Bargain buys highlight the joy of hidden gems

Group 1 winner Quiet Reflection (right) was a £32,000 Silver Sale buy

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Hidden gems on offer down the pecking order By Martin Stevens 12:47PM 1 SEP 2016

FEW articles we have published prompted the feedback that an analysis of the market at last week's Goffs UK Premier and Silver Yearling Sales in Monday's Racing Post did.

In it, we illustrated how trade held up well in the upper echelons at Doncaster but struggled lower down, and drew attention to the plummeting clearance rate at the enlarged Silver Sale, suggesting there was a pressing issue of supply outweighing demand.

One letter we received, published below, stood out in particular as it raises an important point: that, because it was at the supposedly non-select Silver Sale where figures declined most and demand was least, it does not necessarily mean the horses who were on offer there are the root of the problem of overproduction, the horses who should not have been bred.

Goffs UK is widely acknowledged as doing an excellent job of selecting and placing horses for its yearling auctions and has a long list of top-class graduates who did not have the most obvious pedigrees to prove that. But no sales company can legislate for a good-looking yearling at the time of inspection regressing, or a less attractive horse growing into a swan.

One of the best yearlings sold at Doncaster in the last two years, Commonwealth Cup heroine Quiet Reflection, was pinhooked from the Silver Sale for £32,000 and provided a fair profit when she was resold in the same ring as a breezer for £44,000.

This year's decent two-year-old talents Fashion Queen (cost £27,000) and Pleaseletmewin (£36,000) are also Silver Sale graduates who rewarded buyers – Federico Barberini and Alex Elliott in their cases – who took a fine-tooth comb to the catalogue and stayed on after the Premier Sale.

Another reminder of the riches sometimes available in the later, less glitzy sessions of a yearling sale was served on Monday by Alicante Dawn, the winner of the Listed Ripon Two Yrs Old Trophy. Now the winner of his last three starts, the son of Equiano was bought by trainer Bryan Smart with Oliver St Lawrence for just 5,000gns at Book 3 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale.

As our letter writer remarks, often a yearling can feature in a less prestigious part of an auction through no fault of its own; perhaps because the sire is not deemed fashionable enough or the individual hails from a smaller breeder without the negotiating power of a larger consignor.

Horses like Alicante Dawn and Quiet Reflection show that sale placement and price can, on occasion, be unreliable guides to future ability, and that it's not easy to say which foals have been ‘overproduced'.

Alicante Dawn was lot 2,071 at Tattersalls last year, so he followed a heck of a lot of yearlings through the ring at the October sales. The larger the number on the hip does not always mean the lesser the talent.

LETTER

IT'S that time of year again when the Tattersalls October Yearling Sales catalogues arrive in the post with the chance to look through the hard copies and make some analysis.

Book 1 looks after itself having the big-name stallions and consignors offering the cream of the crop and consequently enticing the big buyers.

Book 2 is the pinhooker's choice as it offers the chance to get that yearling sold who was purchased ten months earlier as a foal, hopefully for a respectable profit. This is the most popular sale with trainers and lots can often demand a premium as trainers tend to attend for the three-day duration, do their buying and then leave. But they will miss some good horses in the following two days of Book 3.

With vendors clamouring to get their horses in the first two books, what criteria are decisions based on? A visual inspection months earlier and everyone lobbying the auctioneers to get in, meaning the smaller breeder is often left out, resulting in their yearlings being put in the latter books as they do not have the leverage to convince the auctioneer to accept their stock in Book 2.

Horses inspected months earlier for the sale often change and can grow into great specimens, but it's too late to change their destination by the time that happens and then they are catalogued incorrectly. Likewise, some horses accepted in the earlier books fail to flourish, resulting in inferior lots. I understand this will reflect in the price but it still fouls up the chance of the smaller breeder's horse getting in.

Another reason for a horse getting put in an earlier sale can be down to fashion and birth date, but it's worth remembering this year has seen the likes of Hellvelyn produce some stunning winners at a healthy winners-to-runners ratio. Horses like Lethal Force, Sea The Stars and Sadler's Wells are all April foals, while even Oasis Dream was born on March 30. And don't forget the daddy of most bloodlines, Northern Dancer, was born on May 27, 1961.

It's nice to see the Racehorse Owners Association and Thoroughbred Breeders Association promoting fillies, another problem for breeders, but in fact the returns are often better than for a colt.

It's understandable why some horses are catalogued early, and why auctioneers have to consider the bigger players – they are, after all, in business to make a profit and in no way do I criticise their efforts or agenda. But perhaps they could look at a way to encourage buyers to look at the latter sales lots.

I would like to see Book 3 be considered both by trainers and agents as a possible source for their supply of horses to give the small producer a chance. So come on you buyers, stay a bit longer and perhaps buy a better horse you never knew was there!

Stuart Laws
Milldown Farm and Stud

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