'It's been great to see all the sales companies working together'
Industry figures tell us how they are managing in self-isolation
Bloodstock agent Richard Knight 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 at the moment?
Lockdown life has clearly been very different to normal but in many ways we're enjoying this time and embracing it as a family.
We're very fortunate to be based near Malmesbury in the south-west of the UK and we're surrounded by fields and woodland which gives great scope for dog walking, running and cycling without seeing another soul.
Outside of work we've really enjoyed the good weather days and the garden has certainly appreciated the extra care and attention – all being well the early new potatoes will be ready for the start of Royal Ascot!
With no racing or sales in Europe at present, your scope to do business must be limited. What have you been doing instead?
As racing manager to Hussain Alabbas Lootah and to Sheikh Abdullah Al-Malek Al-Sabah, work has largely continued as normal.
I manage 40 horses in training on their behalf and Mr Lootah has eight broodmares and their followers, so there's been plenty to keep me busy between checking invoices, liaising with trainers, stud farms, vets, stallion farms and so on.
Never has there been a more important time for progress notes and updates and thankfully all the trainers and studs have been great with WhatsApp and email photo/video messages.
Outside of this there have been late mating plans and nomination bookings, and I've also taken the time to speak with a few breeze-up consignors to discuss their consignments and I'm in the process of putting together a list of which horses make the most appeal based on pedigrees, photos, video and vendor opinions.
What's your view on online sales, if they had to happen in Europe this year?
I think it would depend on the type of sale and what additional information can be supplied by vendors and sales companies.
For example, I would be happier to purchase a horse-in-training online, with form in the book and a detailed vet report, than I would a foal or yearling. For me, seeing those foals and yearlings is absolutely critical so that I can make a judgement on conformation, athleticism and temperament.
If the online yearling sales do have to happen then it will be hugely important to get around as many studs as possible in the weeks leading up to the sales – that will inevitably leave gaps and won’t be an ideal scenario, but we will have to work with the hand we're dealt.
The North American Jockey Club livened up lockdown by announcing the 140-mare stallion cap – would you welcome a similar move in Europe?
There are pros and cons, and if I owned or managed this year’s 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes winner then I would be saying no – but then the other side of me says that 140 is a large book of mares and setting a limit will not only be good for the breed but also give other stallions more of a chance of success.
From my experience many stallions self-limit due to a lack of demand and many self-limit due to their inability to cover large books of mares – perhaps overall I'm swaying to leaving it as it is, especially in the current business climate.
Ultimately, if you don’t like how many mares a stallion is covering then don’t use them and instead find another stallion that you believe in.
What's your best guess on what will happen to the market this year, and how long it will take to recover?
Clearly the market will be down but I still expect the fastest breezers to sell well, the top stores to sell well and the best yearlings, foals and mares to follow suit.
Personally, I've been pleasantly surprised over the last couple of months by the number of phone calls and emails from new clients looking for all types of bloodstock, from National Hunt stores to pinhooking Flat foals, and that has to be good for us all.
Do you think there will be any positives to come out of the crisis eventually?
It's been great to see the sales companies working together and I'm very much looking forward to the joint Goffs UK and Arqana breeze-up sale.
My family and I have also thoroughly enjoyed Racing Welfare's Furlong Factor competition – congratulations to Lara Telfer and all those who took part.
The use of online meeting platforms like Zoom are another success and will mean less travelling and a better environmental footprint for many who travel to business meetings that on occasions could be done from home.
I hope that the key positive for the future is that with everyone missing racing as much as we have, that we will all appreciate our core product more and work together to both protect and improve the industry.
Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?
It's been mostly about light-hearted entertainment in our household to balance the daily coronavirus news and we've enjoyed Modern Family on Amazon and Gordon, Gino and Fred on ITV.
What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?
There's so much to look forward to and these first few weeks are going to be very exciting. To potentially have Guineas weekend, Royal Ascot plus plenty of two-year-old races all within 21 days is great and will hopefully give everyone a boost.
From a personal perspective I enjoyed a great 2019 on the track with six black-type winners (five of the six cost less than £55,000) and five of those six remain in training for 2020.
Both Mr Lootah and Sheikh Abdullah have some really exciting prospects and I also can’t wait to see the winners roll out of Rathmoy Stables in Newmarket where my brother William is now training from.
On the National Hunt side of the industry I'm excited to see my first foal purchase sell – a Flemensfirth gelding out of Muance owned and prepared by Park Wood Stud near Tetbury. He has grown into a big, strong, quality gelding with a great walk and a super temperament.
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