Are the elite sales horses being prepared for their big day in the ring or a career on the track?

  A question that continues to divide commercial breeders and racehorse trainers is the definition of The Big Day. Many trainers believe too much pressure is put on horses during sales preparation, because for breeders the big day is a major price at a major sale. I therefore examined the high-end sales market, looking at the Top Ten sales toppers at major sales over a 10-year period, from 2005 to 2014, and their subsequent racing careers.    As we saw in the previous issue, the assumption that the highest-priced (and thereby possibly the recorders of the fastest times) breeze-up horses would be ready to run wasn't necessarily the case, with 40% of the graduates not seeing a racecourse until three-year-olds or older. Of those that raced as two-year-olds, the highest number of debuts were made in July, with August close behind. More started in September and October than in May and June, and only 11% managed to win first time out at two. Sixty percent ran at two, 26% won as two-year-olds, and 14% failed to reach the racecourse, with an overall figure of 56% winners from the Top Ten of the selected sales over the decade.     Similarly, the supposed advantage of choosing from mature horses at the National Hunt store sales wasn't obvious in the results. There were significantly fewer unraced purchases compared to the Flat sales, with 8% at the Derby Sale and only 4% at the Land Rover, but 59% of graduates went on to win, which was on a par with the breeze-up graduates and, as we shall now see, the yearlings. In fact, given the higher proportion of runners, the National Hunt store graduates could even be argued to have produced a poorer proportion of winners.    In this issue, therefore, I will examine the yearling sales and the subsequent racecourse performance of the elite Top Ten purchases at the selected sales from 2005 to 2014. Career earnings have been included, but only as a guide to the general ability of the horse. The trading of horses in training means that earnings themselves have little relevance on whether a horse turned a profit on its original purchase price, and the residual paddock value of fillies also renders their career earnings irrelevant.    What the career earnings did reveal was that some British-trained winners have amassed only €4,000 or less in earnings. This covers just eight weeks of training fees and is a derisible reward for a winning owner, particularly when in Ireland, for example, minimum prize money has risen from €6,000 to €10,000 and a single win could pay the bills for four or five months.    Despite the prevailing idea that sales toppers don’t live up to expectations, the last 10 years of data of graduates of racing age (400 horses in total) paints a far rosier picture. Though 14% remained unraced, there is still a reasonably high strike rate of 59% winners graduating from the Top Ten of the four major European yearling sales, 11% of graduates winning at blacktype level.    Goffs Orby    Goffs Orby graduates showed the highest percentage of winners, 61%, but also had the highest proportion of unraced graduates, at 17%. The period also recorded the lowest proportion of Group 1 winners of the selected sales. Though only fractionally below Arqana and BBAG, it was still half that of Tattersalls Book 1. Blacktype winners coming from the Top Ten were also lower, though not significantly, than Arqana and BBAG, but far short of Tattersalls Book 1.    Notable winners from the Top Ten over the decade were Cape Blanco, Together Forever,  Lost In The Moment, Contest, and Theann.    Tattersalls Book 1    As the prices would suggest, Book 1 proved the marketplace for the better quality performers. The proportion of winners was only slightly behind Goffs Orby, at 60%, as were the proportion of unraced graduates, 15%, but the elite end of the sale produced double the percentage of Group 1 winners (6%) and a significantly higher proportion of blacktype performers (18%).    The headline horses within the analysed group included Camelot, Was, Curvy, Charming Thought, Leading Light, Rewilding, Frozen Power, Berling, Anton Chekhov, Mount Helicon, and Sir Isaac Newton.    BBAG    The German yearling sale proved one of the better markets for high earners, with 14% earning €100,000 or more on the racecourse, which compared favourably to Tattersalls Book 1. Although the Top Ten purchases were not among the highest priced of the four sales examined, 59% of them won and only 12% failed to reach a racecourse. 10% of the Top Ten went on to become nlacktype winners and 3% won at Group 1 level.    Notable performers to come from the sale's Top Ten were Dschingis Secret, Potemkin, Be Fabulous, Night Wish, Alianthus, Persian Storm, and La Luna De Miel.    Arqana    The Top Ten yearlings from the 10 years at Arqana were marginally the lowest proportion of winners, but 58% wasn't too far behind Goffs Orby's 61% high. Twelve percent remained unraced and 11% became blacktype winners, with 3% Group 1 winners more or less matching all bar Tattersalls Book 1. A good proportion of the elite graduates (11%) went on to earn €100,000 or more on the racecourse.    The stars of the decade were Chicquita, Immortal Verse, Recital, Age Of Aquarius, Montclair, Kreem, and The Juliet Rose.    Yearling sales elite overall    It is interesting to note that the cream of the European yearlings produced remarkably similar results, the only major fluctuations being a far higher proportion of blacktype and Group One winners emerging from Tattersalls Book 1 (reflected in sales price), a much lower percentage of Goffs Orby graduates managing to earn €100,000 or more, and a significantly higher number of BBAG graduates recovering their sales price on the racetrack.    Of the 400 highest-priced yearlings, only Camelot (£525,000 Tattersalls Book 1), Rewilding (£500,000 Tattersalls Book 1), and Cape Blanco (€330,000 Goffs Orby) became millionaire earners, despite a highest price of €5 million and 41 yearlings (10%) fetching €1 million or more. The lowest price within the Top Ten of each sale was €64,000 (BBAG, 2009), which secured World Star, who went on to win €133,850.    Also at the BBAG was Springbok Flyer, who sold for €110,000 and earned €109,994 and was therefore included within the 8% of those earning their sales price by dint of such a near-miss. At the Arqana sale, while only one of the yearlings managed to earn its sales price or above on the racetrack, this did not include the Classic-winning filly and future sales topper Chicquita, who came very close, fetching €600,000 and earning €597,455.    With a lowest price of £425,000 and 21 yearlings fetching £1 million or more, the highest being £5 million, it should be no surprise that Tattersalls Book 1 showed the better racecourse results overall.    Looking at the sires whose progeny featured in the Top Ten of the decade, there are few surprises, although of Galileo’s 49 winners, only Cape Blanco managed to earn his purchase price on the racetrack. Fourteen percent, which translated to seven horses, of the winning Galileos earned €100,000 or more, but he also sired 11 who remained unraced (13%), by far the highest proportion of unraced yearlings. Thirty percent of the late-lamented Montjeu won at least €100,000 in prize money.    When we consider the similar statistics of the breeze-up sales and National Hunt store sales, spending heavily on the highest price animals seems to yield a 60% chance of securing a winner, regardless of whether it's Flat or National Hunt or ready-to-run. A store horse may provide the greatest chance of actually having a runner, but it's fair to say all of the sales have performed equally well at this top end of the marketplace.    The biggest question going into future sales would appear to be more about stallions than progeny. The big names currently dominating the catalogues will not be there forever and many represented here, between 2005 and 2014, have already been lost to us. Looking at those coming through, it's hard to see which stallion might provide the same dominance we've been used to. Whether that will be beneficial to the market, we'll have to see.

By Lissa Oliver

A question that continues to divide commercial breeders and racehorse trainers is the definition of The Big Day. Many trainers believe too much pressure is put on horses during sales preparation, because for breeders the big day is a major price at a major sale. I therefore examined the high-end sales market, looking at the Top Ten sales toppers at major sales over a 10-year period, from 2005 to 2014, and their subsequent racing careers.

As we saw in the previous issue, the assumption that the highest-priced (and thereby possibly the recorders of the fastest times) breeze-up horses would be ready to run wasn't necessarily the case, with 40% of the graduates not seeing a racecourse until three-year-olds or older. Of those that raced as two-year-olds, the highest number of debuts were made in July, with August close behind. More started in September and October than in May and June, and only 11% managed to win first time out at two. Sixty percent ran at two, 26% won as two-year-olds, and 14% failed to reach the racecourse, with an overall figure of 56% winners from the Top Ten of the selected sales over the decade.

Similarly, the supposed advantage of choosing from mature horses at the National Hunt store sales wasn't obvious in the results. There were significantly fewer unraced purchases compared to the Flat sales, with 8% at the Derby Sale and only 4% at the Land Rover, but 59% of graduates went on to win, which was on a par with the breeze-up graduates and, as we shall now see, the yearlings. In fact, given the higher proportion of runners, the National Hunt store graduates could even be argued to have produced a poorer proportion of winners.

In this issue, therefore, I will examine the yearling sales and the subsequent racecourse performance of the elite Top Ten purchases at the selected sales from 2005 to 2014. Career earnings have been included, but only as a guide to the general ability of the horse. The trading of horses in training means that earnings themselves have little relevance on whether a horse turned a profit on its original purchase price, and the residual paddock value of fillies also renders their career earnings irrelevant.

What the career earnings did reveal was that some British-trained winners have amassed only €4,000 or less in earnings. This covers just eight weeks of training fees and is a derisible reward for a winning owner, particularly when in Ireland, for example, minimum prize money has risen from €6,000 to €10,000 and a single win could pay the bills for four or five months.

Despite the prevailing idea that sales toppers don’t live up to expectations, the last 10 years of data of graduates of racing age (400 horses in total) paints a far rosier picture. Though 14% remained unraced, there is still a reasonably high strike rate of 59% winners graduating from the Top Ten of the four major European yearling sales, 11% of graduates winning at blacktype level.

Goffs Orby....

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