Tuesday's Two Year Olds in Training sale at Fasig-Tipton bucked an anticipated downward trend in bloodstock prices since the outbreak of the Corona virus, with a gross of $23,572,500 from 303 sales, an average over $77,000. Bloodstock auctioneers on this side of the Atlantic are viewing the impending sale season with some trepidation as the sale season begins again in post-lockdown Europe.
Goffs stage the UK Spring Store Sale on July 28, the first UK public sale since the Cheltenham Festival on March 12. This is day one of a two day sale that includes the Spring Horses in Training and Point-to-Point sales, where traditionally, purchasers will renew their Point-to-Point stock of youngsters and older horses for the season ahead this winter.
Tim Kent, Managing Director of Goffs UK, who grew up in Cotswold Hunt country around Cheltenham, remarked, “We approached this year’s sale in a slightly different way as we looked to place more emphasis on quality over quantity than has been the case in recent years. The Spring Store and HIT/P2P Sales are our largest NH sales of the year. This year will see a small change to the Spring Sale’s traditional format as the compacted sale calendar has required that the August Sale be incorporated and thus, the sale has been rebranded the Doncaster Summer Sale.
“What has not changed is that once again we have been very well supported with some outstanding stores, point-to-pointers and horses-in-training and, as in previous years, the sale will feature the annual Million In Mind Dispersal."
Whereas the catalogue for stores was largely completed before lockdown, this hasn't been the case for older horses, but consolation can be found for purchasers in that Spring is often a period when injuries can be incurred as the ground alters from soft to good or better, and can sometimes be inconsistent. There will be less wear and tear on horses that will have been out of training since early April or before.
Tattersalls, which staged the last exclusively National Hunt sale during the Festival in March, just days before the lockdown, has had to reschedule both Cheltenham Spring sales for April and May, and plans to extend its autumn sales season at the home of the sport by adding a sale to the Showcase fixture in October, in addition to sales during the November and International meetings the following months.
Commenting on the revised date, Matt Prior, Head of Cheltenham Sales remarked; 'We intend to reintroduce the Tattersalls Cheltenham October Sale as we acknowledge the difficulties faced by our clients in these challenging times and understand the importance of holding a sale in a select environment to facilitate the inevitable increase in quality horses at this time".
One area which seems to be growing in popularity is online purchasing of bloodstock. The UK market, at least for National Hunt stock, has largely eschewed this to date, arguably because distances traveled to attend sales tend to be smaller than in the USA or Australia, where online purchase is more common, and it is easier to buy face-to-face.
Of course, online purchase does not allow for the time-honoured ritual of feeling a horse's legs. However, auction houses are compensating for this with guaranteed veterinary certificates of soundness, so even the traditional world of bloodstock auctioneering may adopt contemporary trading practices as occur in virtually every other walk of life.
For individual agents, the lockdown has made sourcing stock that much harder. Whilst the leading agents all have scouting networks in France and in emerging territories, the business of trade has been curtailed, if not totally suspended, by the inability to travel.
However, as road and air traffic grows, notably with France where an air bridge has been created, this should ease. The big question is whether owners will continue to have the appetite to splurge on National Hunt stock, at whatever the level, to chase down a winner.
We won't have long to find out.