When reading the ever excellent Caulfield Files this month, the following comment from Andrew gave pause for thought: “The Irish Derby winner Frozen Fire is being aimed at the National Hunt market. I suspect a similar future awaits Fame And Glory, which is quite an indictment against an industry which should cherish a handsome, sound, well-bred horse with Group 1 victories to his name at every age from two to five.”
Depending on your allegiances, you may feel that a stallion of such quality being ‘consigned’ to the National Hunt market is no bad thing. But given that prestigious contests such as the Derby, Irish Derby and Ascot Gold Cup are still very much the races that most Flat owners would love to win, is it not sad that from a commercial perspective breeders are wary at best when it comes to supporting the winners of these races at stud?
Longevity a rarity
In the reported changes to the French owners’ and breeders’ premiums system, it was similarly surprising to read that premiums had been reduced for the connections of horses aged five and over. Admittedly, top-class horses of either sex will usually be pointed towards a stud career by that age, leaving only geldings such as Cirrus des Aigles to carry the torch for the veterans at the top end but, as someone who sees on a daily basis the myriad setbacks which can befall horses in training, I feel strongly that any horse who continues to be sound and successful at five and beyond should be rewarded rather than penalised.
Of course, from the point of view of the bloodstock market there is obviously a desire to keep owners reinvesting and, as one consignor who sold our stable a yearling in 2007 says regularly in jest: “Remind me not to sell you such a sound horse next time”. The mare in question is still in training at the age of six and, with five wins and 12 places to her name already, she is more than capable of adding to that tally. Her enthusiasm for racing shows no sign of waning.
For a small stable, a sound, tough, straightforward horse who keeps her owners happy season after season, is a godsend. But as a small filly of reasonably stout breeding, she’s exactly the type that has been and continues to be passed over at the yearling sales.
All breeders at one time or another, whether by design or through failing to sell at an acceptable level, end up taking the decision to put a horse into training. While the hunt is on to find new owners to invest in the sport, how about encouraging one of the sport’s major investors – the breeders – to invest even more heavily by putting more of their homebreds into training?
Let’s face it, it’s what most people would love to do if funds allow, and more breeders could take this chance if the potential return from prize-money and premiums was greater. And if it means that more gems of the kind of Attraction and the great New Zealand mare Seachange – both physically flawed from a sales perspective but highly talented gallopers in their unique way – can be unearthed then that’s even better.
That’s exactly the kind of approach which is being aimed at with the proposed British Owners and Breeders Incentive Scheme (BOBIS), initial plans for which were announced at the TBA AGM. There’s no denying that it’s a work in progress and that some of the finer points still need tuning, but it’s a scheme which caters for all breeders with mares based in Britain, regardless of the stallion you use and whether you have one mare whose offspring you keep to race, or if you are breeding with the sales ring very much in mind. If you’re an owner, a breeder, or an owner/breeder, this scheme is being designed to help you.
As with all incentive schemes, nobody is obliged to be a part of it but, as we have seen with the Racing Post Yearling Bonus Scheme, which has enjoyed a huge take-up rate from the owners of sales-bound yearlings, it works better when everyone pulls together.
We’ll be keeping you fully informed of the progress of BOBIS as more details emerge over the coming months.
Yearling season is upon us
The European yearling season gets underway in Deauville on August 18, swiftly followed by the DBS Premier Sale and BBAG Yearling Sale before the month is out. For agents, consignors and the hundreds of people involved in showing the yearlings to potential buyers, months of nomadic living, early mornings and late nights beckon.
If recent sales in other sectors can be taken as any sort of guide, then the improvement in clearance rates is encouraging and, with smaller yearling catalogues a likely result of reduced foal crops, let’s hope it’s a trend which continues this autumn.