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4th January 2007

Irish Breeders Seminar

With the yearling sales about to begin in Australia and New Zealand it is worth repeating the interesting comments made by renowned Thoroughbred market analyst Bill Oppenheim when addressing the Irish Breeders Seminar in 2003 about changes in the horse business over the past 50 years as reported in the ‘Racing Post’. These comments are still relevant in 2007.

Here is a summary of what he said:

1. Irish Breeders 4 : Major Thoroughbred Industry Changes

”Things aren’t what they used to be. And they’re not going to be like they used to be again. What has happened in the horse business over the last 50 years? It’s changed an awful lot. For one thing, all these great theories that people came up with in the 1930’s and 1940’s were based on foal crops and stallion populations roughly a fifth the size of the foal crops and stallion populations we are talking about now. The most significant change is that Paul Mellon (who bred Mill Reef) and all his contemporaries unfortunately have passed away, and have not been replaced by private breeders who could afford to raise horses in the way that Ian Balding was lucky enough to have. There aren’t the great private breeders there were in the 1950’s and all the way into the 1970’s and 1980’s. Certainly not in America – there’s a few over here and the Aga Khan is the most obvious one. But even the big broodmare bands that exist now in Europe and the big private breeders – Khalid Abdullah, the Maktoum brothers and John Magnier – are really first generation breeders of this magnitude. The private breeder has been replaced by the commercial breeder. One effect of this is what I call the democratization of money. More people like you and me actually have a chance to make money in this game, to survive, to prosper. But here’s a side effect that has not been so good; We talk about all the great families; you’re lucky if somebody keeps a mare for three years now, much less three generations. So, consequently, the families don’t develop.”

2. Irish Breeders 5 : Northern Dancer In-Breeding Benefits

Bill Oppenheim also “differed from a number of his colleagues” in speaking about “the substantial benefits of in-breeding to Northern Dancer,” reported racingpost.co.uk. Citing Hernando, a horse with stamina who is in-bred to Northern Dancer, Oppenheim said: “He crosses best with staying mares by Northern Dancer-line stallions. He loves a third cross of Northern Dancer. And he gets stayers. And when Group winner after Group winner has Danzig on top and Nijinsky on the bottom and more recently Danehill on Sadler’s Wells… I disagree that too much Northern Dancer is a bad thing. Most people who breed horses don’t really plan the implications in the long term. The horse has got to be cheap, he’s got to be a first year sire, he has to have speed – and if there happen to be three crosses of Northern Dancer, who cares? The breeder just goes and does it because the breeder’s got to make money in this very difficult and financially challenging industry”.

3. Irish Breeders 1 : Flooding the Yearling Market – Ted Voute

Meanwhile at Ireland’s recent National Breeders’ Seminar, trans-Atlantic sales consignor Ted Voute spoke about “the effects of flooding the yearling market with more sellers than buyers,” reported racingpost.co.uk. Voute noted: “In the select part of the market, we’ve got some pretty big stud fees. I’m not as worried about over-production in itself, as I am about it at the top-end of stud fees. When the big books were introduced, there were only a few studs that had over-production at the top and the market could stand it. Now you’ve got every big commercial stallion with books of over 100; and therefore commercially you’ve got a whole lot of yearlings at the top end and not enough people to buy them.” Referring to the Tattersall’s October Sale catalogue he noted: “There’s a period there in the first day where there are nine Giant’s Causeway yearlings going through the sale in only about and hour and a half. That’s about a million pounds in stud fees. It will be interesting to see whether that may be a contributor to a lot more people not making money. That is coupled with the fact that several big mare owners have bought a lot of mares recently, particularly in England, coming in this year and next year with their big purchases, and it has flooded the market with more sellers than buyers. I’m just trying to work out whether the market will be able to sustain that. I think those are the reasons we should put more efforts into getting new owners in.”

Article from: The Racing Post and 2003 Irish Breeders Seminar