'Top Strong But Everything Else Was Tough This Year' – Breeze-Up Market Reflections

Tiger Belle: was bought to be sold by the commercial arm of the Shamrock Thoroughbreds syndicate | Racingfotos.com


Alice Haynes and Ado McGuinness, who have emblazoned the value on offer at the breeze-up sales by hitting the ground running with their respective purchases this season, have described shopping in that market as a hugely important aspect of their business. 

Well-known breeze-up consignor Eddie Linehan of Lackendarra Stables agrees with Haynes and McGuinness that the value has favoured the buyer when it has come to shopping at the middle to lower tiers of the market due to the amount of choice in that sector.

However, Linehan, who admitted that a lot of consignors were forced to overspend on yearlings last year, reported the top end of the European breeze-up market to be as lucrative as it ever has been after selling a Land Force (Ire) colt at Arqana for €250,000.

Eddie Linehan | Tattersalls 

He said, “The top end was good but everything else was tough this year. The middle to lower end of the market is very selective because buyers have so much choice and people are gone so time-based that, if you are not in the top 20 times, it's very difficult to get paid for a horse no matter how well you recommend it or like it.”

Linehan added, “We'd a couple of nice sales, sold some nice horses and horses who I think will turn out to be nice for small money, and then we'd a couple in between. But from our perspective, it's definitely a numbers game. I worked it out, four horses have basically paid for our year. Four out of 14 made a profit so far.”

There have been eight juvenile winners in Britain and Ireland who have been sourced at the breeze-ups already this season. Of the eight, Haynes has been responsible for three, including her Royal Ascot bound Golden Arrow (Ire) (Havana Grey {GB}) and Majestic Beauty (GB) (Havana Grey {GB}). 

McGuinness is the sole Irish trainer to have registered a winner with a juvenile purchased at the breeze-ups this season with Tiger Belle (Ire) (Cotai Glory {GB}) successful on debut at Cork last week. 

One of three juveniles that McGuinness picked up along with his nephew and assistant trainer Stephen Thorne for a new commercial arm of the Shamrock Thoroughbreds syndicate, the £70,000 purchase from Con Marnane's Bansha House Stables will run at Royal Ascot if she's not sold beforehand. 

McGuinness said, “We've had someone come to look at her already and, if we can sell her to keep her in the yard, that would be brilliant. We also had a call about the Goffs London Sale before Ascot, and that's a great sale, so all options are open at the minute. 

“Stephen runs the Shamrock Thoroughbreds syndicate and it was his idea to set up an investments syndicate to target the breeze-up sales. We didn't buy many yearlings last year, purely because we haven't had much luck at that down through the years, whereas we were very lucky with the few breezers we bought last year. So there has been a bit of a change of plan.

“Out of the three breezers we bought last year, we won with two and got one [Ti Sento (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire})] away for an awful lot of money within a very short space of time.”

Ado McGuinness (left) and Stephen Thorne (right) | Tattersalls

He added, “We are looking for the very sharp two-year-olds and Donny and the Craven is where you'll find them. Everybody has the Ascot dream in their heads when they go to these sales and we're the same. 

“But we have a limit on what we are going to spend–like, €300,000 on a breeze-up horse, sure if he wins a maiden he might not be worth that. We haven't got the clients who are going to give that type of money for a horse where, win, lose or draw, it makes no difference to them. 

“We have to try and buy the horse that will be a realistic price and one we can sell on afterwards. When you set up an investment syndicate, you have to sell when the money is on the table and, if the next person makes more money than you afterwards, the best of luck to them.

“It's important for business because, say if you win a premier handicap worth €100,000, the trainer's share is only about €7,000. Then you have to go and pay tax on that. There's not a lot of money left over. We will still have our premier handicap horses and they are extremely important for our yard but selling is where it's at.”

While McGuinness admits that the backward three-year-old type is a much more valuable prospect in the long run, he described the earlier and speedier two-year-olds who are ready to rock and roll a much easier sell to owners.

He said, “In our situation, we want to get in and get out. That's our angle and it seems to be working so far. Don't get me wrong, I'd love a nice big immature horse for the backend, and you'd get well-rewarded if you can produce a nice horse that way, but it will take time. A lot of owners are not prepared to put in that time and money into a later developing type of horse and the Ascot dream is a much easier sell.”

Like McGuinness, Haynes goes looking for the horses who are ready to run at the breeze-ups. She also buys at every level and is therefore in the unique position to comment on the overall strength of the market this year. 

“It was nice to get Golden Arrow, who was an expensive breezer at Goffs UK for £200,000,” the trainer said. “You're not always that fortunate to get that type of an order. Normally I try to look at horses who haven't breezed as well as that because of the ground, or maybe they finished a little jarred up from the breeze, so I am usually finding a way in to secure a better price. 

“I find buying from the breeze-ups relatively straightforward and I like to buy the horses who are ready to go. That's been our policy and we've definitely done that this year, especially with our horses from Doncaster, with Hala Emaraaty (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) winning as well. 

“He was the opposite end of the spectrum to Golden Arrow given he cost just £14,000 and then we had one in the middle in Majestic Beauty, who cost £90,000 from that same sale.”

Alice Haynes | Tattersalls

She added, “Day one at the Craven felt like a good time to be buying. There were also a few bargains to be had in the first few hours of the Guineas Sale as well. I know that a few consignors were at a loss because they had spent so much money on the yearlings that the value probably was with the buyers. Looking back now, I think there were too many horses in the Craven and it was the nice horses who made the money.”

Given the success Linehan enjoyed at Arqana, the Cork native admitted that he would love nothing more than to recruit a team of Arqana-type horses, but he knows that is an unrealistic business model. However, Linehan has vowed to be more selective at the yearling sales this year.

He said, “We were happy with the year as a whole. Having said that, I was banking on Arqana going well for us. Whether we were to finish up or down for the year, it all depended on the Arqana horses selling well, and I was just lucky that one of them clicked. 

“But, to be honest, the Land Force was as good a horse as I've ever had anything to do with. He breezed well and he's a gorgeous-looking horse. I'd say he's very good.”

Linehan added, “You'd love to be buying Arqana types at the yearling sales every year but, if you did that, you'd have some amount of money on the line and it would only take one bad year to break you. 

“But looking back on last year, I think everyone overpaid a little for yearlings. We probably gave 10 or 15 grand for too much for some horses last year but, at the time, you probably thought that they were worth it because everyone else was doing the same. 

“The main thing I have in my head going forward with the yearlings is that you have to be very selective. You have to really want the horse and pay as little as you can for it. That's the basic law of it all.”

The year is far from over for a lot of buyers and consignors with the Tattersalls Ireland Goresbridge Breeze-Up Sale taking place at Fairyhouse this week and Linehan is expecting a good trade. McGuinness and Haynes also reported that they plan on being active.

Linehan said, “I think Goresbridge will be a good sale. I was speaking with Paul Harley, who works for Tattersalls Ireland, and he said that there will be a lot of buyers from Scandinavia at the sales. 

“They played at that sale last year, so hopefully they will be back again, and that should help the middle to lower level and ensure a good clearance rate, which is needed. 

“A few very good horses have come out of Goresbridge and we sold a very nice filly called Coralillo (Ire) (Havana Grey {GB}) so hopefully it goes well. I'm looking forward to it.”

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