Return of Mares figures point to further expansion of foal crop
13,718 foals were registered by September 30 - a two per cent year-on-year gain
For a third consecutive year both the British and Irish foal crops have grown, according to figures in the 2017 edition of Weatherbys Return Of Mares, with the two nations responsible for a combined total of 13,718 registered foals by September 30.
The Irish foal crop grew by a further three per cent to 9,044 in 2017, a fifth successive year-on-year increase. This year's total is some 2,160 foals greater than the figure recorded as recently as 2012, representing a growth in the foal crop of almost a third in just five years.
Things have remained rather more stable in Britain, where the crop grew for the third consecutive year, with the 4,674 foals registered in 2017 showing a two per cent gain on the number of British-bred foals registered 12 months earlier. This year's returns equate to 447 more foals born than during the low of 2012, an increase of a little over ten per cent in the last five years.
It is, of course, important to consider those year-on-year increases in real terms when dealing with young thoroughbreds. The growth of the Irish crop amounts to 252 more foals on the ground than by the comparative point in 2016, while Britain has welcomed 77 more foals than it did 12 months earlier.
While that represents a combined gain of just two per cent, that leaves the majority of 329 additional foals needing to find homes.
And these figures have been released against a backdrop of yearling sale results that point to demand continuing to be outweighed by supply. Across all British and Irish yearling sales by the end of October 3,574 lots have sold for a clearance rate of 83 per cent.
This does suggest demand has increased to a degree, with 3,263 - or 311 fewer - yearlings having been sold by the same point in 2016. But the fact remains that even with a slight increase in demand, 743 yearlings offered during the latest round of sales left the ring without having found a buyer.
A running theme throughout this year's yearling sales has been the level of polarisation the market has witnessed, with vendors experiencing something of a boom-or-bust scenario depending on which side of the perceived line of quality their yearlings fall.
Just earlier this week, during the Goffs Open Yearling Sale, group chief executive Henry Beeby lamented this harsh reality, saying: "It's a tough marketplace, very unforgiving and probably the most polarised it has been in a considerable amount of time."
While there is no hiding the buoyancy at the top end of the market, there must be some anxiety that a further expanded foal crop could see those tasked with selling to the middle and lower tiers floundering come the 2018 yearling sales.
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