Yearling Sales

Devil in the detail

JOHN BOYCE comes up with some interesting angles from the yearling sales

THE twin pressures of Covid-19 and the most expensively produced yearlings ever provided a stark backdrop for commercial breeders in 2020. Not only was demand for yearlings hit by the economic effects of Covid – the five top yearling sales in Europe posting a combined average price down 14 per cent on last year – breeders were presenting yearlings by the most expensive set of sires.

Ten years ago only 13 of the top 30 stallions in Britain and Ireland stood at £20,000/€20,000 or more. By 2019 that number had risen to 22 out of 30. The cheapest fee of the top 30 stallions in 2009 was £15,000 and by 2019 it had risen to £30,000.

Moreover, as the quality of broodmare population has remained stable in the period, it’s all too easy to observe that sellers’ expectations have increasingly not been satisfied in recent years. But the shock of Covid-19, which at one stage threatened the actual staging of bloodstock sales, forced a grim new reality upon breeders. And, in the event, most survived to play another day.

The group of stallions with five or more yearling sold in the ring this year produced a reasonable clearance rate of 79.4 per cent, but after factoring in production costs of £20,000 per yearling, only 34.3 per cent of them made a profit on their advertised fee. The profitable yearlings numbered 1,454 from this group of stallions, down from 1,854 12 months earlier.

That said, the prospect of making a profit varied from sale to sale. In 2019, the 2,069 yearlings sold at the five main sales – Arqana, Goffs Orby, Doncaster Premier and Tattersalls October Books 1 and 2 – included 66.6 per cent that made enough to cover their sire’s advertised fee, plus £20,000 in production costs. This year the 1,145 yearlings sold at the same five auctions contained only 58.8 per cent that were profitable using the same criteria.

Stallions priced up to £9,999

In the sub-£10k category, Lanwades’ proven sire Sir Percy topped the group by average price and off his £7,000 nomination fee, his yearlings averaged seven times their fee. And there were plenty of others at this end of the market that produced even better fee multiples. Third-season Galileo stallion Galiway, who enjoyed a very prosperous autumn on the track courtesy of Group 1 Prix Jean Luc Lagardère winner Sealiway, recorded an average 8.8 times his fee, as did freshman sire Whitecliffsofdover. The second highest average price among the group was Time Test’s £36,908 and 42 per cent of them beat the fee-plus-£20k threshold, a good performance for a sire at this end of the market. Among the sub-£10k group Sir Percy had the most profitable yearlings, followed by German sire Areion.

Stallions priced from £10,000 to £19,999

In this category, several stallions proved very successful, having enjoyed the combination of low fees and excellent racecourse results during 2020. Coolmore’s new recruit Wootton Bassett posted an average just shy of £100,000 for his 60 yearlings, produced off a fee of €20,000, and 51 of the 60 made good money. Even better was Kildandgan’s Night Of Thunder, the first of whose Dalham-sired crops produced at a fee of £15,000 averaged almost £90,000. And 88 per cent – the best score among this group – met the profitability threshold of fee-plus-£20k upkeep. Without question, it was a good year to be selling a Night Of Thunder as the son of Dubawi’s tally of first-crop group and stakes winners was just about the best ever by a stallion at this stage of his career.

The second-crop yearlings by Ballylinch’s very own son of Dubawi, New Bay, were also in demand after his first set of two-year-olds made a significant impression on buyers, with group winners New Mandate and Saffron Beach catching the eye this year. Darley’s Profitable was the best freshman sire by number of profitable yearlings with 45 of his 79 yearlings sold making money. He was also the leading new sire by average price in this category ahead of Zarak, Highland Reel and Acclaim.

Stallions priced from £20,000 to £49,999

Here Darley’s veteran sire Teofilo stole the show, posting an average of £117,000 off his fee of €40,000. And what a year he had on the track, siring six Group 1 winners, more than all except for his own sire. These included a Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment, three-year-old filly Tawkeel and juvenile colt Gear Up. No Nay Never’s yearlings, produced from his last cheap crop before his fee rise to €100,000 in 2019, also went well with buyers, averaging £110,000. With a conception fee of €25,000, it was no surprise to see him post the best profit ratio among the group, with 75 per cent making decent money. Three freshman sires – Caravaggio, Almanzor and Churchill – were the next best by this measure, with Almanzor recording the highest average among first-season sires at this price range.

Stallions priced from £50,000 upwards

At the super elite level, predictably it was Galileo and Dubawi who let the way by average price. Kingman’s breakthrough year with his first three-year-olds – including the top-class Timeform 132-rated Palace Pier – ensured strong demand for his fourth crop. And the fact that it was produced at what now seems like a ridiculously low fee of just £55,000 meant that 85 per cent of his yearlings made a profit for their vendors. It was very much the same story with Lope de Vega, who also had a great year on the track. That, coupled with a conception fee of just €60,000, produced 75 per cent of profitable yearlings. Both Kingman (7.3) and Lope de Vega (3.5) consequently produce the best fee multiples of the group.


(Leading sires by average with five or more sold arranged by fee price range)