Breeders not to blame for speed emphasis
The Park Hill Stakes, won by Simple Verse on Thursday, was worth only £51,039 to the winner
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) Breeders not to blame for emphasis on speed By James Thomas 12:02PM 9 SEP 2016
TUESDAY'S Racing Post featured the thoughts of John Gosden on how the rise of breeding for speed was causing long-term damage to the thoroughbred breed.
Gosden made several salient points, namely the need for staying races to remain a prominent feature of the programme book and that Coolmore deserve all the myriad successes that come their way since they first pursued the stock of Northern Dancer – a move that many years later led to them owning undoubtedly the greatest stallion of our times, Galileo.
I'm sure Gosden didn't intend to point the finger at any particular individuals, but his point could easily be construed as placing those who breed for speed as the root cause of the problem.
The issue Gosden identifies is indisputable, but I would argue the problem has arisen not from the hands of the commercial breeders, but from the state of racing as a whole.
While racing remains accessible for those with the financial ammunition to keep taking aim at the high-end yearling sales year after year, those further down the food chain are finding it harder to compete.
A lack of buyers with plenty to spend but not eye-watering sums has been evidenced in the weakening of the middle market across a variety of sales, be that yearling, breeze-up or horses-in-training, in recent months.
Gosden also highlighted the decline in owner-breeders. If those who are already immersed in the sport are being forced to shut up shop, how can newcomers to racing be expected to see bloodstock as a wise investment when the risk and outlay are so high and the potential rewards so meagre?
Undoubtedly a large part of being involved in ownership is the gratification from seeing your horses run, regardless of grade of race, distance or age group.
However, if the majority of people are having to rein in the number of horses they own or have shares in, the chances are it simply isn't a viable financial option for them to invest in a middle-distance horse they know from the outset may not even run, never mind realise its full potential, for the next 18 months.
While ownership is undoubtedly a big financial risk, the chance to recoup at least some of your outlay must come into consideration. Yesterday's card at Doncaster acts as the perfect microcosm for the wider problem prospective owners are presented with.
The Group 2 Park Hill Stakes for three-year-olds and upwards over 1m6f undoubtedly brings its share of prestige, but offers just £51,039 to the winner, by which point owners will have already forked out for multiple seasons' keep and training fees.
The Weatherbys Hamilton 2-Y-O Stakes over 6f, on the other hand, is open to horses whose sire had progeny sell at the major European or US auction houses and offers £147,540 to winning connections. Owners of younger runners in the latter race will not have spent the same level of keep and training fees.
There are a range of generous incentives to buy two-year-old types, from maiden race bonuses to valuable sales races, and the companies that offer these deserve praise for doing so. Perhaps this is a model which could be expanded in a bid to reinvigorate market interest in buying horses that take that bit longer to realise their full potential.
Those who are breeding for speed and precocity are not the reason buying backward, late-maturing types is no longer an appealing proposition – they are simply meeting demand with supply.