Bidding in Pyjamas

Tom Pritchard-Gordon of Badgers Bloodstock, one of the few entities who successfully bid on lots in this week's online Inglis Easter Yearling Sale from the northern hemisphere, is still recovering from staying up two nights in a row to follow the action in Australia but has hailed the process as “relatively pain free” and is convinced digital platforms will be of increasing importance to the industry.

Badgers Bloodstock paid A$450,000 (£227,760/€259,530) for an American Pharoah filly out of the Group 1-placed Fastnet Rock mare Lake Geneva and A$110,000 (£55,650/€63,400) for a Pierro sister to Group 3-placed Rome out of the Exceed And Excel mare Dance Card.

“We bought the American Pharoah filly for an overseas investor who was looking to take advantage of the weak Australian dollar,” said Pritchard-Gordon.

“We were in the market for a few more fillies but, amazingly, the strength of the sale meant that value was hard to come by. This filly is by one of the most exciting young sires in the world. Even taking into account the quality of mare American Pharoah covered, few would have imagined the impact he has already made with his first crop in the northern hemisphere; to have 15 stakes performers from his first crop to date is not to be sniffed at.

“Furthermore, she's the first foal out of a truly outstanding race filly in Lake Geneva, who ran third to Pride Of Dubai in the Blue Diamond and filled the same position behind Vancouver in the Golden Slipper. It’s a family we know well, having bought the dam of stakes winner Weatherly, who appears under the third dam, many moons ago.”

Pritchard-Gordon reported that he thought the Pierro filly was especially good value.

“She was bought for a Victorian client who made his first foray into European bloodstock in December, buying a beautifully bred Oasis Dream filly foal that we shipped down to Australia a couple of months ago,” he said.

“Considering she's by the current leading sire in Australia in Pierro, we felt that A$110,000 was extraordinary value for her. The family is incredibly lively and the two best horses on the page, Spright and Kaepernick, are both very current.

“What's more, her half-sister Zanzidance looked decent running second on debut and her foal full-sister is reportedly outstanding. Mum is in foal to Justify, so the pedigree could just blossom in the next couple of years.”

Pritchard-Gordon would usually be at Inglis himself to check out the yearlings' physiques, but having been unable to travel due to Covid-19 restrictions and no horses being on site for the online sale anyway, he and his father Grant “had a number of eyes on the ground to inspect on our behalf”.

“Between a number of trainers, vets and other agents we had a full picture of each lot we were interested in,” he said. “The videos and photos provided also helped cement our opinions on the yearlings. They're no substitute for seeing the horse yourself, of course, but it was the best of an unprecedented situation.”

The process of bidding online in the middle of the night in Newmarket as the sale took place during daylight hours in Sydney was unusual but Pritchard-Gordon looked at the lighter side.

“Being in lockdown with three small kids, it was bliss to stay up and watch the auction unfold in solitude while they all slept peacefully,” he said. “Armed with a trusty espresso machine, a phone, iPad and two monitors, I was able to be fully on top of the sale and in direct communication with clients. All in my pyjamas!

“The process of bidding was relatively pain free. There was a two to three-second lag between the bidding platform and the video feed, but that didn't get in the way at all.

“It should be noted that the majority of purchases appeared to be made over the phone rather than via online – I felt that people still didn’t fully trust the technology. However, it worked perfectly for us and I'm sure that it'll play a bigger part in all auctions going forward.”

Pritchard-Gordon summed up by saying that one lasting effect of the coronavirus lockdown on the bloodstock industry would likely be an acceleration in the digitalisation of auctions.

“Australasian sales companies certainly have a couple of years head start on their European counterparts,” he said.

“I'm sure that Tattersalls, Goffs and Arqana will be looking into expanding this side of their business, as the future of bloodstock auctions will certainly include a greater involvement with the digital platform.

“It remains to be seen how quickly this will be accepted by all parties concerned.”

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