The major difference between domestic breeze-up sales and those in America is an absence of official timing on these shores. That doesn’t mean that the breezes aren’t timed. Several high-tech Tag Heuer systems were in evidence at Newmarket and Kempton for the first two breeze-up auctions of the year, and many potential purchasers still hand-time with stopwatches. Indeed, Tattersalls even provides free stopwatches for those who wish to add further evidence to the visual impression of each galloper.
As discussed in last month’s breeze-up sales preview, there are of course plenty of factors to take into consideration when it comes to coaxing the best performance from each inexperienced two-year-old asked to work at speed in front of an audience in unfamiliar circumstances. Having the right rider on board is key, a factor which will have aided Friarstown Bloodstock’s first-night Craven success when it consigned the session’s two best-sellers. The man behind Friarstown is Flat jockey John Egan, who breezes his own charges and whose skill in the saddle is a huge attribute. His More Than Ready colt, which sold for 320,000gns, was widely believed to have been the fastest breezer at the sale.
Many vendors are not in favour of the idea of official times – while a fast time could guarantee a big return on investment, a slower breeze might mean no sale at all. Research shared with this magazine following the Craven Sale points to the fact that breezers whose times were in the fastest quartile sold on average for around three times more than those in the slowest quartile. While the pricier lots have passed their sales test, one must not lose sight of the fact that these are potential racehorses and it is on the track where performance really counts. We’ll be following these sales graduates through their juvenile season and will provide more detailed analysis on their progress ahead of next season’s two-year-old sales.
For every buyer for whom the time of the breeze is an essential consideration, there’s another who will vouch that observing a horse’s action and attitude is more important and in addition to that will assess riding tactics and the potential long-term career of the horse in front of them – let’s face it, not every horse in an elite auction such as the Craven Sale is bred to be an early sprinter.
The sole turf breeze of the season to date benefited from decent conditions underfoot but horses had to contend with a strong cross-wind on Newmarket Heath where the undulations can catch out even more seasoned gallopers. Consideration of the unique turf on which Tattersalls breezers are asked to perform is just one of the reasons why the company is yet to embrace official times for its two-year-old sales.
“From year to year we can experience fairly different going conditions and there can even be going changes within the breeze, as there were last year, when those breezing later were at a disadvantage in the soft ground,” says Tattersalls Marketing Director Jimmy George.
“I think on the whole European horsemen are wary of slavish adherence to the clock as it can encourage consignors to push horses at a young age to go as fast as they possibly can.
“There are different aspects of this topic to take into account but timing breezes is not something we would be looking to leap into.”
Whether or not official times are adopted for European sales, there’s no doubt that the major buying teams are already compiling their own data – along with regular considerations such as pedigree and vetting – in order to determine their bidding strategies.
Support from the grass roots
British-bred two-year-olds of 2013, or those by a British-based sire, are the first to be eligible for the new BOBIS races. It has been heartening to hear so many breeze-up horses ushered into the ring as the auctioneer announces that they have been signed up for the scheme.
At the helm as BOBIS establishes its foothold in the industry is Amy Bennett, a familiar face to many though her former roles as a Racing Post bloodstock journalist and a member of the British Bloodstock Marketing team.
She says: “The first two breeze-up sales of the season have shown the level of support for the scheme and we’ve had a whole range of breeders signing up, from those with just one mare to big studs like Cheveley Park. We’ve been really encouraged by the numbers, especially considering the size of the foal crop in Britain has dropped in recent years.
“We’re happy with the model we’re running but we’re also listening to feedback from owners and breeders so the scheme can evolve over time.”
Also Newmarket-based and overseeing an important operation which benefits owners all over Europe is Kerry Murphy, who has been Chief Executive of the European Breeders’ Fund (EBF) since January following the retirement of Sam Sheppard.
Murphy, formerly the co-ordinator for the Racing Post Yearling Bonus Scheme, is enjoying the challenge of raising awareness of the EBF, the British wing of which has recently announced a contribution to the 2013 Flat turf season of £1 million.
“With the EBF having been established for 30 years and run superbly by Sam Sheppard it’s been a great opportunity for me to come in and see how we can freshen up our profile,” says Murphy. “I want to ensure people realise how the EBF is funded and the important contribution it makes to racing throughout the member countries.”