Promoters insist the toughest markets are exactly where they work hardest
Aisling Crowe hears passionate defence of efforts to deal with polarisation
Stung by reported comments on the opening day of the Goffs Open Yearling Sale, promoters on Thursday responded with a passionate defence of their commitment to all sectors of the market.
The kind of figures achieved at this end of the yearling market are at the other end of the spectrum of those that have grabbed the headlines at the top sales this year, not least the hugely successful Orby sale in the same ring.
But all major sales houses acknowledge ongoing problems of market polarisation. This, of course, partly reflects foal crops resurging towards levels where overproduction is again an issue. That is a matter for the vendors, however, and not those charged with making the resulting marketplace work as well as possible.
"I confess that we have been stung by the suggestion that we, both Goffs and ITM, did not do enough to attract buyers," Henry Beeby, Goffs CEO, said. "We would refute such suggestions albeit against a background of always wanting more.
"The fact is the market is an unforgiving one, and never more so than this year where we saw frenzied bidding at the top of the market at the Goffs Orby Sale, with a huge group of international buyers fighting for the bluebloods. However lower down the scale, at every sales venue this year, it has been harder work. But that should do not detract from the huge time and investment we have made on a global basis to market every entry over the last three days."
"Last year we were recording our thanks to Mr Zhang of Yulong Investments, who was introduced to Goffs by Michael Donohoe of BBA Ireland," Beeby noted.
"And we have ensured his ongoing support of our Orby, Sportsman's and the last three days' Open/HIT Sales by working with BBA Ireland, ITM and other Irish businesses to secure his patronage. That has taken time and money, and we would suggest that his leading buyer status demonstrates that the investment was well worth it. This is just one example of the proactivity of the Goffs and ITM teams, as we work with companies like BBA Ireland to promote Irish sales and Irish horses at home, in the UK and around the world."
Charles O'Neill, CEO of ITM, also acknowledged that the current market was causing difficulties for many breeders but pointed to number and variety of active international buyers the organisation, working in tandem with Goffs representatives, had attracted to the sale.
"Trade undoubtedly has been selective and the sale was challenging for some vendors," he said. "ITM in conjunction with Goffs yielded buyers from 15 different overseas markets with a substantial sale of yearlings to China, Italy and Eastern Europe, amongst many other markets. ITM vigorously promoted this sale, as it does every Irish sale through market visits and direct contact with potential buyers, along with print advertising and social media."
The leading spender's agent gave a strong endorsement for this kind of groundwork. "On a personal level, as somebody who travels the world looking for clients to buy horses in Ireland, I have seen the hard work ITM and Goffs put into the sales," Donohoe said. "They concentrate on the smaller, industry sales like this one. Mr Zhang in particular has been given a lot of encouragement and sponsorship from both Goffs and ITM along with other Irish entities to come here to buy horses."
Another agent with an international client base agreed. "ITM, Goffs and all the sales companies do an unbelievable job attracting people to the sales here in Ireland," said Bobby O'Ryan. "We have bought 23 horses so far this week for clients in England, Hungary and Poland."
The colt who topped the bill for Zhang and Donohoe was consigned by bloodstock agent Peter Nolan. The son of Elzaam is out of a mare who has already produced a winner from her first runner.
"He is a nice, precocious sort and by a sire who has done well so far," remarked Donohoe. "I bought another Elzaam colt, Vincy, out of Michael Halford's yard to go into training in Hong Kong and I have high hopes both for him and Elzaam."
Joe Foley, who stands Elzaam at his Ballyhane Stud in County Carlow, bought Thursday's most expensive filly - by another of his stallions in Dandy Man. Consigned by Abbeyleix Stud, she too is out of a mare who has produced a winner from her first foal to race, the 101-rated two-year-old filly Hikmaa, who is due to run in the Listed Radley Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.
Buying on behalf of Steve Parkin's Clipper Logistics, Foley signed for the filly at €32,000. "She is a nice filly with a lot going for her," he said. "The half-sister has good form including finishing fourth in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes last month and hopefully there is more to come from her."
From the moment on Wednesday morning when Andrew Slattery first set eyes on a daughter of Coolmore's first-crop sire War Command, he was determined not to leave Goffs without her.
Consigned by Lakeview Stables, the April-born yearling represented a successful pinhook for vendor Kevin Coffey who purchased her at the Goffs February Sale for just €1,500 and sold her on Thursday for €30,000. She is out of the unraced Mr Greeley mare Abama Lady, who has a perfect record as a broodmare with all of her first four foals winning. The Canadian-bred mare is a half-sister to Listed winner Nymphenburg out of a half-sister to La Lorgnette, the Grade 1 winner and dam of Hawk Wing.
"This filly has been on my mind since yesterday," Slattery revealed. "I hoped that I would be able to get her for a bit less but I was going to bring her home with me if I could. She could go for the breeze-ups next spring or I could keep her and train her myself, there is plenty of time to decide."
This year Goffs expanded the Open Yearling Sale from one to two days and consequently it is difficult to make a fair analysis of the results in comparison with those from 2016. Despite the number of horses changing hands this year being slightly more than double that of 2016, the clearance rate of 72 per cent was only five per cent behind last year's sale.
The median price of €4,700 was up by four per cent, while the average dipped only marginally from €7,143 last year to €6,791 over the two days of the 2017 edition.