This time last year I was prompted to write a column on the subject of mares foaling on sales grounds after three foals were born at Fasig-Tipton – one of which was auctioned alongside his mother just hours later – and another arrived at Arqana’s February Sale twenty minutes after her dam had been through the ring.

Thankfully it’s not a common occurrence but sales held in January and February in Europe and America naturally coincide with the early months of the foaling season, meaning that any mare consigned close to her due date will be at risk of finding herself in such a scenario.

When canvassed last year it transpired that among the sales companies only Tattersalls has a policy in this regard. For its February Sale, usually held in the first week of the month, Tattersalls will not accept mares covered before April 1, give or take a day or two depending on the date of the sale. This should allow for the foaling date of any mare covered at that time to be roughly a month after the sale – the period of time at which a mare is likely to be moved from her regular home if she is to foal at a different stud.

Though I haven’t heard of any foals being born at sales this year, two foals were offered at foot at Arqana’s February Sale this time around, both of whom were less than a week old. I find it hard to see how this situation can be justified.

One only needs to have read the columns written for this magazine by Rossdales’ experienced stud vet Deidre Carson to understand the myriad problems which can beset newborn foals and their dams. Indeed, this month’s Vet Forum details the various vaccines available to minimise the spread of disease during the breeding season when the population on studs naturally grows.

Why, then, would a breeder care for a mare throughout almost all of her pregnancy only to send her to a sale at the most crucial time? The sales taking place in January and February tend to be mixed auctions, with horses catalogued not only from stud farms but also training yards, thereby intensifying the risk of the spread of infections and viruses from different sources. This is hardly an ideal environment for a foal to be born into, never mind the potential increase in stress for the mare.

I fully accept that, to a certain extent, the bloodstock industry relies on trading, but if the commercial imperative has become so strong that horse welfare takes second place then surely it’s time for more stringent rules to be implemented. If breeders and/or vendors cannot be guided by their own moral compasses on this issue, then sales companies must enforce cut-off dates for entry.

Point well made
Other than being Cheltenham Festival winners, what do Best Mate, Florida Pearl, Denman, Simonsig, Faugheen and Champagne Fever have in common? The answer is that they all started their racing careers in the Irish point-to-point field.

As Edward Prosser outlines in our feature this month, there’s more than one way to buy a National Hunt horse, and there could well be cause to add another method to the list in years to come if a recently launched Tattersalls Ireland venture is successful.

Last month, the company launched Bidpoint, an online sales platform for Irish point-to-pointers which allows owners to advertise horses on the website when they enter for a race, starting from the weekend of February 28 and March 1. Prospective buyers can signal their intent with a bid up to 48 hours after the race and then have a further 48 hours to have the horse vetted once their offer has been accepted.

Blind bidding may not be for everyone, and it seems unlikely that this method will halt the flow of winning point-to-pointers to boutique jumping sales at Cheltenham and Punchestown, but it is nevertheless an innovative addition to the sales market in the digital age and will certainly help by putting vendors more easily in touch with would-be buyers.