Thoroughbred breeders must have many attributes to get the best out of their experience. Top of my list are patience and optimism, and everyone will require both qualities in abundance as we continue our way through this extraordinary coronavirus-affected year, and especially during the busy sales season.
Unlike owners, who can simply choose not to participate in the forthcoming yearling and foal sales, breeders cannot just turn the tap off and on at will. So, with yearlings, foals and mares in foal already in the system, we have to make the best of whatever the market or other selling opportunities provide.
There is no point in pretending that the rest of this year and probably the whole of next are going to be anything but difficult for breeders and owners, as people try to find homes for those horses already in the system or accept the need to keep them to go into training. As general finances suffer, the temptation to cut back will be too difficult to ignore for some.
However, mating plans for the 2021 covering season will produce the horses racing from 2024 onwards, and these are decisions to which we need to give careful thought. This is the point when we have to be optimistic that the world will have recovered from Covid-19 and demand for British bloodstock will increase. Those who are brave enough to think ahead and make that big decision will be the ones who reap the greatest rewards.
We have to believe that there will be a substantial adjustment to stallion fees in 2021, and that there will be an inevitable reduction in the numbers of foals born in 2022. If the 2008 recession is anything to go by, there will be a sharp reduction in the Irish foal crop, and that could place British breeders who hold their nerve in a strong position as the market recovers.
Taking that long-term view does require bravery and deep pockets – and possibly even the support of a kindly bank manager – but fortune often favours the brave, and this may be just the opportunity to be optimistic.
I make no apologies for reminding all British breeders about the Great British Bonus. It is out there to support you and I am delighted that so many people have registered their filly yearlings ready for 2021. There are already some great stories associated with the scheme, especially about small breeders winning bonuses.
The website greatbritishbonus.co.uk is the place to discover how the scheme works in providing bonuses of up to £20,000 per eligible race, and to find the results since Pelekai won the first 50 per cent bonus worth £10,000 at Newcastle on June 2. A couple of examples are worth pointing out, since they illustrate the sort of opportunities that can arise through GBB.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that shrewd Yorkshire connections are behind Blackberry, who became the first three-time GBB winner when she won at Musselburgh in mid-September. Principal owner Simon Chappell, who also bred her, and trainer Bryan Smart have plotted a remarkable course with the filly, whose three wins from her first four races – the other was on unsuitably soft ground – have added £60,000 in bonuses to prize-money earnings of £16,690.
There is also a real opportunity that rather than having to accept the vagaries of the market, it is worth using the GBB carrot to form a syndicate to race a qualified filly. The Crown Connoisseurs, a band of locals from the Crown pub in the West Country, did that when they put Crazy Luck into training with Rod Millman, and as well as being well on her way to recouping her purchase price in prize-money, she gave the syndicate a £20,000 GBB return at Salisbury in August.
To win a full GBB bonus it’s worth thinking hard about using a British-based stallion next year. Brexit issues mean some changes in moving horses for breeding outside Britain are inevitable, so this is an ideal opportunity to support British stallions. But remember, foal registration at Weatherbys has been extended to October 31. Please do not miss that date; there can be no late entries.