'We'll need to strengthen the way we showcase young stock in future'
Bloodstock figures tell us how they are managing in self-isolation
Stud owner, consignor and TBA board member Ted Voute tells us about how he is managing – both personally and professionally – with the Europe-wide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus
As a TBA board member you've been working on the association's response to Covid-19. What's the latest on this?
The protocol developed by the TBA in response to the industry’s desire to maintain a healthy breeding industry was very quickly implemented, with across the board support from the stallion studs, mare owners and transporters, and above all the stud staff who made it a reality in practice.
Personally I found many stallion studs' updates to their protocol and the necessary forms appeared on websites pre-signed, with one extra piece of paper needing to be filled in electronically and added.
The swiftness of the TBA put the industry on a solid footing with the government and has realistically kept the breeding sheds open. I suspect some kind of advice will be given once we transition back to our new normal life to cover visitors to stud farms for animal inspections and to sales companies regarding sales.
Do you think market anxiety or more physical obstacles related to lockdown will see some breeders not cover their mares this year?
I can only talk from personal experience and none of the clients we look after are changing mating plans decided in January unless a stallion has had an unrelated issue preventing them from covering.
As a leading consignor, what's your view on online sales, if they had to happen in Europe this year?
I'm not involved in the breeze-ups other than in a purchasing capacity occasionally, but I do think they will be the innovators in increasing the platforms in use by this autumn.
Life will never be quite the same for the breeding industry, as it won't be for anyone in the UK. Some changes might be for the better and some will be a result of practices put in place to help industries continue while vaccines and enhanced treatments are found and life reverts to a new normal.
The announcement that some sales companies will develop online and phone bidding is a positive move in my view.
Moving entirely online is not necessary and we should endeavour to copy Bonhams or Christie's, where they have several platforms in operation during the auction. They could include direct phone-in bidding, live internet bidding and remote bidding – bidding from Fairyhouse for a Newmarket auction, for example.
We'll need to strengthen the way we showcase yearlings and foals to include more video footage and pictures and possibly more due diligence which would mirror the Goffs London Sale, which has been selling racehorses in absentia for a number of years.
Some things will work and others won't, we will have to see. As to whether we should have online sales if needs must, I think if we do we should start with a mares' sale and see how that goes, but I'm not against mirroring Inglis Easter [held online-only with no horses on site] if it had industry support.
You co-founded Buyanom, the online nomination trading site. How is that going, and has this crisis made you think it might be worth expanding into trading horses or other services?
We've seen a surge of contract exchanges during the lockdown but that has coincided with people’s realisation that come mid-June there will be no income at all if they aren’t sold. So it’s difficult to say that Covid-19 has had an effect on the sale of nominations.
I think there's a place for bloodstock agents and a place for an electronic platform and if we can tweak certain areas on the site and evolve to the industry's satisfaction it could easily become the trading medium everyone uses.
Covid-19 has suddenly made many people more IT savvy with companies like Zoom, whom no one had heard of at Christmas time, becoming a household and office name by Easter.
Do you think there will be any positives to come out of the crisis eventually?
The process we will all have to endure in extracting ourselves from lockdown, while abiding by ongoing government guidelines, will ultimately change what we do forever.
Thinking out loud, how are we going to ensure social distancing can be maintained by stalls handlers at race meetings? Will we be able to book B&Bs for our staff at the sales?
Buyers staying in hotels and even getting on planes to come to Newmarket all need their own risk assessment and new rules will be written to change the way we approach every situation.
I do think it will slow us all down and make us consider the way we approach everything we do around sales and horses. There are parts of the industry that can migrate to the internet but so much is about feel and temperament, making its replication online a challenge.
On a personal level, how are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?
Our house numbers four of us: myself, my wife Gaynor and daughters Amelia (12) and Jordan (29). It's been long dog walks around the farm and the obligatory planting of tomato plants, flowers and salad seeds for a colourful summer eating salad!
I've been making sourdough bread, which I haven’t mastered yet, and plenty of cakes and brownies. Puzzles have been popular and Netflix is a saviour.
A few projects have been started in the office in order for us to be ready when we're eventually able to visit yards and studs to find horses to race abroad or build a consignment.
We've also updated our website to incorporate search engine optimisation and social media campaigns.
Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?
On my desk are Monsieur X: The Incredible Story of the Most Audacious Gambler in History, by Jamie Reid; William Hill: The Man and the Business, by Graham Sharpe; Horses and Husbands: The Memoirs of Etti Plesch; and No Dress Rehearsal: The Life and Times of Charles Cyzer, by Charles Cyzer.
What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?
Retaining some of the best races across Europe will be key on so many levels, from following managed bloodstock to following graduates of the farm, and to avoid the loss of pedigree updates for stock and the lack of a true test for the first-season sires.
A delayed two-year-old programme will be essential for the investors in the business to sell on before the yearling sales.
On a personal level, Make Believe [raced by Voute's client Prince Faisal] has had a very good start as a sire and I'm looking forward to his first crop of three-year-olds, particularly Mishriff, who was second in Saudi Arabia in February, and Listed scorer Tammani.
I also hope Belardo’s first crop of two-year-olds will carry on the involvement I have with the Shamardal sire line [Voute sold champion Shamardal as a yearling at Tattersalls].
I bought only one yearling last year, called Clear Angel who is in training with Andre Fabre and we're hopeful will be a nice prospect, and I'm also looking forward to the reappearance of a breeze-up purchase called Tamniah who has already won a Group 3.
Read more Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures