It has been another 12 months of huge success for the breeze-up market on the racecourse. Since this time last year we have seen the emergence of the Prix Morny and Middle Park winner Vandeek – bought for 625,000gns at Tattersalls – join an exalted list of Group 1-winning breeze-up graduates. He heads an army of 42 stakes horses that have emerged so far from the big five breeze-up auctions held last year. It is unsurprising therefore that potential buyers were going to take ever more interest in this sales format and also that vendors were going to respond by bringing better individuals to these sales.

And that is precisely what happened this spring. Across the five main auctions, comprising the Craven, Guineas, Doncaster, Arqana and Goresbridge Sales, the average price soared compared to last year from £74,892 to £94,504, a scarcely believable jump of 26 per cent. It is even more incredulous given that 2023’s average was itself a 17 per cent increase on the previous year. But like most bull markets, the rewards are very rarely shared evenly between all participants. Only 54 per cent of the pinhooked yearlings – and they made up 78 per cent of those sold – gave their vendors a gross profit margin of £10,000 or more. Last year, 56 per cent of the pinhooked yearling did the same – not a whole lot different.

So where did all this extra money go and why was there not a better return across the board? Inevitably, most of the extra investment was focussed on the choicest lots, but as I have already suggested a significant amount vendor’s profit margin was also eaten up by higher yearling costs. This time around the average price for yearlings purchased for resale at the big five auctions this year stood at £46,735, up 21 per cent from the corresponding figure 12 months earlier (which was already an all-time high and 20 per cent higher than the previous year). So in just two years, the breeze-up average price has climbed by 52 per cent and the average pinhooked yearling cost by 45 per cent.

Overall, this year was no more profitable for vendors with 150 (25 per cent) making a gross margin of £50,000 or more, while 87 (14 per cent) recorded gross profits in excess of £100,000. In 2023, the corresponding numbers were almost identical at 151 (25 per cent) and 80 (13 per cent). Two years ago, only 114 (23 per cent) broke the £50,000 profit barrier and 50 (10 per cent) the magical £100k margin. And in 2021 it was 102 (21 per cent) and 42 (9 per cent) that met or surpassed those two benchmarks.

All that said, it was important that the 2024 breeze-up market didn’t regress when viewed as a whole against 2023. Just as there were more winners this year, there were also more losers at the other end of the scale, with 174 (29 per cent) of pinhooked yearlings making an outright loss in 2024, again almost identical to last year’s 171 (29 per cent). Ironically, in the two years prior to that there were fewer loss-making yearlings and smaller percentages, 2022 weighing in with 111 (22 per cent) and 2021 with 89 (19 per cent).

Last year £58.6 million was spent at the major five breeze-ups and despite that number rising to £72.9 million this year, the sub structure on the market didn’t change too much, all of the new money being spend at the top end of the market. Consequently, it was not all that surprising to see most of the extra money create seven new sterling millionaires this year, when there had previously been just one, last year’s Arqana top-priced No Retreat, a son of Siyouni who was placed on debut earlier this year for Roger Varian. The new millionaires were split seven to one in favour of the Craven breeze-up over Arqana and only the Godolphin New Bay colt Anno Domini has won among the three that have started so far.

Up to the end of Royal Ascot, there have been five black-type horses emerge from this year’s breeze ups and remarkably four were purchased by Richard Brown of Blandford Bloodstock on behalf of Wathnan Racing, featuring Royal Ascot scorers Shareholder, winner of the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes, and Leovanni, winner of the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes, plus the Group 2 Coventry Stakes second and third Electrolyte and Columnist. All four had been pinhooked as yearlings and all returned healthy profits for their vendors, having originally cost less than £76,000.

With all the talk of million-pound two-year-olds, it always worth remembering that the average price of a breeze-up Group winner in the past six years come in at a very affordable £146,952.