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Letter to the Editor: Heed Stark Sales Warnings

With the Arqana sales closing out our breeding stock sales season, there were some very stark warnings for the industry in Europe. Plenty have highlighted the dire situation at the lower end of the market with a frightening number of mares failing to sell for even the covering fee of the foal inside them. However, it is also far from rosy at the top end of the market for our domestic product.

Analysing the 143 mares/fillies that sold for £200,000+ at the three main sales (Goffs November, Tatts December and Arqana), over half will be leaving European shores and travelling to Japan, Australia or America.

Obviously this is not an exact science as a number of lots were knocked down to agents or aliases. However, I'm fairly confident to within a 10% error margin with the figures.

Australian entities (including all Yulong pseudonyms) signed for the most number of £200k+ lots (35 in total over 24%) and spent over £20.1 million (21%).

The Japanese were stronger than ever and bought 17 lots (12%) and spent over £13.3 million (14%). The Americans bought 20 lots (14%) and spent over £9.2 million (10%).

English Studs bought 29 lots (20%) for a total of just over £20 million (21%). Were you to take out Juddmonte's two major purchases, Godolphin's sole purchase and Graham Smith-Bernal's continued significant support, this would look even more dire with only a little over £11 million spent.

Coolmore, as ever, reinvested heavily and helped keep Ireland high up in the list. In total, 23 (16%) of the £200k+ lots look likely to head to Ireland for an outlay of over £24.9 million (26%).

French interests bought 17 (12%) lots for £6.1 million (6%) while German studs bought just two.

While these figures alone are highly worrying, when comparing them to just ten years ago, you realise that we could be well past the tipping point.

Back then over 74% (in comparison to just 49% now) of the 136 fillies/mares that sold at the corresponding sales stayed in Europe. Furthermore, over 32% stayed in England whereas only a tick over 20% will stay in England from this year.

Such a rapid trajectory in the wrong direction needs to somehow be halted or we will lose our seat at the top table of the racing world.  The BHA and all factions of the racing hierarchy need to put self-interest to one side and work in cohesion to address the issue. Not only will we not be producing enough horses to fill the racing programme, but the quality will continue to slide in comparison to our counterparts in other jurisdictions.


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