Matt Coleman, Brendan Holland and George Scott on the hot issues
Mick Flanagan and Katie McGivern also join the panel
Which is your favourite breeze-up sale to attend and why?
Matt Coleman, agent We've bought stakes winners from every breeze-up sale and I'm a firm believer that a good horse can come from any sale, but I had better choose the Tattersalls Ireland Ascot Breeze-Up Sale since I am UK representative for Tattersalls Ireland and bought Sands Of Mali at the sale last year, who became the highest-rated breeze-up graduate in Europe.
Mick Flanagan, agent Tattersalls Craven and Arqana, as both are premium sales where you find horses with pedigrees that can run.
Brendan Holland, Grove Stud Goresbridge. It's the last sale of the year and has a great atmosphere thanks to the Donohoe family and ITM. Everyone gets a great Irish welcome, there are plenty of good horses and it's the only sale with good Guinness!
Katie McGivern, Derryconnor Stud Everywhere where things go to plan. However, if I had to choose one it would be Arqana. Both the venue and location are second to none. Since it moved to Deauville, I don’t think the food, wine and atmosphere could be matched anywhere else.
George Scott, trainer The Tattersalls Craven Sale is an obvious choice as it's easy for me to get to, being near the yard, and the quality of lots on offer has got better each year.
How much emphasis do you place on pedigree at the breeze-ups?
Matt Coleman Pedigree has significant importance when buying any horse. Budget dictates how fussy you can be on pedigree, but if possible I like to find a reason in a horse’s pedigree why he or she can be good. It is, however, only one ingredient to take into consideration. The beauty of the breeze-up sales is that buyers are given some extra clues with which to analyse which horses to buy.
Mick Flanagan When looking at stock I start with physical first, however I find it hard buying a horse that doesn't have a pedigree. Pedigree is important and even more so when buying fillies. Fillies with pedigrees will always have residual value. Fillies have to have good pedigrees.
Brendan Holland With pinhooking, pedigree comes first as I can only look at a limited amount of horses, but the physical always has the final say.
Katie McGivern Pedigree is a big influence. For breeze-up horses specifically, I look for speed in either the dam or stallion side of the yearling, along with ratings of siblings and relations. Marking up the yearling catalogues takes some time and work but helps lessen the risk. However, doing this only brings me down to the yearling's box. Ultimately, the individual then needs to be athletic, strong and somewhat conformationally correct to stay on the list.
George Scott Pedigree always has to be taken into account when looking at stock but with breeze-ups I always look at the action of a horse and how they move when they breeze. When that combined with pedigree comes together, that's when it gets really exciting.
Breeze-up timing, friend or foe?
Matt Coleman Friend and foe. The time each horse can record during the breeze is of obvious importance but equally it is only one analysis tool. The skill the best vendors have mastered is that they can train a horse to record a respectable time but not at the cost of the horse’s future racing career. I steer away from the horses that seem overcooked simply to record a fast time.
Mick Flanagan Foe. I think a lot of winning horses get left behind because of the clock. Obviously, a desperately slow time should set off alarm bells but anything better than that should be considered and put on a list for viewing. I had a horse breeze in Del Mar on Monday that didn't set the clock alight but he did it in a manner that showed off his good action and clean airways. He'll be bought by someone who takes a proper horseman's approach and they will have secured their client a winner.
Brendan Holland It is one of many components but statistics show our market is discerning enough to realise that a staying-bred horse can never breeze as quick as a Kodiac and isn't expected to.
Katie McGivern This is a tough one! Everyone obviously tries to train each breezer to do the best possible time at the sales for the ever-increasing number of timers on the track. However, there are many factors that affect the times that aren’t always taken into consideration. Some horses are very ground-dependent and can perform completely different on a surface they favour; ground conditions can often deteriorate for later lots, and the headwind can also have an effect on the times. I think many good horses are missed at the sales due to these factors. Purchasers should not only focus on a horse's time but on other things also such as movement, stride, optimal trip and how developed the horse is at the sales.
George Scott I certainly think it's a friend. When an owner gives you an order for a fast horse, the speed clock is always interesting as the fast horses go on to win at Royal Ascot. Speed times are less important for an owner who is willing to be more patient but if you're looking for that precocious summer two-year-old the times are very handy.
Do you think breeze-up times should be made publicly available?
Matt Coleman No. The market has become hugely time-biased and although many buyers time the breezes in some way, a public display or publication of the time a horse breezes will increase the need for each horse to breeze as fast as possible like is happening in the US. It is a matter of perception really.
Mick Flanagan I don't think that's necessary.
Brendan Holland No, for the simple reason it would make it extremely difficult for an agent or trainer to explain why he bought a horse outside the top 50 times – the recommendation of the individual and consignor count for plenty. You would have missed The Grey Gatsby and Trip To Paris.
Katie McGivern If breeze-up times were to be made publicly available then our breeze-ups should be all run on an all-weather surface. Although some horses are better on turf than the all-weather and vice versa, it does offer a fairer playing field for all. If this was the case then yes, I think they should be made available as some of the factors mentioned above would not be an issue and it would give vendors and purchasers solid information on the performance of their horse.
George Scott No and for various reasons. Published times can be feast or famine for vendors as we have seen in America and some people also decide to time different parts of a breeze so the times can differ.
Can you give us an under-the-radar breeze-up graduate to follow?
Matt Coleman Sands Of Mali is relatively under-the-radar as regards the top sprints. His work this spring has been exciting and we're hopeful of a big year. Anthony Stroud bought Alwasmiya who won the Bosra Sham Stakes impressively; she has more to come. Aside from our purchases, David Simcock has two horses which I underbid to breeze-up vendors as yearlings, Teppal and Court Of Justice, who I think will win Group races.
Mick Flanagan I didn't buy a breeze-up horse last year but Sands Of Mali was very impressive last year and I'll be interested to see how he does this season.
Brendan Holland Commander Han and Nordic Lights are both big, late-maturing types but with equally big futures.
Katie McGivern An Invincible Spirit filly I sold at Arqana last year called Marmarah. Trained by Pia Brandt, she was third in Chantilly last week in ground conditions that would not have suited. She also holds a Guineas entry and hopefully she can emulate one of Derryconnor's 2016 graduates, Daban, who was third in the 1,000 Guineas.
George Scott Qaysar who has now won two races in a row for Richard Hannon and was sourced from Deauville for €200,000. He looks a nice type to follow throughout the rest of this season.
How healthy do you think the middle-to-lower end of the breeze-up market is?
Matt Coleman The demand for breeze-up horses does seem as healthy as ever as clients like to be able to watch a horse gallop. If a horse breezes disappointingly then it is understandable that its sales price will suffer as that is the nature of the sale. I enjoy trying to find a horse that I like whose ordinary breeze time is forgivable, such as Harry Dunlop and I achieved with Robin Of Navan.
Mick Flanagan It's probably the same as the middle to lower end of foal and yearling markets. If you put lipstick on a pig it's still a pig so an emphasis has to be put on quality which is easier said than done. A few of the breeze-up boys might grumble to see me interviewed here as I haven't been a great supporter of their sales. That's not because I'm not a believer – I am a believer but I don't have a client as yet who shops at them. I'm more involved in the American breeze-ups but that said it's only a few horses being bought throughout a breeze-up season. I admire the guys who prepare and sell breeze-up horses . . . there are some very gifted people doing it in Europe that I would be happy to buy from.
Brendan Holland About as healthy as the same sector in the rest of the bloodstock industry . . . perilous!
Katie McGivern The middle-to-lower market of any sale is a struggle. However, the difference at a breeze-up sale is that there are no more options for the vendor other than to race the two-year-old. There is a significant increase in lot numbers at each breeze-up sale this year, which is worrying as it may result in a decrease in clearance rates.
George Scott I'd be no expert on this but where I'm standing it looks healthy. Breeze-ups are an attractive proposition to owners as it is a way of not having to pay training fees for a long period of time.
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