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Breeze-up vendors getting to grips with online marketing in lockdown

How consignors are adapting to promoting their lots in strange times

Goffs UK and Arqana breeze-ups are set to take place in Ireland on June 29 and June 30
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The merging of the Goffs UK and Arqana breeze-ups to take place in Ireland on June 29 and June 30 is welcome news for the breeze-up industry. The consignors, who still face a great deal of uncertainty, at least now have some targets to aim at. 

Travel restrictions have impeded the normal viewing process before a sale, and it may impact the number of buyers onsite come sale day. The recent online Inglis Easter Sale was largely deemed a success but many of those yearlings were already familiar to the agents and racing was still going ahead behind closed doors.

Breeze-up consignors have therefore had to adapt and create online content for their lots, that which agents and prospective buyers would seek if physically viewing the horse. Websites developed recently, such as Katie Walsh’s for her Greenhills Farm, shows insight into a horse’s conformation, disposition and action for potential buyers through a high-quality video. 

Star Bloodstock have also provided comprehensive video content for each of their two-year-olds for potential clients, available to view on their website and Twitter. Matt Eves, a director of Star Bloodstock, is keen to get as much information out there as he can.

“Last year, we were one of the only consignors that put something up on a website," he said. "It benefits buyers from overseas countries like Dubai, for example, who can’t physically make it to the sale. We’ve sent a mailshot out to a couple of hundred people. It has received strong engagements, suggesting there is a lot of interest still in breezers.

“We've put a profile of every horse, which includes a shot and video of when we bought the horse as a yearling along with a recent video by Laragh de Burgh. Her 360-degree video covers the side and rear views, as well as the horse walking away and towards the camera to assess conformation. We would also provide weight and height of our lots on request.” 

Buying horses is different to buying standard goods. They are living creatures and every horse is different. Most people would be hesitant to buy a horse online without seeing it, at least without an expert opinion.

Star Bloodstock will be making it as easy as possible for those experts to become informed, by sending all their horses to sale with a full set of x-rays and a video endoscopy. “Our approach is that the more information for the buyer, the better,” said Eves. “If you want someone to buy, you’ve got to be straight.” 

Agents need to be as well informed as possible, as Johnny Hassett of the Bloodstock Connection explained.

“The trouble is people will pick a TV or BMW and spend good money on it but to buy a racehorse you need a lot more info," he said. "This is why we need to support the agents more than ever. 

“We are nothing without agents. They are the link between us and the world economy. They travel across the world meeting clients who will buy our product. It’s very likely that the end users won’t be allowed to go, and likely that it will be just the agents.”

Hassett has joined other consignors in creating an online presence for his draft to inform potential buyers to coincide with his thought-provoking Twitter video blog.

“My marketing is different now,” Hassett said. “Where I go all out for a good lad showing the horse, who costs 180 a day plus flights and accommodation etc, you could now say that that money would be spent equally well on camerawork. I recently spent €1,500 on a camera and lens. Now I have a website. But I’m still figuring all of it out.” 

Jim McCartan of Gaybrook Lodge Stud is now in the process of uploading promotional content for his consignment, and even amid the global pandemic he has still had potential buyers enquiring about his lots.

“I believe the amalgamation of Goffs UK and Arqana will probably work and be achievable," he said. "We haven’t done a lot of promotion to date because we didn’t have a firm date. Now we have that firm date, we have produced videos of our horses and we’re in the process of uploading them to our website, breezeup.com. 

“People are just going to have to do more direct marketing to try and make it as easy as possible for agents. We’re hoping that they will be able to either see them on the farm or at the sales prior to bidding. 

“We’ve had a few enquiries about our horses so, although the level of trade won’t be the same as before, it mightn’t be all that bad. The more we can gather up, the more we have to spend on yearlings.”

Both Hassett and McCartan pointed out how great the industry is at helping each other out. To the fore in this regard has been Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), who have been assisting breeze-up vendors by distributing promotional content to their vast client base, as Alex Cairns of the ITM team outlined.

“Quite a lot is being done to liaise with clients around the world and informing each other as to what is happening here and what is happening with us, so that we’re ready to kick into action," he said.

"We’re maintaining sponsorships, such as the ‘ITM Day’ at Jägersro in Sweden, where we will also be offering a €1,500 sales voucher which actually resulted in a breeze-up purchase last year. 

“The breeze-up consignors have been doing a great job and we will continue to promote their material to our clients internationally by sending out their websites to our clients.”

There is also a promotional video compiled by ITM in the pipeline, which will be aired in the USA and the Arab states showing the successes of breeze-up horses.

The organisation's work has been greatly appreciated by the breeze-up sellers, with Hassett also commending the “huge amount of work” done by consignors Brendan Holland and John Cullinan. 

The consignors are sure to take a financial hit on this year’s purchases but Hassett, for one, is keen to see the situation in a positive light.

“I also see some positives from this," he said. "For example, I’ve noticed my head lad is a brilliant cameraman! It’s a chance for people with different skills to move up. We understand that our racehorse being worth less than what we paid is a first-world problem.” 

Although the impact of the global pandemic on the horse racing industry is not the world’s most important issue right now, Hassett is keen to stress that supporting this year’s breeze-ups will support the wider racing industry in getting through this turbulent period.

“I’ve little doubt there will be cracking value at this year’s breeze-ups," he added. "But the breeze-up lads need to get money in. We’re not going to keep it in the bank, we’re going to spend it on yearlings. They in turn will spend it on foals. The more we gather up, the more everybody is going to have.

“The breeze-up horses this year are the best we’ve ever had, both here and as a collective.”

With what appears to be the most superior selection of horses ever bound for a breeze-up, those owners who are financially flexible may be presented with a golden opportunity. 


Read our Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures

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'


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It has received strong engagements, suggesting there is a lot of interest still in breezers
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