Tell us about your background in the industry and your new role?
Having graduated from Nottingham University and completed the BHA graduate program, I began work experience with DBS (now Goffs UK) in 2006 before spending a six-month placement with Fasig Tipton Co in Lexington, Kentucky and returning to Hawick for a full-time role in January 2007. I started auctioneering in May of the same year and have been a regular member of the Goffs UK inspection team since returning on a full-time basis.
I was appointed to the Goffs UK Board in April 2009 and relocated to Lambourn in June 2011 when Goffs UK opened an office in the South of England. This move allowed the Goffs UK team to have regular interaction with clients in this area whilst helping to increase the number of customers who travel from the South of England to buy or sell at any of the Goffs sales.
I was appointed as Managing Director of Goffs UK from 1 January 2020 and relocated to the Scottish Borders to work full time from the Hawick office. I really wanted this new role and had to go through an interview process with a panel from Goffs and I was delighted when Henry Beeby gave me this opportunity. Because I’ve been there for quite some time, there really isn’t any need for major change but there is always room for small tweaks to try and make our working lives more efficient.
Therefore, the new role is trying to continue what I was doing before but comes with an increased level of responsibility and a new set of challenges which I’m excited about. But my colleagues have been a huge support and many have taken on some of the tasks that I was doing previously and I hope that this provides an opportunity for us all to continue building the successes of Goffs.
Goffs UK’s year started on a strong note with Keskonrisk setting a new sale record of £370,000 at the January Sale. That must seem like a lifetime ago with everything that has happened since?
It does seem like a very long time ago! It was extremely rewarding, and we are hugely grateful to Timmy Hyde for giving us the chance to sell him, but I will admit to a certain amount of relief when the hammer came down at that price!
However, it wasn’t just the top price that we were delighted about. The trade for the NH Mares and Foals on day one was fantastic which is something that we can build again next year whilst the general Horses in Training trade was very strong for what was offered.
As Nick Nugent quite rightly said, my biggest challenge following that sale was to ensure that I don’t end up with the profile of a horse who posts a lofty Timeform rating on debut before tailing off in subsequent runs but I don’t think that anyone could have predicted what would happen next.
“There is always room for small tweaks to try and make our working lives more efficient”
Back in March when everything was shutting down, did you ever envisage your breeze-up sale holding up as well as it did? Was there a moment when you wondered if the breeze-up sales would even take place?
For everyone at Goffs, we were always going to hold the sale as there were many clients who were relying on us in order to continue trading but, as has been well reported, what we delivered was not what we had on the table in March. However, it was a case of ‘not if but when’ and we had to be patient which is not something that comes naturally to me.
In hindsight, this approach worked well and what we delivered managed to far exceed our expectations which was a pleasant surprise for us all. It was a huge team effort to hold the sale but the real credit must lie with the vendors. They were extremely supportive during the planning of the sale and managed to keep those horses in top form for an extra two months before selling.
Many had resisted the temptation to sell privately and instead showed huge faith in what we’re doing, only to be well rewarded as a result. We have already seen some very good winners come from this sale, including [Molecomb Stakes winner] Steel Bull, which is the ultimate result for us all and proves that we are nothing without our vendors. This has never been more evident than in the months leading up to the sale, meaning that we are indebted to them for their loyalty.
And what do you attribute that market resilience to?
It is difficult to attribute this to one factor. Before lockdown, we knew that we had a good catalogue and we would have been confident about the sale in any other year. We had also seen some of the horses being aimed at the Arqana sale and knew that they were likely to have a strong group of horses.
As it turned out, this was an amalgamation of two first choice sales which was not the case at other European breeze-up sales and I think this worked in our favour.
As we said beforehand, the original (Doncaster) and the best (Arqana) came together and the result was trade that managed to outperform any similar sales in Europe this year which was hugely satisfying for the entire Goffs team and made the hard work even more rewarding.
Having said that, they were very nice horses who were expertly prepared so vendors deserved to get well paid but that does not mean that it will happen automatically. I think that there were many factors for the success of the sale but the main one was the quality of the catalogue and this is something that we will all to have focus on with the upcoming sales.
The collaboration with Arqana also looked to go very well. How did that come about and is the door now open for you to do it again?
Henry Beeby, Nick Nugent and I had been discussing the different options for this sale and we all agreed that combining with Arqana might be a sensible solution, but it was very much a passing comment. Henry then spoke to Eric Hoyeau who laughed when Henry suggested it and said that he had been discussing something similar with Freddie Powell.
We then had various Zoom meetings with the Arqana team and it quickly became apparent that we were all trying to achieve the same thing and because of this, it was a straightforward process to merge the two sales. The move to Doncaster was made at a later date but it was done for the right reasons and we all really enjoyed working with the Arqana team whilst it was great that [Arqana auctioneer] Ludovic Cornuel was able to be on the rostrum in Doncaster. It was an enjoyable process and I think that both teams learned from the other so I hope that there are positives to be taken out of this in addition to the results achieved at the sale.
If you’d asked this question at the beginning of the year, I would have said that we would never be holding sales with our competitors but we’ve now held the successful Goffs Arqana Breeze-Up Sale and worked with Tattersalls to find a solution for the Store Sales so I won’t say that it will never happen again but we’re not discussing anything at this stage.
This year could throw up another scenario where it may be necessary to work together, so we will just have to work with what’s presented to us and hope that we can get back to ‘normal’ in 2021.
“It was a huge team effort to hold the breeze-up sale but the real credit must lie with the vendors”
Obviously, the situation emphasised the need for an online bidding facility, which you rolled out very quickly – how was it received and are you starting to see increased use of it?
Michael Orton has been the key man for Goffs online and developed this system in conjunction with several of the team on both sides of the Irish Sea so any credit must go to him. He spent the entirety of lockdown working with our IT contractors to build this system, which was not straightforward, but did a fantastic job to deliver in time for the Breeze Up Sale.
Michael’s work was instantly rewarded with 16 horses selling for just over £450,000 with a top price of £110,000. We also had 13 horses where the underbidder was online whilst there were over 300 bids placed online for 79 lots, with buyers successfully based in Dubai, USA, Scandinavia, Italy, France and the UK.
The success rolled over to the Summer Sale were 80 lots had online bids and 13 horses sold to online buyers. We also saw several six figure bids from online customers so we feel that the technology has been embraced by the bloodstock world and will only become more popular.
All sectors of the Summer Sale appeared to hold up well. Were you pleased with how it performed and what did you make of the market overall?
We were delighted. The sale started really well on Monday and that seemed to set the tone for the next two days; with a strong trade for the Stores on Tuesday followed by some spirited bidding at all levels of the market for Horses in Training on Wednesday.
The obvious highlight was the Million In Mind dispersal, which managed to achieve the second highest price in their history with a bid of £400,000, and we are indebted to Anthony Bromley and David Minton for their continued commitment to the sales at Doncaster.
It is always a privilege to offer their draft and it is wonderful to be able to achieve this result for them and their investors. It is also reassuring to see that sort of money being spent on horses at this time and I’m sure that these results will help to reassure vendors and purchasers who will be trading later in the year.
You took the decision to push back the Premier Sale – can you tell us the reasoning behind that and the response?
There are is no doubt that the ‘Donny yearling’ has evolved in recent years but we are still selecting horses that will be running as two-year-olds. The only thing that has changed is that we are increasingly selling a ‘better’ two-year-old that will continue his/her career into their Classic year and beyond, and this has led to an increase in prices at this sale as showcased by the Kingman colt [who made £440,000 to MV Magnier] last year.
We are always looking to grow the profile of this sale and have managed to secure some fantastic horses to sell this year. The 2020 catalogue includes full or half siblings to some of the recent headline horses including A’Ali, Ventura Tormenat and Yafta so the quality is every bit as good as before.
“We will just have to work with what’s presented to us and hope that we can get back to ‘normal’ in 2021”
The Yorton Sale was a welcome addition to the sales calendar. Were you pleased with how it was received, and can you see more scope for growth when it comes to this type of sale?
We were very pleased with this sale and we hope that this can grow each year. The concept came about after an approach from David Futter and the credit must go to him and his team who sourced these horses and allowed us to stage a sale in wonderful surroundings where there is no end of enthusiasm for NH breeding.
There is always room for improvement in any sale and we have catalogued 48 horses in 2020 with an additional selection of yearlings as feedback from last year was that the pinhookers wanted more horses from this category. George Stanners and Stuart Mactaggart have been liaising with the Yorton team and have viewed all of the horses with David and his team. They are confident that they are a better bunch than the first year so I’m looking forward to continuing this unique concept in stunning surroundings.
Give us a Goffs UK graduate to keep an eye on for the rest of the season?
Method was bought for £20,000 from Whatton Manor Stud (one of Freddie Player’s pinhooks) and looks like a horse to keep an eye on. Advertise has already provided Martyn Meade with Group 1 success from the Premier Sale and this horse looks like he could be another flag bearer for his Manton based team.
Otherwise, I will be keeping an eye on an unraced horse called Fine Casting. I’ve been good friends with Ben Pauling for a very long time and, together with Tessa Greatrex, he bought the son of Shantou from John Dwan for £75,000 at the Spring Store Sale. Ben says he’s going very well at home and the jockeys are saying the right things, so I hope that this gets transferred to the racecourse. I’d be very pleased if we were able to celebrate a good horse with Ben and his team.