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'Stallion masters will have to look at dropping fees'

Industry figures tell us how they are managing in self-isolation

Oliver St Lawrence: looking forward to the return of Daahyeh
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Bloodstock agent and FBA chairman Oliver St Lawrence tells us about how he is managing – both personally and professionally – with the Europe-wide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus

How is life ticking over for you, how has life changed due to Covid-19 and lockdown?

I have really enjoyed working from home and spending more time with my family. It turns out they're not a bad bunch after all!

With a laptop, printer and a good internet connection, it's amazing how much I can get done without being in my office. I'm getting itchy feet to get going again, though.

With no racing or sales in Europe at present, your scope to do business must be limited. What are you doing instead?

I have actually stayed pretty busy liaising between owners, trainers, breeders and studs, overseeing Aislabie Stud plus my stallion nominations business.

I've been helping stallion shareholders sell unused nominations they have spare which has proven to be productive for all with over 200 nominations traded.

As Chairman of the FBA (Federation of Bloodstock Agents) we have had our AGM and council meetings online by Zoom, which has been a novel experience for me.

What's your view on online sales, if they had to happen in Europe this year?

If they had to happen online then we will have to cope but it is not a prospect I look forward to. Judging horses off a video will be challenging but I’m sure we’ll learn to adapt.

We at the FBA have tried to be constructive and suggest to the sales houses a few criteria and protocols for the breeze-up sales when videoing and vetting that will make it less tricky to evaluate individuals.

I’m sure we will refine this for other types of sales as the year moves on, if required. If those criteria can be achieved and if everything is available in as transparent and open a way as possible then hopefully buyers will have the confidence to participate.

What vibes are you getting from clients about their participation in the industry in the short term?

I rarely have clients with big budgets at the breeze-up sales and my main client, Fawzi Nass, bought plenty of yearlings last season, so I’m not expecting to be troubling the top echelons of the market.

I expect I’ll have a few smaller orders when things become clearer. Yearling sale orders will partially depend on what happens on the racecourse before then, so let us hope some of the horses that have fuelled my extended winter dreams dash to glory when racing is up and running again.

What's your best guess on what will happen to the market this year, and how long it will take to recover?

I'm naturally cautious and I’m afraid I think a vaccine is a few years away but hopefully drugs that control the insidious effects of Covid-19 will be identified soon.

Unfortunately some owners will inevitably not be able to continue supporting our great product, so the market will undoubtedly suffer. Hopefully it will be a manageable dip and breeders and pinhookers will be able to continue to trade. We’ve had some good years so with luck we can all survive to fight another day.

Do you think there will be any positive consequences to come out of the crisis eventually?

I think that all sections of the industry have shown a willingness to pull together and help each other in these strange times. Hopefully that spirit of cooperation can carry forward.

Stallion masters have rarely been generous in their pricing of stallions and they will have to seriously look at dropping stallion fees for 2021 for all but a very few.

Depending on the size of the dip in the yearling market, I think there's a case for stallion masters to relook at 2020 contract prices after evaluating the autumn sales results.

Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?

I have always loved a good relaxing TV programme (Killing Eve etc) after supper but have not found the time, or inclination, to switch the box on during the day. A good fiction read (John Grisham et al) helps me get to sleep.

What are you most looking forward to when racing and life return to normal?

I do miss being able to go out to dinner with friends as Zoom drinks is a poor substitute. The fevered anticipation for the start of grass racing is even more heightened this year with the season starting with a bang and continuing at that lofty mid-season level rather than the stuttering slow start in a normal year.

Not being on course and being distant from connections will make any big winner hard to celebrate and really savour. I do hope racecourses allow extra filming etc for connections so that owners can still get as much of a buzz as possible from each runner, however lowly.

Hopefully Group 3 Albany and Group 2 Rockfel Stakes winner Daahyeh will return better than ever whilst being supported by the beautifully bred Frankel filly Queen Daenerys, who has filled out her considerable frame since finishing a respectable sixth in the Group 1 Fillies' Mile last autumn.


Read more Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures

Ian Bradbury: 'I'm fortunate to have a young, enthusiastic and talented team'

Mathilde Texier: 'Curbs on travel are greatly limiting the scope of my work'

Richard Knight: 'It's been great to see the sales companies work together'

Tony Fry: 'Would I buy a horse over the internet? I must admit I wouldn't'

Ed Harper: 'Our stud secretary says clients have never been so organised'

Adrian O'Brien: 'There are plenty of reasons to maintain a spring in the step'

Billy Jackson Stops: 'The buying bench is going to be heavily depleted'

Alex Elliott: 'Cooking and cycling were two things I never thought I could do'

Joey Cullen: 'Racing has the chance to showcase itself to a captive audience'

Claire Sheppard: 'The TBA had to move quickly to save the covering season'

Tomas Janda: 'Lower prices could encourage new buyers to get involved'

Matt Hall: 'Films are a waste of time – I watch festival replays instead'

Tom Goff: 'I've painted two garden seats. God, I sound so middle-aged!'

Simon Sweeting: 'Rightly or wrongly I'm having all my mares covered'

Richard Kent: 'Stud fees and sales house charges will have to come down'

Philippa Mains: 'The industry is a family and we help each other out'

Claire Goodwillie: 'People have realised if you're not online you're invisible'

Tina Rau: 'I'm enjoying post-dinner quarantinis with friends over video call'

Daniel Creighton: 'The market will recover – the only question is when'

Ed Player: 'We're happy to move with the times and embrace online trading'

Patrick Sells: 'Chasemore Farm is effectively operating in a bubble'

Chad Schumer: 'Racing in the US being cancelled is the biggest frustration'

Tom Blain: 'Trade will be down but all we can do is roll with the punches'

Ted Voute: 'We'll need to strengthen the way we showcase young stock'

Simon Kerins: 'We'll embrace any format that will help get horses sold'

Barry Lynch: 'The industry has often bounced back as quickly as it dipped'

Tim Lane: 'Working with horses does you the world of good in these times'

Jerry Horan: 'My sister butchered my haircut. I think it was payback'

Violet Hesketh and Mimi Wadham: 'Social distancing isn't hard - just lonely!'

Henry Beeby: 'Nick Nugent and I have entered a beard growing competition'

Charles O'Neill: 'ITM will be ready to go when the markets open up again'

Freddy Powell: 'We're improving our online sale platform in case it's needed'

Bumble Mitchell: 'Online sales could be tricky for outlying studs like mine'

David Stack: 'I had to give a garda a lesson about the birds and the bees'

Colm Sharkey: 'I've been torturing myself trying to sort out my golf swing'

Rachael Gowland: 'I didn't realise how much I loved racing until I couldn't go'

Sam Hoskins: 'I've been listening to endless Cold War podcasts on my tractor'

Niamh Spiller: 'Video calls are very important to keep everyone motivated'

Jamie Lloyd: 'Staff have had all their own gear labelled, even wheelbarrows'

Micheál Orlandi: 'The stallions are flying and that gives me great hope'

Richard Venn: 'The French are in a good position to get back racing sooner'

Tim Kent: 'It's difficult to plan when we don't know when racing will resume'

Russell Ferris: 'Weatherbys had contingency plans that we activated at once'

Grant and Tom Pritchard-Gordon: 'Inglis Easter has kept us busy since January'

Peter Hockenhull: 'The social side of meeting and chatting to breeders is gone'

Polly Bonnor: 'We've fulfilled every feed order, including all our exports'

Richard Lancaster: 'We're fortunate that some Shadwell staff live on site'

 

I do miss being able to go out to dinner with friends as Zoom drinks is a poor substitute
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