Bloodstock Down but Certainly Not Out at The European Breeding Sales

Edmond Mahony. Chairman of Tattersalls

While the world economies have been ravaged by Covid 19 in 2020, the European bloodstock world has proved to be remarkably resilient. “Keep going and carry on” seems to have been the year’s moto? Although prices have been down this year and sales have had to be rescheduled on more than one occasion, business has been able to carry on albeit under new protocols, and of course with the use of ‘on line bidding’. The determination of Tattersalls, Goffs Ireland, Goffs UK and Arqana in France can only be commended for their continued resolve to stage their sales. Yes, all of them have been keen to keep their own businesses in good shape despite everything going on around them, but also the care they have all taken to ensure that vendors and purchasers alike are well catered for and kept safe from the pandemic, has been quite an achievement in itself.

Early 2020 saw the usual rounds of sale at all the sales venues and with no one knowing what was round the corner, all the sales showed a small drop in demand as averages dipped slightly from around 13,500 to nearer 12,500 but showed increases in the percentage number of lots sold at the various venues.

Arqana’s top breeze up sale – A filly by Warfront

The first major sales in normal times are the now well established ‘breeze up’ sales for young two year olds. For these sales, the corona virus came at the very wrong time. Vendors had their charges primed for the various sales, but as the world went into its first lock down, all the scheduled sales had to be postponed. Instead of the sales taking place in April all the three main sales companies had to come up with a working solution. The Tattersalls breeze up sales were basically delayed by two months and the Goffs schedule was delayed by some ten weeks. In France, the sales were simply not going to happen, so the first time in history, two competing sales companies joined forces and the Arqana version of their sale was combined with Goffs in Doncaster. Newmarket faired quite well, but with far fewer horses than usual as many vendors, unsure of what was going to happen successfully sold many of their two year olds privately. As the world economies shut down for two or more months, the figures at all the sales were well off the usual margins. However, the Arqana part at Goffs did show some real resilience as their part of the catalogue showed good returns, with two lots making over £600,000.

Later in the summer, the usual round of July sales were all moved, but the sales companies had to try to avoid a concertina of sales, particular with the autumn yearlings sales fast coming up. Tattersalls inaugurated a new sale in August, which trainers and vendors loved. Many said that the sale in August was far more preferable to the usual July fixture. Generally, the trade at these mid-summer sales were all off fairly considerably as the nerves set in with purchasers about the world economic outlook, and the fact the BHB in the UK had slashed prize money by some 50%.

Of all the sales companies, the Goffs Ireland had the worst scenario as the government on Ireland were so intransigent about movement between countries and other welfare issues which made it impossible for Goffs to stage their Orby flag ship yearling sale in Ireland at all, so it was moved to Doncaster. Similarly, the Tattersalls, Ireland yearling sale was also moved for the same reasons and this took place in Newmarket. For the vendors of both these sales, this was an impossible situation; they had horses to sell, but now had to move them to another country, adding a considerable cost to their production. In the event, both sales were well off in trading terms and unsurprisingly, there were far more withdrawals than normal. The Orby sale suffered particularly badly with the average between 2019 and 2020 dropping by a wapping 50% from 118,000 in 2019 to 68,000. The Select Arqana Sale in Deauville had to be postponed for a month from August to September. The added complication for all the companies was that they had to work round all the different rules surrounding Covid within each of the different countries, particularly allowing the time for attendees to be allowed to ‘self-isolate’ if required in each country before the due date of the sale.

Despite the re-scheduling of the Select sale in Deauville, the trade was surprisingly good. They had put together a strong catalogue which was reflected in the returns. In 2019, the top priced yearling was 1.625 million euros, and this figure improved for 2020 to 2.5 million. The sale returns for the averages were down though in 2020 to 121,500 euros from 187,000 in 2019.

Top priced filly on the world – by Galileo

The Tattersalls yearling sales, the catalogue could be described a very workman like with no outstanding top lot. The returns at the sale were surprisingly good. Vendors were in fear that the sale would be not much better than a blood bath, but in the event there were plenty of people around, mainly on line to buy what was on offer. Vendors, nevertheless, reduced their reserves to reflect their worst fears. Including all four parts of the Newmarket October yearling sales, the totals ended in 2020 with a very creditable average of 91,700 guineas, down from the record prices of 2019 where the average was 105,000. Even with all the difficulties, the sale was still the fifth best renewal of the October sales ever. Once again, Tattersalls supplied the world’s highest priced filly at 3.4 million guineas for a January born Galileo filly out of Shastye. This was no real surprise as the filly is a full sister to Mogul, Japan and Sir Isaac Newton among other Group 1 victors.

Following a terrible year for Goffs Ireland, a second lockdown for six weeks was announced in Ireland which put paid to their breeding stock sales. They had the choice of moving the sale to Doncaster, as they did with the yearlings, but as this had proved so unsuccessful they decided to keep the sale in Ireland and stage it just before Christmas. As this sale has still not taken place, we cannot comment on the success or failure of the renewal. However, in total, the Irish sales company have turned over a total of 42 million euros, down from 115 million in 2019, but as their breeding stock sale is still to be held, this figure needs to be taken with a pinch of salt!

Top foal – Dubawi Ex Dane Street.

At Tattersalls, despite a new lock down in the UK, the breeding stock and foal sales were still allowed to continue. This was really important for Tattersalls, because if the end of the Brexit transition period came before the sale could go ahead and if they had to re-schedule, it which would have caused havoc as, still there has been no agreement between the UK and Europe about trading and customs regulations after the end of 2020, including movement of horses.

Following the surprisingly good returns for the October sales, the Tattersalls foal sales were anticipated with far more optimism. Generally, pin hookers had come off reasonably well in the yearling markets, and so would be encouraged to re-invest in foals for next year.  The results were frankly remarkable. There were 130 less foals in the catalogue, but despite that the total sale turnover was only 3 million less than the 2019 equivalent at 26 million guineas. The average and median were both down slightly, but only a couple of thousand less than the near record set in 2019. The top priced foal was a Dubawi colt out of Dane Street, purchased by the Godolphin operation for 700,000 with the purchaser also collecting the second top a lot, another Dubawi for 600,000.

Beach Frolic – Top priced mare at Tattersalls at 2.2 million

The final week of the Tattersalls sales was the mare and filly sale, which did take a significant hit. Although there was a top price of 2.2.million guineas, paid by M.V Magnier for the dam of Palace PierBeach Frolic by Nayef out of a Night Shift mare in foal to first season sire Blue Point. There was a big drop to the second highest priced Kurious at 900,000. The filly is a winner this year including a Group 3 sprint race at Sandown this year. Sonaiyla, a listed performer this year was also sold for 900,000 gunieas. The catalogue was not the best we have seen from Tattersalls, but again, rather like the yearling catalogues, there was plenty to work on. The steal of the mare sale had to go to Amser, consigned by Juddmonte Farms and who cost only 160,000. Wow, this mare is by the great Frankel and is half-sister to Time Piece, Group 1 winner of The Falmouth Stakes. There are no less than 5 pattern race winners in the first dam, and Amser is in foal to Kingman, a really suitable covering and is only six years old. Just think in eighteen months’ time, the yearling produced could well be a million guinea prospect – what a return!! The whole sale returned an average of 58,500, a drop of 28,000 and had the lowest returns since 2012.

Durance -Arqana sales topper

The sale at Deauville, rather like Tattersalls, was deemed a good sale in the circumstances.  The final figures showed 704 horses were sold (79%) for an average of 45,467 euros. The aggregate for the 2020 sales were down 19% on the massive records broken at the 2019 event. The average and median were both off, but by only 14 and 10 percent respectively. The top buyer was Meridian International SARL buying 14 lots for just under 1.5 million euros. Wertheimer and Frere had some nice horses for sale and they were the top vendors at 3 ¼ million. The top price for the vendors was a 3 year old filly, Euclidia by Maxios out of a Galileo mare, the winner of two races and placed in listed company. She is related to The Gurkha and Matamatica, both prolific Group 1 winners. The top price of the sale was for Durance for 750,000 euros, a 4 year old filly. She won five races at Group level and placed several times. She is bred from the “D” German family, thick with black type down the page. She is by Champs Elysees out of a Lando mare.

As said earlier, we would have commented on the Goffs Ireland sale, but as it has not taken place yet – rather difficult. The sale does take place just a few days before Christmas.

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