Saturday 15 November 2014

The Long and the Short and the Tall: Reflections on the Autumn Buying Campaign

Probably the biggest change since we set up Owners for Owners 2½ years ago has been the resurgence in bloodstock prices, particularly on the Flat, but increasingly for National Hunt as well. When we started the average for us was c.£30,000 per horse, whereas now it is climbing nearer to £50,000. It has also meant that from a standing start we have nearly half a million pounds’ worth of bloodstock and there is over £¼ million a year going through the books in training fees, entries and all the miscellaneous costs that make owning such an expensive business. Thank goodness we have a great bunch of committed owners to spread the risk and share the enjoyment.

We’re almost through the Autumn buying period, with one more NH horse to find for Martin Keighley. Then as we go into 2015 the plan is to stop buying for a while and run the current stock of horses through their various campaigns, be it Flat, hurdling or chasing. We’ve also found that the whole process of organising and administering the partnerships, as well as going to see them race, is quite a bit more time-consuming than we expected, which is why we’ll cap the number of horses in training at any one time at 12.

Another very interesting learning over the last year or so has been the way in which certain agents work well for Owners for Owners, whereas others, for all sorts of reasons, don’t. Increasingly in National Hunt we’re now using Gerry Hogan and also last week, Aiden Murphy at the Tattersalls sale in Ireland, described as “the world’s most comprehensive NH sale”, which had 1,492 horses, mainly foals, listed in the catalogue. We ended up buying two bay colt foals – Lot 735, a Sholokhov who will go to Aiden’s stud near Stratford-upon-Avon, and Lot 920, by Oscar, who will stay at a farm in Tipperary near Gerry, until ready to come into training. This is the first time we’ve ever bought foals, and we’ve invested in them because the price of three-year-old store horses and ready-to-race jumpers is climbing incredibly rapidly. In effect we have bought two for the price of one, even when adding in the cost of keep. We’ve bought them to race, not primarily for pinhooking, although obviously we’ll keep an eye on both their development and their value as we go through the next couple of years.

We don’t always buy through agents, and indeed Rachael Green was also looking for a yearling, and she and Anthony Honeyball will continue their search for a youngster, which when bought will go to them. Equally on the Flat the whole of the Burke family have an excellent eye for a horse and to go to the sales with them is like participating in a master class on buying (and rejecting) Flat horses. The most pleasing common denominator is the way in which all these people have Owners for Owners’ best interests at heart. They won’t let us over-pay and are quick to reject unsuitable horses. Since the initial buying decision is probably the most important decision any owner makes, it is fantastic to have all this expertise on our side.

So it only seems fitting to introduce some photos of current youngsters. As you’ll see there is one of the mighty Lord Ben Stack who we bought at Arqana, Deauville last Autumn to race on the Flat with Karl Burke. We’re hoping he will come out in the Dante next Spring and we can plan a campaign from then onwards. Amusingly, all our jumps trainers have already said how much they would love to have him! Then at this year’s Arqana sale we bought a lovely Medicean from a superb dam line for the knock-down price of €40,000. He is a great example of finding value at the sales because he went into the ring with an abscess on his near fore which inhibited bidding. Karl and another of our contacts, Lars Kelp, felt that this was relatively minor and could be easily treated, which is turning out to be the case. He is a tall horse and like many Mediceans will need time. As you can see, he has just started the breaking process and is learning the ropes at Middleham. Finally there is an endearing picture of the baby of the trio, the foal colt by Oscar. You can now see why I headed this blog, “The Long and the Short and the Tall”. We wish all three of them the very best over future Flat seasons.

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Saturday 1 November 2014

Bloodstock Prices on the Flat Still Climbing: Ordinary Owners Have to Work Harder!

Despite the real economies around the globe still being in post-recessionary deficit reduction modes, there is little evidence of that in the rarefied world of global bloodstock, particularly on the Flat but increasingly in NH as well. Regular readers of the blog will know that several of us connected to Owners for Owners have been trawling through the sales catalogues over the autumn, trying to find a well-bred and racy filly. Indeed, Tim Dykes and I have probably looked at 500 fillies ….. and amazingly haven’t bought one, for the simple reason that the well-bred ones didn’t impress as racehorses but the ones that did were not bred in the purple, or at least within our budget. Reluctantly we’ve come to the conclusion that to find both criteria fully met we would have at least to double our budget, to over £150,000. So we have postponed this hunt until there is a softening of the market.

For a graphic illustration of this, here is a summary of the average and median prices from the Goffs’ Orby and Tattersalls’ Book 1 sales:

Sale Year Average Median
Tattersalls’ Book 1> 2014 235,935 gns 150,000 gns
2013 207,501 gns 130,000 gns
2012 162,825 gns 100,000 gns
Goffs’ Orby 2014> €109,234 €70,000
2013 €101,571 €57,500
2012 €90,331 €58,000

As you can see, yearling prices have basically gone up by 50% during the time that Owners for Owners has been in existence. We surveyed our owners recently and there is no desire whatsoever to chase these sorts of prices. So the only way forward has been to work harder at the various sales, scrutinise more horses using the skills of trainers and agents, and on occasions take a bit of a risk in the purchase itself.

Our latest yearling purchase illustrates our approach. We swerved both Goffs and Tattersalls and went back to the Arqana Deauville sale on 20th October. This is the select day of that particular sale, and where we bought our 90+ rated horses, Lord Ben Stack and Jolievitesse, last year. Hopefully lightning struck again with the purchase of a beautiful Medicean yearling colt for the hammer price of €40,000 (£31,431). All the details and a video are on And there will be further information about the partnership on the web site shortly. Karl and Elaine Burke bought him for us and both felt that if he had gone through Tattersalls’ Book 1 he could well have been double or even treble that. Indeed, when I checked, the average for a Medicean at that sale was £171k, and even in Book 2 it was £47k. Unfortunately for them the vendors, Haras de Bourgeauville, were unlucky because the colt developed an abscess on his foot shortly before the sale and they ran out of time in which to treat it properly. We took advice from Lars Kelp (who, as well as being a former trainer in Scandinavia, is a hoof expert) who felt that it should be relatively straightforward to treat, and it certainly won’t stop the horse being broken at Spigot Lodge. As a late April foal, we will need to be patient and give him all the time he needs to develop.

All the breeding of our horse shows real quality. Medicean was owned by Chieveley Park Stud and trained by Sir Michael Stoute, while the dam, Bellona, was owned by US owner / breeder George Strawbridge, and trained by Freddy Head. Medicean didn’t race at 2yo, but improved steadily from 3 to 4, winning the Celebration Mile, Lockinge, Queen Anne and Eclipse over 1m to 1m 2f. Notably game, he raced 12 times and was in the money on ten occasions. These qualities have been passed on to his progeny, of whom more than 10 have been Gr.1 winners, mostly over similar distances, including Neatico, Bayrir (Secretariat Stakes in Arlington), Capponi, Siyouma (Sun Chariot), Al Shemali, Almenta, Nannina (dual winner at Royal Ascot, Coronation Stakes and Windsor Forest), and then the speedier Dutch Art who was unbeaten as a 2yo, winning the Norfolk at Royal Ascot, the Prix Morny and the Middle Park.

On the dam side, Bellona won a Listed race and was placed in Gr.3s. Her winning daughter, Es Que, produced Dominant, who was sold by Highclere for over £1m to Hong Kong and went on to win the Gr.1 Hong Kong Vase, and Es Que Love, who is still in training with Clive Cox and won the Lennox at Glorious Goodwood this year. It really is a great dam line with black type all over the page, with one of the more recent ones, We Are, winning the 1m 2f Gr.1 Prix de l’Opera for fillies and mares on this year’s Arc day.

Sixth shares are available in this cracking colt, and if you want to view him at Spigot Lodge over the autumn, just let me know. 50% of the horse has already been taken!

I am always interested to hear your views so please do leave a comment. If you can't see the comment box at the bottom of this post then navigate to the post using the right hand navigation or click here > and scroll to the bottom of the page. Look forward to hearing your views. Thanks very much for sharing them.