'It's difficult to plan sales when we don't know when racing will resume'
Industry members tell us how they are managing in self-isolation
Goffs UK managing director Tim Kent tells us about how he is managing – both personally and professionally – with the UK and Irish governments' lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
How is life at Goffs UK ticking over?
Ticking over is a good way to describe it. At this time of year, the Goffs UK team would normally be busy sourcing horses for our Aintree Sale while advertising the merits of the Breeze-Up Sale to buyers and finalising the catalogue for our Spring Store Sale.
The same is true of the Goffs team, who would normally be finalising entries and inspections for the two-day Land Rover Sale, so this is a huge change for us all.
I'm in constant contact with Henry Beeby to ensure that the Goffs group is able to work with all clients and make contingency plans for all of the sales (although we have lost Aintree) but that is very difficult when we don’t know when racing will resume or when we will be able to gather large groups of people.
Having said that, we are all in the same situation and all of our clients have been very constructive when looking at alternative plans.
It’s times like this that put our work in to perspective and highlights the fact that our own health and that of our friends and family is more important than anything else.
Racing will resume and we will be ready to hold sales at that point but we must remember that there are so many people who are enduring worse times than ourselves so we must think of these people plus the NHS who are working tirelessly to help us all. They are the priority at this stage and we must keep ticking over and be ready to go when it is safe to do so.
What are you doing differently in the office to deal with coronavirus and the lockdown?
The offices in Hawick and Kildare are closed and we're all working from home, which is something very new to us. In the past, I've been very dismissive of any online meeting platforms but we've been forced to utilise these over the last few weeks and I have to admit that they are actually very good!
I didn’t know much about Zoom or Microsoft Teams before now but they're very useful and I’m sure that we will all be utilising them in the future so something positive will have come from this.
This means that we can continue to work and, so far, the morale among the teams has been excellent so I hope that this continues and it’s just a case of doing all the jobs that need doing while making use of the additional time available to us to catch up on those jobs that sometimes get parked to one side when we’re too busy.
What's the latest on the Goffs UK sale schedule for the months ahead? Presumably with so much uncertainty it is a headache trying to plan...
A headache is a very good way of describing the current situation but there are many other impolite terms that have been used among colleagues over the past few weeks!
It’s very difficult to plan when we don’t yet know when racing will resume and how that will take place. As I said before, we have already lost our Aintree Sale. The Breeze-Up Sale catalogue is out and we know that we won't be able to hold it on the original April dates so revised dates have been announced subject to what the BHA are able to do with Royal Ascot.
We received a positive response after this announcement from vendors who welcomed the clarity as two-year-olds have a very specific period where their value is highest and we must try and get this right for all involved.
Our view is that National Hunt racing will be the last to resume and three-year-old stores have a longer sales 'shelf life' than some of the other categories. We have therefore announced that we will delay the Spring and Land Rover Sales to the last week in July and first week in August respectively.
We just have to hope that we're a bit closer to ‘normal’ by that point and we must remember that it wasn’t long ago that the best stores used to be sold in August anyway. The reaction to the change of dates has been welcomed by several significant vendors and purchasers.
Travel restrictions must have also disrupted the team's inspection of stock and international marketing trips?
All trips have basically been cancelled. We had planned to sponsor a few races in Scandinavia in advance of the Breeze-Up Sale and [Goffs UK marketing director] Michael Orton had done one of three trips to this area before the lockdown but these have been cancelled.
The same is true of Italy. We had planned to sponsor three races and, again, Michael was due to attend. Due to the prevalence of Covid-19 over there, these were cancelled before Michael began his travel.
I went to Dubai for Super Saturday which was the first high-profile race meeting to be run behind closed doors and everything has ground to a halt since then.
Having said that, our store inspections have been done and no trainers will be looking to restock at this point so, until then, we’re not losing out but it will present challenges when trying to look at yearlings in the coming months.
When the times comes, we will have to follow government guidelines regarding movement and visiting farms. The situation is evolving very quickly so it's too soon to make any definitive plans for yearling inspections at this stage, but we're hopeful we can start visiting farms in May.
On a personal level, how are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?
I haven’t had time to get bored just yet. There is plenty to try and organise so that we're ready to go when conditions allow and that's our priority at this stage.
We still have our office in Lambourn and, although I’ve sold my house, the paperwork is being finalised and we’ve not exchanged the keys so I’m working from the Lambourn office and still living in my house, which makes things easier as I don’t yet have a house in the Hawick area.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, I had been training for the London Marathon as I had been given a place as part of the Racing Welfare team. I still plan to run this later in the year.
I also enjoy Triathlon (although they’ve also been cancelled) and have been doing as much training as I can because it's good for me both physically and mentally.
Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?
I was a Netflix subscriber for a while but found that I didn’t have time to watch anything so cancelled it, but I've recently taken out another subscription. I've started watching Narcos again and it's very good but it won’t be long until I’ve got through all three series so I would happily take any recommendations on that front.
Without any racing or rugby on, I can’t really recommend anything as I don’t watch much TV but I have just started reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.
It had been recommended to me and it’s early days but, from what I’ve read so far, I think it will be very good.
What is the availability of groceries and essential products around you like?
So far, there haven’t been any huge issues. The Co-op in Lambourn has been stretched and the larger supermarkets in Wantage have been the same but I needed to eat everything in my freezer before I moved so I’m using this as an opportunity to do just that.
Having said that, I’m now getting to a stage where I don’t recognise some of the things at the bottom of the freezer so the next few weeks could be interesting!
What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?
I’m looking forward to getting back to normal but that might take a while. I’m really looking forward to seeing my colleagues in person rather than in a digital format and I can’t wait to go racing and see everyone involved. I’m particularly looking forward to visiting farms and looking at yearlings with breeders.
Having said that, we're selling the dream when selling all racing stock so I’m really looking forward to getting back to a stage where the dream is alive and our clients can be positive about the racing product.
This might take some time and it's unlikely to be a simple process that enables us to get to this stage but I’m sure that we will all emerge much stronger and more grateful for what we have when it returns. That's what I am looking forward to most.
Read our Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures