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Breeze Up Buying

            The breeze up sale season is almost here and for sure there will be plenty of marketing aimed at encouraging us to buy at a particular sale based upon a whole array of performance data that, on the surface, is often difficult to put into context. Companies choose the statistic that suits but only say as much as they need to and do not confuse us with what they may see as unnecessary qualifications that may discourage us from believing that their sale really is that good. Below is an attempt to get a little beyond the headline statistics and help us to generate a strategic approach to the breeze up sales based upon an analysis of three UK breeze up sales in 2015 – Brightwells (now Tattersalls Ireland) Ascot sale, Tattersalls Newmarket Craven sale and DBS (now Goffs UK) Doncaster sale. Clearly it is the individual horses that matter and no amount of analysis can determine with exactitude where the talented, elite racehorses will turn up next, but if we can see some patterns that will prove insightful to us then the research is worthwhile.

            The three sales all occurred during April 2015 and the analysis includes race performances up to the end of February 2016 which takes into consideration the participants two year old careers and a part of their three year old one. Each horse was hand timed using the online videos available and split into the fastest 35% and the slowest 65%. There is some margin for error with this methodology but overall we believe insignificant given we are splitting the horses into only two relatively large groups. The highest Racing Post Rating (RPR) was noted for each horse that ran during the period being analysed. Where a horse has been exported and run abroad, no value has been recorded unless an RPR is available as is sometimes the case for horses that have for example run in France. Where a horse has not run it has been excluded from the average rating calculations. As far as sales values are concerned, the Newmarket Craven sale figures have been translated from guineas to pounds and where the horse was listed as “Not Sold” or “Vendor” for a buy back the value indicated has been taken as the sale price. An “Elite” horse is defined as one who has achieved a highest RPR of 95 or more. All three sales were analysed individually and as a whole. There were 45 horses for Ascot (25 colts and 20 fillies), 120 for Newmarket (83 colts and 37 fillies) and 147 for Doncaster (105 colts and 42 fillies) for an overall sample of 312 (213 colts and 99 fillies) and 75% have run by the end of February 2016. The intention is to revise the analysis after the three year old careers have been ended to allow for later maturing horse performance.

Average Ratings (see below)

            Overall, fillies are 6 points (equivalent to 6lbs) inferior to colts which one might expect. In fact when you take into account filly allowances which are usually around 3 to 5lbs this difference reduces to approximately 2lbs and in the bigger scheme of things is not so significant especially considering that average sales prices are 25% less than for colts and you are just as likely to pick up an elite racehorse according to this research.

            Noticeable that Newmarket breezers have performed around 6lbs (9%) better than the other two sales which is tempered by the fact that the average sale price is approximately three times higher than the other two sales combined. Chances of picking up an elite racehorse are 25% higher (5.8% vs 4.6%) than the other two sales but again this needs to be balanced against the average price paid and one needs to question whether the perceived superiority of Newmarket is worth paying for. Indeed in the fastest 35% group the difference is minimal and most of the performance gap is evident in the slowest group where Newmarket horses are rated 8 and 11lbs superior to Doncaster and Ascot horses respectively indicating a greater depth in quality.

            Newmarket colts had the highest average rating at 74 vs 71 for Ascot and 66 for Doncaster when you look at the total population. However, when considering the fastest 35%, Ascot colts were clearly the highest at 80 with a 12% chance of getting an elite colt vs 8% chance for Newmarket.

            Doncaster fillies achieved the same average rating (66) as Newmarket fillies both 7lbs better than Ascot. but four (10%) were elite at Doncaster whereas none were elite at Newmarket. This would confirm that if we exclude the elite fillies the Newmarket fillies were of a slightly better quality than those at Doncaster but the sale did not throw up one single elite filly whereas Doncaster has thrown up four.

                                                                                                  Average Ratings

 

                                                                                                                           TOTAL            Colts       Fillies       Total                                                                                                                                            

Ascot

71

59

66

Newmarket

74

66

72

Doncaster

66

66

66

Total

70

64

68

 

                                                                                            FASTEST       Colts       Fillies       Total

           

Ascot

80

65

74

Newmarket

76

74

75

Doncaster

74

71

73

Total

76

71

74

 

                                                                                            SLOWEST      Colts       Fillies       Total

                                              

Ascot

64

54

59

Newmarket

73

60

70

Doncaster

62

61

62

Total

67

59

65

          

            When considering times, you can see that the impact of a faster time was 9lbs or 14% vs the slower group (74 v 65). This would equate to approximately 3 to 4 lengths on the racecourse. Interestingly, the impact was far lower in Newmarket (5lbs or 7% better) than at Ascot (15lbs or 25% better) and Doncaster (11lbs or 18% better). This was aligned for colts with Newmarket (3lbs or 4% better), Ascot (16lbs or 25% better) and Doncaster (12lbs or 19% better) but fillies at Newmarket (14lbs or 23% better) showed the same tendency as Ascot (11lbs or 20% better) and Doncaster (10lbs or 16% better). The anomaly for colts at Newmarket is driven by the fact that six of the seven elite colts at Newmarket were to be found in the slowest timed group. Clearly we are dealing with fairly low populations in this study and much depends on the individuals but this evidence suggests that whilst you can still find good racehorses that breeze in the lowest 65%, it is generally likely that you will get a horse rated around 10 to 12lbs or 4 lengths better by focusing on the fastest 35% of times.

                                                                                             Average Sales Values (£000)

 

                                                                                                                            TOTAL           Colts         Fillies       Total                                                                                    

Ascot

24

18

22

Newmarket

105

78

97

Doncaster

38

34

37

Total

62

47

57

 

                                                                                            FASTEST       Colts         Fillies       Total

 

Ascot

39

35

36

Newmarket

177

91

145

Doncaster

67

46

59

Total

105

61

88

 

                                                                                            SLOWEST        Colts        Fillies       Total

                                              

Ascot

15

13

14

Newmarket

71

67

70

Doncaster

25

24

25

Total

42

37

41

 

Average Sales Values (£000)

            The average Breeze Up colt from these three sales would have cost you £62,000 and the average filly 25% less at £47,000 and overall a horse would have cost £57,000. When one considers the fastest 35% breeze up performers, they sold at 54% (£31,000) more overall, 69% (£43,000) more for colts and 30% (£14,000) more for fillies. These are the premiums people are willing to pay for racehorses that breeze faster and on average perform 10 to 12lbs better on the racecourse. As this better performance is seen fairly equally when comparing fillies to colts, this suggests that the value is found overall by focusing on the fastest fillies as one considers that overall filly ratings are within a pound or two of colts after taking into account their allowance in races yet they cost £61,000 on average vs £105,000 for colts within the fastest 35%. One also needs to take into account residual values after racing which generally will be higher for fillies especially for those with a good pedigree for breeding.

             On average a Newmarket Craven breeze up racehorse will cost you £97,000 which is four to five times an Ascot horse (£22,000) or two to three times a Doncaster one (£37,000). These ratios are also evident in both the fastest and slowest groups although the ratios are lower in the fastest group ie the price differential is bigger in the slowest group and smaller in the fastest group.

                                                                                                    Elite Racehorses

 

                                                                                                                         TOTAL           Colts            Fillies           Total                                                                                                  

Ascot

12%

5%

9%

Newmarket

8%

0%

6%

Doncaster

1%

10%

3%

Total

5%

5%

5%

 

                                                                                        FASTEST       Colts            Fillies           Total           

 

Ascot

20%

17%

19%

Newmarket

4%

0%

2%

Doncaster

3%

10%

6%

Total

6%

7%

6.5%

 

                                                                                        SLOWEST      Colts            Fillies           Total           

                                              

Ascot

7%

0%

3.5%

Newmarket

10%

0%

8%

Doncaster

0%

9%

2%

Total

5%

4%

4.5%

 

                                                                                           TOTAL          Colts        Fillies       Total

                                              

Ascot

3

1

4

Newmarket

7

0

7

Doncaster

1

4

5

Total

11

5

16

 

                                                                                           FASTEST        Colts        Fillies       Total

                                              

Ascot

2

1

3

Newmarket

1

0

1

Doncaster

1

2

3

Total

4

3

7

 

                                                                                                                         SLOWEST      Colts         Fillies       Total

                                              

Ascot

1

0

1

Newmarket

6

0

6

Doncaster

0

2

2

Total

7

2

9

Elite Racehorses

            Overall you have a 1 in 20 chance of getting an elite horse at these breeze up sales and they could be a colt or filly in equal measure. However, if you break this down by sale and time you get some very different results. By focusing on the fastest group you will have a 6.5% chance of buying an elite racehorse vs a 4.5% chance in the slower group. Furthermore it would appear that Ascot is the best place to focus on this faster group with an overall 19% chance of getting an elite horse quite evenly split between colts and fillies although this is the smallest sample population and there must be some caution regarding sample size. Having said that, if you look at the 2014 sale the results were remarkably similar in that of 37 horses (17 colts and 20 fillies) there were two elite colts (The Wow Signal & Son Of Africa) and one elite filly (Bronze Maquette) that gave a 12% elite rate for colts and a 5% one for fillies with an overall 8% chance of getting an elite racehorse vs 9% in 2015 for Ascot. In addition there was another filly (Jelly Monger who cost £3,000!) rated 93 and a third (Disprove), that although rated in the 80’s, did pick up black type in Germany.

            Another eyecatching statistic is the 1 in 10 chance of getting an elite filly at Doncaster. The four fillies were evenly split between fast and slow groups but if one had broadened the group to be the fastest 50% then all the fillies would have been in the fast group and the chance of buying an elite filly would have been around 17%. Finally it runs against the rest of the study that six of the seven colts in the Newmarket elite actually had slow breeze up times as mentioned above.

            The 2015 graduates of the three breeze up sales classified as elite with their highest rating and their sires were:-

Ascot   

                                                    

First Selection              108                  Diktat

Kadrizzi                       104                  Hurricane Cat

Zebstar                         101                  Zebedee

Muhadathat                   95                   Showcasing

 

Newmarket

 

Donjuan Triumphant    117                  Dream Ahead

Stormy Antarctic          114                  Stormy Atlantic

Areen                            106                  Kodiac

Dhahmaan                    102                  Kodiac

Ventura Storm              100                  Zoffany

Ray’s The Bar               98                   Exceed and Excel

Kasseopia                      96                   Showcasing

 

Doncaster

 

Quiet Reflection           109                  Showcasing

No Education               107                  Showcasing

Now Or Never             104                  Bushranger

WhatdoIwantthatfor      99                  Kodiac

Flaying Empress           95                  Holy Roman Emperor

 

Conclusion

            At the end of the day hindsight is a wonderful thing and clearly buyers would have had an excellent chance of picking up a game changing elite horse by focusing all their resources on the Ascot sale which up until recently has had a reputation for lower quality animals. We need to be cautious to some extent in that the sample is smaller and so may not be so statistically relevant as the Newmarket and Doncaster sales. Since the 2015 sale Tattersalls has acquired the bloodstock part of Brightwells’ business and it will be interesting to see the changes. One suspects that prices will rise significantly under the Tattersalls brand. There are 102 lots currently listed for 2016 which with a 20% withdrawal rate should mean about 82 for sale vs the 45 in 2015. If the recent attraction of this sale plus the Tattersalls name means a similar quality of horse has been attracted to the 2016 edition it indicates that there should be about 6 or 7 elite horses in the sale. If we focus on the top 35% or so of fastest breezers (approx. 30) a repeat of last year will give us 5 or 6 elite racehorses. Even if the % elite rate declines with the almost double quantity of horses, it is likely there will be at least 3 or 4 elite horses in this top 30 be they colts or fillies.

            Fillies are good value in the fastest breeze up group being almost on a par with the colts for performance when taking into account their allowances, much cheaper (although not so much at Ascot) and with a decent pedigree a better residual value. It will also be interesting to see if the Doncaster elite fillies success in 2015 was a one off event or a trend to follow.

            Newmarket is very expensive when you compare to the performance on the track and the number of elite horses that came through in 2015. 47% winners to runners is a good statistic but the overall quality was not really in line with the extra cost incurred in buying at this sale. Again, it will be interesting to see if the success of the slower group colts which threw up 6 elite racehorses was a one off or not. Perhaps connections send their sharper, faster horses to Ascot and Doncaster and the later maturing ones to Newmarket. Whatever, performance and value are interlinked and whilst the overall quality of Newmarket was better than Ascot and Doncaster the preponderance of elite racehorses was not and, after all, these are the horses we are looking for. If you look at the overall averages of all these sales, you pay £57,000 for a 68 rated horse which obviously is not a profitable venture! At Newmarket prices there should be more elite horses coming through.

            Also note that remarkably 7 of the 16 elite horses in all these sales were sired by Kodiac and Showcasing with 3 from 23 and 4 from 20 breezers respectively . There are no Showcasing horses in this years Ascot sale but there are 6 by Kodiac (2 colts and 4  fillies). The Newmarket catalogue for 2016 has 15 by Kodiac (10 colts and 5 fillies) and 3 by Showcasing (2 colts and 1 filly) whilst at Doncaster there are 12 by Kodiac (6 colts and 6 fillies) and 6 by Showcasing (3 colts and 3 fillies). One might expect 4 or 5 elite horses from this lot after withdrawals.

           Whatever, history does not always repeat and whilst times are important as well as the characteristics of each breeze up sale, the individual is obviously key in terms of conformation, temperament, assessment of maturity and pedigree but by following certain criteria one can narrow down the playing field and increase the chances of finding those elusive elite racehorses.

 

Summary

 

            Whilst further analysis needs to be done in the future, based upon the evidence of the 2015 sales and assuming they are representative of what will happen this year, one could do worse than follow the criteria below in focusing in on the breeze up horses to evaluate as individuals:-

  1. Focus on the fastest 35% of breeze up horses at the Ascot sale with a stronger focus on colts but not forgetting the fillies
  2. In all sales focus on the fastest 35% fillies which offer the best value and an equal chance of getting an elite racehorse as for the colts based on this 2015 analysis
  3. Due to the lower value to be had from Newmarket, after Ascot focus on Doncaster as the next source of breeze up horses with an eye on the fillies to spot a repeat of the 2015 success.
  4. Pay particular attention to those sired by Kodiac and Showcasing (especially the latter) that meet the above criteria.

 

 James Ortega Bloodstock Ltd

March 11th 2016