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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