Market Reflections: Booming Trade But Is Goffs UK In The Right Slot?

Leading vendor Eddie O’Leary has said that Tuesday’s record-breaking trade at Goffs UK would have come as a huge relief to vendors who expressed concern about the bolstered catalogue resulting in a watered down trade.

However, the Lynn Lodge Stud boss also suggested that the figures could be even better if the Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale returned to its original slot before the Craven Sale at Tattersalls to maximise a horse’s chance of getting to Royal Ascot. 

There are eight weeks between the the Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale and Royal Ascot, which is not enough for a sale that promotes itself as being number one at producing fast and early horses, according to O’Leary. 

That argument has been countered by Goffs chief executive Henry Beeby, who says that a record of seven Royal Ascot winners in as many years for its graduates speaks for itself, and explained that the ground in late March on Town Moor would be less than ideal for breezing.

O’Leary said on Wednesday, “I’m a big believer that Doncaster should return to its original slot before the Craven. If it was before the Craven, they could market it as the Royal Ascot two-year-old sale, the first domestic sale of the year where you can get the sharp horses. 

“The way things are at the moment, you can get a big horse at the Craven and then go up to Doncaster to look at the real sharp horses. To me, that’s completely the wrong way around.”

He added, “There are just eight weeks between Doncaster and Royal Ascot. Buyers have to take the horses home and they could have a snotty nose after the sale, they also have to be named and then they need to run well if not win a maiden before you can think about Ascot, so a lot needs to be crammed into those eight weeks. 

“If you flipped it by two weeks, then you have 10 weeks until Royal Ascot, and that would make a huge difference. A lot of sharp horses have gone to the Craven in recent years because it is the first sale of the year so that meant that Tattersalls got the real sharp horses as well as the mid-season types.”

While Beeby agrees that, in an ideal world, graduates of the sale would have more time to pull themselves into shape before the royal meeting but he is choosing to adopt a ‘if it’s not broke don’t fix it’ approach after booming trade.

He said, “Eddie makes a good point but there are two things to consider. First of all, we’ve got an unbelievable Royal Ascot record in recent times with the sale in its current slot. We are proving that, as long as the vendors support us with the horses that they have been, that’s all that matters. 

“There have been seven Royal Ascot winners from the past seven years of this sale and that speaks for itself. The second thing to consider is that the ground is always a major issue at any breeze-up. It was good breezing ground this year but those extra couple of weeks make a heck of a difference to the ground, which in turn has a real impact on what happens in the sales ring.”

Beeby added, “I completely understand what Eddie is saying but we have a good slot, have just smashed every single record and are pumping out Royal Ascot winners. One thing my dear old father used to say was, when you’ve got something right, don’t be messing around with it. Keep it the way it is.”

Daniel Creighton: ‘Demand For Royal Ascot Runners Helped The Market’

Daniel Creighton | Goffs UK

Top bloodstock agent Daniel Creighton, who bought multiple Group 1 winner and superstar mare Laurens (Fr) (Siyiouni {Fr}) at the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale, maintains that Tuesday’s trade is an illustration of the demand for Royal Ascot two-year-old runners and said that he was bowled over by the fact 33 horses realised £100,000 or more.

“My main takeaway from the sale was the amount of horses who made six figures,” Creighton said. “I can’t remember so many six-figure horses at the Doncaster breeze-up sale. The market was extremely hot for horses who were deemed acceptable.”

He added, “The polarisation of the ones they want and the ones they don’t is probably increasing to some degree as well. 

“Doncaster obviously has a very good record at producing horses for Royal Ascot and they were probably helped by the amount of people who want that two-year-old who is ready to go and maybe end up at the royal meeting. That’s definitely swinging the market in their favour.”

Creighton is in the rare position to comment on the market given he owns a share in a number of breeze-up horses with Katie McGivern of Derryconnor Stud and also lays claim to a notable track record as a buyer. 

He admits that he was operating from a small but select list at the Craven Sale and, after leaving Tattersalls empty-handed, struck at Goffs UK when securing a Night Of Thunder (Ire) colt consigned by Norman Williamson of Oak Tree Farm for £155,000. 

He said, “I tried to buy at the Craven but I couldn’t get the horses I wanted. They made too much money. To be honest, there weren’t many on my list at the Craven and anything that I really wanted, they were too expensive. I’m looking to buy a good horse who can run at two. My brief is to try and buy a Group horse.”

Creighton, who operates alongside Josh Schwarz under CS Bloodstock, added, “I also believe that the clock still has a huge influence on what horses are making. A lot of people are determined by it. I can’t speak for everyone but there are a lot of other things to take into account when buying a horse.”

Like Eddie O’Leary, who relayed that numerous outfits were feeling the heat on the eve of the Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale, Creighton explained how Tuesday’s results would have come as a huge relief to many. 

He said. “I think there were a bit of nerves on Monday evening, for sure. These vendors have a lot of money invested and put a lot of effort into getting the horses there. It’s good to see that the market has improved from Dubai and again from the Craven. It’s gone on an upward trajectory and hopefully that will continue at the Guineas Sale at Tattersalls next week and then on to the Tattersalls Ireland Goresbridge Sale and Arqana as well.”

O’Leary pointed to the fact this year’s catalogue featured 26 more horses compared to last year and 40 more than what was offered in 2021 as one of the main causes for concern with vendors. 

That opinion was shared by Brendan ‘Blarney’ Holland in these pages with Emma Berry following the Craven Sale, with the Grove Stud maestro expressing a belief that there were just a finite number of horses to be put on the market. 

Those comments came off the back of an overall clearance rate of 76% for a bolstered Craven catalogue that featured 38 more horses compared to 12 months ago. 

However, Holland’s theory may have been kicked to the curb at Doncaster on Tuesday, with a healthy clearance rate of 84% recorded for its beefed-up sale.

O’Leary commented, “It is great to see a positive market and the success the breeze-up horses have had on the track has fuelled it. What Blarney Holland, John Cullinan and others have done in recent times, it’s been fantastic for all of us. They have proved that a lot of good racehorses can be sourced from the breeze-ups and the racetrack has been the best advertisement of that. Goffs worked very hard to get the clients in at Doncaster and the proof was in the results. It was a good sale.” 

He added, “We were all very nervous because of the increase in numbers. We were worried there would be a watered down trade but there were a lot of serious players at Donny who wanted to buy nice horses and that was good. A few years ago, there might have been a couple of big players but there were five, six or seven big-hitters playing on Tuesday. 

“The good horses remain hard to buy and there are a lot of people who tell me that they still haven’t bought yet. Time is running out, that’s why Doncaster should revert to its original slot in the calender.”

Strength Of The Middle Market A Notable Takeaway

The record-breaking Harry Angel (Ire) colt consigned by Tally-Ho Stud and knocked down to Michael O’Callaghan for £500,000 will have grabbed the headlines and helped the average climb 29% to £63,396 but it was the strength of the middle market that also pleased Beeby. 

There were buyers at Doncaster from Australia, Denmark, Dubai, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Sweden, which ensured horses at every level found new homes.

Beeby commented, “The team did a great job in making sure that we had buyers there for every type of horse. Michael Orton and Bernard Condren in particular spent time in Scandinavia and Italy with our agents Philip Zwicky and Gianluca Di Castelnuovo to make sure that we had people there for the middle market. Not only was there a very high clearance rate but, also, for the odd horse who didn’t sell in the ring, we got a lot of private sales done afterwards. That was important.”

He added, “At the higher end, vendors sent us some really good horses and really got behind us in giving the sale great support. As Roger O’Callaghan said to me before the sale, ‘we brought the horses, now it’s your job to get them sold.’ After the sale, Roger said, ‘you did your job and we did ours.’ It’s pure teamwork between the vendors and the auction house to make sure we get as good a sale as we possibly can.

“From a personal point of view, my father [Harry] started breeze-ups in Europe back in 1977, so that’s 45 years ago. I’d have loved to have been able to tell him that we just sold a breeze-up horse for £500,000 at Doncaster. I don’t think he’d believe me. He’d have a big smile on his face, that’s for sure. 

“It wasn’t just about that, though, as we had some really good touches for the established people like the Willie Brownes and Blarney Hollands of this world but also the young lads like Shane Power of Tradewinds Stud. It was wonderful to see it.”

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