'Managing Numbers And Expectations' – Breeze-Up Inspections In Full Swing

Simon Kerins: says entries for the breeze-up sales are “through the roof.” | Tattersalls 

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Never has the demand to get horses into the breeze-up sales in Europe been higher. It begs the question; how do the big sales companies limit their catalogues? 

Inspectors from Tattersalls, Arqana and Goffs have been out in force in recent weeks trawling through the breeze-up consignors' barns to come up with their shortlists. 

According to Harry Fowler, one of the main inspectors at Goffs, entries for the company's only breeze-up sale have sky-rocketed this year. With most of the viewing done at this stage, the Goffs inspectors will meet in the coming weeks before calling on vendors to make up their mind on Valentine's Day at the latest. By the end of February, the 210 slots for Goffs will be finalised and the catalogue will be sent off to be printed. 

Explaining the process, Fowler said, “You will have definite yeses, some maybes and then straight nos. With the nos, you would discuss them there and then with the consignor so that there are no surprises later on. 

“We get all of our inspections done by the end of January and then have a meeting and go through things on a horse-by-horse basis. We can't have any more than 210 horses in the sale. In the current economic climate that we are in, it's important that we keep it tight and it seemed to work well last year, as the sale leapt forward by 30 per cent on average and over 50 per cent on turnover. It was a rocking sale.”

He added, “The results on the track proved buyers right as well. So we want to keep it tight and, by doing this, we basically allocate vendors a certain number and try to keep them to that number unless they have an exceptional bunch. In that case, we might give them a couple more slots. The same might be the case if, say, they didn't perform last year, we might cut them back a couple of spots. By Valentine's Day, we will have asked vendors to commit about who is going where and then we will send the catalogue off to get printed by the end of February.”

Harry Fowler | Goffs

It may seem a little soon to be making these calls. The Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale is one of the earliest of them all yet it doesn't take place until April 23 and 24. That's over two months of galloping to be done between making a decision about where you are going with a horse and the fall of the hammer. A lot of time for some to turn a corner and bob their heads above the parapet and, unavoidably, others to go the wrong way. Therein lies the risks.

Tattersalls Ireland boss Simon Kerins is in a unique position in that, not only are he and his team of inspectors searching for that Royal Ascot two-year-old for the Craven Sale in mid April, but there are also slots to be filled for the Guineas Sale in early May and the Tattersalls Ireland Breeze-Up Sale later that month. Without a deep trust and strong working relationship with the vendors, Kerins explains, making these calls in February would be close to impossible. 

He said, “So much of it is down to the trust that we, as inspectors, have with the vendors. The guys who have been doing this a while will be able to tell you if they really think something is good or not. The bonus with the breeze-ups is, if you have a horse by a sire who is just about acceptable from a commercial perspective, they can surpass what they would ever make as yearlings if they go and breeze very well. The same can be said for a horse who is not one hundred per cent correct or if one is a little bit small. 

“From getting out and seeing a lot of the horses over the past few weeks, many of the vendors have done very little with them, and wouldn't have tested them in a way that would determine their ability. A lot of it is faith between the vendor and the inspector.” 

Kerins admitted that while some horses who are just about acceptable in terms of pedigree and conformation get into breeze-up sales provided they are showing the right signs to their respective handlers, the margin for error has become even narrower such is demand for sale slots. 

Kerins added, “The standard is rising. Certainly with our own Tattersalls Ireland Breeze-Up Sale, the standard is rising exponentially. The challenge that we can sometimes face is we have some people who have been stalwart supporters of us down through the years and always sent us a similar type of horse. Now there are newer people on the scene with a better calibre of horse they want to send us and we have to just marry the loyalty and the quality. It can be very challenging managing numbers and managing expectations as well. We are ultimately delivering bad news to some vendors given there are only a certain number of slots up for grabs. Entries are through the roof but we do have the option in June for those horses who don't get into the Craven, Guineas or Tattersalls Ireland sales, to breeze at Dundalk and then sell online afterwards. That is an option.”

One man who has had more good news than bad in recent times is Shane Power of Tradewinds Stud. It was his Beautiful Diamond (GB) (Twilight Son {GB}) who lit up the breeze-up circuit when selling for £360,000 at the Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale just seven months after being sourced for 30,000gns as a yearling. Those are the types of results that earn a hungry young consignor some clout by the time it comes to inspections. 

“It's like anything, when you turn up and get the results, they repay you the following year and the relationship grows,” Power explains. “We sold our first breezer five years ago at Donny. It was a little horse by Arcano (Ire) and he went and won a couple of races for Michael Dods. A couple of years ago we had only two breezers, last year we had five and this year we have 11, so we are trying to up our game the whole time. We've had all of the sales companies out already this year and you'd have a fair idea about where they are all going at this stage.” 

He added, “But, if you have sold a few good horses the previous year, it's definitely a big help to the sales companies coming back to you because, at the end of the day, that's what they want. We obviously want to get paid as well but the sales companies really need to sell the good horses year in year out to be able to compete with their rival sales companies. In fairness to the inspectors, they do use their imagination and they are well aware that the breeze-ups, in particular, are designed to produce racehorses, and not just sales horses.”

Power also went on to pour cold water on the theory that it's too early to make a prediction on what horse should go where in January and February.

Shane Power | Tattersalls

He explained, “You'd probably have half an idea about who would be likely to go where at the yearlings sales. And, in fairness to the inspectors, they are nearly always on the same page as you when they do come out. The earlier bunch will end up in the Craven or at Donny and, those who need a bit more time, you have the Guineas Sale or Tattersalls Ireland. The horse tells you more so than anything else.”

Power added, “It definitely helps when they have cost a few quid as yearlings. It's probably the most obvious barometer for which people can judge the horses on. It's the same for the foals to yearlings, the first thing a sales inspector can go off is what the market thought of the horse four or five months ago.”

It was Fowler who inspected Beautiful Diamond this time 12 months ago. They don't always stick out like she did, but the Goffs scout recalled what drew him to Beautiful Diamond and how she encapsulates everything that the sale company searches for when out and about in the winter months.

He said, “We understand that, for an earlier sale, our buyers are coming in search of Royal Ascot horses. In the past eight years, we have had nine Royal Ascot winners, and not all of those have been two-year-olds, many have trained on as well. 

“Perfect Power (Ire) and Bradsell (GB) are brilliant examples of top-class Goffs graduates who have not only gone on and won at Royal Ascot, but become stallions as well. Buyers come to Goffs looking for horses who will be early but it's not just the whizzbang two-year-old they are looking for, they want the horses who can train on, just like Perfect Power and Bradsell did.”

He added, “I remember walking into Shane Power's yard last year and being taken by two lovely horses. Both were inexpensive yearlings but they had a lot of quality. One of them turned out to be Beautiful Diamond who, not only breezed very well and made £360,000 to Blandford Bloodstock, but she won first time out and then went on to finish third in the Queen Mary. That's your perfect Donny horse. She has her whole three-year-old career ahead of herself and, in the meantime, she paid for a new barn at Shane Power's yard. That's what we're all hoping for. We were just lucky enough that Shane wanted to bring her to us. He knew exactly what he had from an early stage.

“The flip side of that is there are plenty of examples of when it doesn't work out but Beautiful Diamond was one who just hit you right between your eyes. You've got to rely on your instincts doing this job and, generally, the ones who look as though they might be a little bit chancy at this stage, they are the ones who need a lot of luck.”

They say it's the talented breeze-up men and women who will know quicker than anyone else in the industry who will make it and who will drift away when it comes to the freshman sires. After all, these are the people who are separating the wheat from the chaff. But what do the inspectors think?

Fowler mused, “You would get a fair feel at the yearling sales and again when going around and speaking with all of the breeze-up consignors. Pinatubo, for example, is the favourite for the first-season sires' championship but I have only seen a couple of those so far. A lot of the first-season sires, their progeny look as though they will make up into two-year-olds. I've seen plenty of Shamans and they look like they'll be two-year-olds. The Sergei Prokofievs are big horses so, whether the power of those horses will make them two-year-olds or not, I don't know.”

He added, “I've seen a few sharp and early types by Sands Of Mali, some by Far Above who look to be big and powerful horses like he was and then a few nice Mohaathers. I think they have plenty of quality about them. Arizona is another stallion who I have seen a few nice two-year-olds by. They look to be very powerful horses. There are plenty of good reports on Earthlight but they look to be horses for later on in the season. They look as though they'll train on. The same could be said about Ghaiyyath. They look to be more three-year-old types.”

Like Fowler, Pinatubo and Earthlight were nominated as the more obvious young sires to keep the right side of by Kerins, who admitted that the progeny of younger stallions can often be an easier sell at public auction.

He concluded, “I have only seen a couple of Pinatubos and they were very nice. The same with Earthlight. I've seen a couple of those that were quite nice but that's quite obvious. It's the same with the foals and years, the progeny of the first-season sires sell like hot cakes, and the breeze-ups are no different. With the two-year-olds, if they can gallop and they look the part, they will be an easy sell if they are by any of the first-season sires. Again, it's buying that dream that appeals to so many people.”

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