“No Panic Yet” – Arqana Boss Optimistic About Ending The Year On A High

The Breeding Stock Sale kicks off at Arqana on Saturday | Zuzanna Lupa

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Arqana boss Freddy Powell says he is optimistic the sales company can end the year on a high as leading vendors Gwen Monneraye of la Motteraye and Charles Brière of the Fairway Consignment reported strong footfall on the eve of the breeding stock sale. 

The sales figures for the breeding stock sale in Britain and the foal sales in Ireland took a dip on the whole this year and Tattersalls chairman Edmond Mahony said 'certain sectors are facing into a headwind' when acknowledging the struggles facing operators in the middle to lower tiers after the December Sale on Thursday. 

However, while Powell agrees that Arqana is not immune to the struggles facing the bloodstock industry as a whole, he outlined French premiums, Brexit, and the strength of the euro as some of the reasons why he expects the middle to lower tiers to hold up over the next few days. 

He said, “We are yet to have a bad sale this year. Touch wood, it continues. It has been a bit of a strange year for the bloodstock industry in general. We are lucky that, when the market is getting patchy in other places, we have a system in France which helps to keep things together a little bit better. Premiums, for example, are a big help. With things like that, the demand stays strong as people like to race horses in France because of the prize-money and the premiums on offer.

“But, it hasn't all been rosey in the garden either. Some of the markets have been more difficult than others at some levels and what we have to realise is that, if we manage to hold up the prices in the ring, the breeders still end up paying more and more each year because the cost of breeding horses has gone up.” 

Powell added some reasoning into why Arqana has been resilient in the face of the market correction in the bloodstock industry, “Brexit has also changed the dynamic for some buyers. They manage to keep their costs a little bit lower by shopping in Europe. Historically, we have been less dependent on one, two or three buyers as well. The variety of the buyers has been a big asset for us and obviously Deauville has its attractions! We love welcoming people here. It is not too hard to persuade them. Buying in euros is quite a good selling point to people from, say, Australia, America and Japan. Also, the French horses have been doing really well in recent years. This year we had Paddington and Ace Impact and people can recognise that.

“We followed the sales in Ireland and England and noticed that the market is not what it was last year. But, maybe the market was too good last year? The results at Tattersalls were pretty good if you were comparing them to two years or even four years ago. You have to take note of all that but there's no panic just yet.”

Brière, who will offer 46 lots under his Fairway banner at Arqana over the next few days, also made the point that buyers in France are less driven by fashion, meaning the polarisation that has swept the market in Britain and Ireland, is less of a problem in France.

He said, “The sales have been strong in France all year so hopefully it continues. August was great, as was V2 and October, and some of the National Hunt sales have been very good, too. I don't really know why but, for sure, the market has not been so patchy in France. Obviously, it has come down a little bit, but it has been a good year. 

“People are usually really relaxed at this sale. The catalogue is very good this year and there are a lot of people around. The only area I would fear for is the lower end foals. The thing about Ireland is there are a lot of young people willing to try pinhooking the cheaper foals. You don't really have that here so the cheaper foals could struggle but, other than that, it should be a really good sale.”

Brière added, “If you have a Blue Point foal, you will be okay! Another thing in France, you don't get as much polarisation than in other countries. You don't necessarily need to be by the fashionable sire to get paid. It's getting a little bit like that but not as much as in other countries. That's a good thing, otherwise everyone focuses on the same horses.”

The la Motteraye barns have also been busy with Monneraye reporting a strong international feel to the inspections on Thursday and Friday. 

“It has been busy,” he said. “It is very international, which is important. I was at Goffs and Tattersalls and I was able to buy at both places. The previous two years, I was not able to do that. I don't know if that is a good thing or not with a view towards this sale but, Arqana has been so strong all year round, hopefully it will continue that way. I see a lot of faces here that I didn't see at Goffs and Newmarket so hopefully it is good news.”

It's not just the French consignors looking forward to the breeding stock sale in France. Patrick Diamond, sales executive at the Castlebridge Consignment, just touched down at Arqana on Friday morning to oversee a draft headlined by listed winner Hidden Dimples (Ire) (Frankel {GB}).

He said, “It's a great place to end the year and we like coming here with a select draft. We sold good numbers between England and Ireland and, ultimately, it's about offering quality horses at every level. We had a strong mares catalogue at Tattersalls last week with eight mares in the Sceptre Sessions and that went very well.”

Diamond added, “The middle to lower end of the market was tougher, and the figures were pretty clear, and it felt that way as well. The footfall for those horses was less than what it would have been compared to other years and it's definitely becoming more polarised. We have a nice draft here at Arqana and are looking forward to ending the year on a high.”

Powell put forward the Group 1 winners Pearls Galore and Channel as some of the highlights before crediting the Arqana staff for assembling a typically-strong catalogue for the sale. 

He concluded, “The team has worked really hard on pulling the catalogue together and they have done a great job. I have been looking at horses for the past two days and every good page matches up. That's quite nice to be able to say, not only have we got nice pages, but we also have nice-looking horses. 

“We are selling Pearls Galore (Fr) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) in foal to Frankel (GB), Channel (Ire) (Nathaniel {Ire}) in foal to Wootton Bassett (GB), the Wertheimers have a really good bunch and there are some nice race fillies as well. There are people coming from all around the world to look at them and it's really exciting.”

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