Big gains and bigger ideas one year on from Brightwells merger
Location key to selling the dream of Cheltenham and Ascot winners
Today's Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham November Sale marks a year since the company staged a major sale formerly run by Brightwells.
November 2015 was a hectic month for Tattersalls Ireland; the Competition and Markets Authority had given permission for its takeover of Brightwells Bloodstock Sales in mid-October and it was all hands on deck as the first Ascot and Cheltenham sales to be staged under its banner loomed large on a horizon dominated by the behemoth November National Hunt Sale.
Tattersalls Ireland director Richard Pugh, who oversees the Ascot and Cheltenham operation, has had time to reflect on the first year in operation.
“We had a very short lead in time as the Ascot November Sale took place within a month of us getting permission to take over Brightwells,” he says. “We had to set up new offices, integrate the Brightwells team with our own, get a catalogue together and printed, so it was quite intense.
“What we sell is a high-value product and people expect high values in return from us, so at the very least we wanted to add to the work that Brightwells did and build on that.”
With four sales to run last November it was a stressful start for the newly merged company but, looking back on that time, Pugh is happy with how it was handled.
“Given the lead-in time, I would have settled for how things went for us if it was presented to me at the start,” he says. “It was a tough year for everybody involved and I'm very proud of the work done by everyone.”
Considering his background and involvement in point-to-pointing, Pugh produces a surprise answer when asked what he most looks forward to in the future of Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham and Ascot Sales.
“The Ascot Breeze-Up Sale, even for a National Hunt man, is the sale I’m relishing most,” he remarks. “Our goal last year was to replicate the Brightwells model but over the next year there will be plenty of changes to venues and sales. I think that sale is the one we can bring the most to.”
Pugh cites an example from 2014 as an illustration of what Tattersalls wants to achieve with the breeze-up. The Wow Signal was sold at the track in April before going on to win the Coventry Stakes two months later at Royal Ascot.
It happens more regularly at Cheltenham, where horses who have been through the ring for the select sales the company runs at the track return to win at the Festival. Moon Racer, for example, went through the Tattersalls Ireland ring as a store and won the €100,000 sales bumper at Fairyhouse before he was sold for £225,000 to David Pipe at Cheltenham in April 2014. He won the Champion Bumper at the Festival the following March.
The idea that you can come to the track and buy a racehorse who can later return there and win at one of the sport’s iconic meetings is what Tattersalls Ireland wants to promote for Ascot’s Breeze-Up Sale.
Pugh explains: “We want to bring that sense of 'this is where you want to be' to the Ascot Sale, so that owners and trainers realise you can buy a two-year-old there and race and win at Royal Ascot. We want more stories like The Wow Signal.”
The convenient location of both Ascot and Cheltenham and the ease with which trainers can get to sales at both venues is another reason for their success, Pugh feels. Ascot is less than half an hour from Heathrow so trainers can supervise first lot at the Curragh, drive to the airport, catch their flight, get to the sales and be home in time for bed again.
Cheltenham also has an ideal location near Bristol and Birmingham airports and sales start time of 12 or 1pm with a finish of 4pm are fixed with convenience in mind.
The success of the sales in such a short period of time is something the company is keen to emphasise.
“We sold 250 lots at Cheltenham last year. At other sales, like the upcoming November Sale, we can sell more than that in a day so it is phenomenal how much Cheltenham has achieved in selling Moon Racer, Minella Rocco, God’s Own, Tiger Roll, Lord Windermere and many more Graded winners besides them without the same level of history that other sales have.”
Of course, it is not all about the six-figure purchases as Pugh is keen to point out. Part of Tattersalls Ireland's vision for Cheltenham sales is to convince owners and trainers that there are less expensive quality lots on offer.
Same Circus won her point-to-point in May and three weeks later she was the first lot through the ring at Cheltenham, selling to Donald McCain and Tom Malone for £10,000. At the start of October, she won her bumper first time out.
Pugh highlights the mare as a sign that more people understand that the boutique sales at Cheltenham are not only for the high-rollers.
“It encourages me a lot to see the diversity of trainers coming to the sale and when you see horses in the £10,000-£40,000 category doing well, it's very rewarding,” Pugh explains. “We cover a vast number of the big owners but we want smaller owners to realise we cater for them too.”
Perhaps those owners and trainers with less deep pockets will be encouraged to play at Cheltenham today.