terminal. (rbct).

RICHARD’S Bay Coal Terminal. (rbct).

Comparably, without those horse agents and on-going managers, much less would happen with horses. Sales companies would shrivel for lack of new buying power brought in; owners would not have their agents to make their purchases and often manage them; trainers – most of whom drop into sales for a time but are too busy training – may be leading the purchasing on spec or for clients, but most use agents to select or create short lists.

The “agent” might be syndicate manager, or acting as a racing manager, but they’re all the same animal – specialists in selection to fit orders or fulfil demand. Exactly the same applies to the breeding sector.

We know the usual argument that the SA market is not big enough, but models can be scaled up or down. Nevertheless in this land of no-broad-layer-of-agents let’s focus on three Points:

Point 1
“The only way is to get more overseas owners” – how many times have I heard that – and agreed to a limited extent. “Overseas” in this context means UK/Irish/ Continental West European.

Point 2
“We want more overseas buyers to come to our sales” Of course we do. Or their agents.

Point 3
The CPYS equation is complex with myriad aspects. There is no doubting that overseas money has played a positive part. The sale is in January, a quiet time in the northern hemisphere bloodstock calendars – the only month for holidays.

For the Nationals, Easter and committee decisions have – in the past – caused its dates to be variable. Easter/Family Day has such great impact in South Africa, although not so for the horses and their hands on professionals.

A friend said to me gloomily when commenting on who wasn’t at Mistico: “It’s not like Australia or the UK where 90% of the people at sales are agents. SA owners like to choose their own horses”. Of course that is a generalisation but it has resonance.

Point 1 refers to overseas people. They and/or their agents must (a) be willing to come – many say “Why on earth should I?” but let’s focus on those who would look favourably – and (b) be able to do so in terms of calendar.

Some powerful buying for overseas account – already familiar with South Africa in detail – will take place very importantly through two well established agents in April. Hong Kong – so appreciated last year – may do so again, not fussed about Easter. But aside from that, most of the few old faces who came year after year from UK/Ireland haven’t come for years. Remember when three of us were welcomed like heroes for overcoming the volcanic ash spewing from Iceland, missing flight after flight? And we all bought plenty.

The calendar is choked in April. In the UK/Irish context, NYS and (this year) Easter are bookended by the Craven Week of Europe’s biggest and most internationally attended Breeze Up and Guineas Trials, and the Guineas plus another Breeze Up. And in the middle, “Donnie”.

Doncaster has hosted bloodstock sales since the year of American Independence. There was a brief gap from 1957 when Tattersalls stopped there until, in 1962, Doncaster Bloodstock Services was formed, strongly supported by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council desperate to hang on to the bloodstock trade in the Home of the St Leger, also first run in 1776.

The large sales company – now as Goffs UK after the merger – holds the biggest National Hunt sales and a bunch of flat sales, two of which have “must-attend” status.

One is the St Leger Yearling Sale – actually a specialist in producing the opposite of St Leger horses – and the other is Doncaster Breeze Up Sales, established (as the first of all such sales in Europe) in 1977. Every year, it sells the most 2 year old winners.

Doncaster Breeze Up Sale

When Lot 1 at Germiston goes through, most UK, Irish, French, German, Italian agents of note will be at Doncaster watching the breezing. Half an hour after Lot 186 goes through at Germiston on the second day – Freedom Day National Holiday a few days after the 2019 awkwardly placed Easter – Lot 1 will go through at Donnie.

Now I am not suggesting FOR A SECOND that this is a reason for BSA to have done anything different in the circumstances of 2019. But I am illustrating in the context of Point 1 down the road that people can only do what they can do.

We don’t have an Agents Federation or “South African Bloodstock International”, but just as we need to reach out further into the SA population, about which this column bangs on and on, so we could have a team of experienced people thinking laterally about Point 1. I respectfully refer Readers to my remarks two weeks ago about the Cape in March. – tt.

Hintlesham Racing SA

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