It’s been a busy, but ultimately very succesful, couple of weeks trying to stock up on new horses for next season. Since buying one yearling at Doncaster, I have had two trips to Ireland, and came home from both with a couple of yearlings. At Fairyhouse I managed to buy a really strong Approve colt for 20’000 euros, and whilst there ended up buying a smashing Intikhab filly for 11’000 euros (we were only supposed to be buying 1, but the owners and I just couldn’t resist!). Then I headed back the following week to Goffs and managed to buy another colt and a filly, but had to spend substantially more. We had to go to 110’000 euros to secure a Rip Van Winkle half brother to a listed and a group winner. He was a cracker and I can’t wait to have him in training here at South Hatch. And finally we bought a gorgeous Arcano filly from a great family for 40’000 euros. She was a lovely specimen with a seemingly great temperament. They all have owners apart from the Intikhab filly at the moment – she is being syndicated and is roughly half sold so far – so if anyone might be interested in more information, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
We will also have a privately bought Mount Nelson colt (who’s also a beauty) to add to the crop, which will bring our tally so far to 6 exciting 2yo’s. This is a healthier number than I feared we might have a month or two ago, notwithstanding the fact that it is still well short of where we would like to get back to. With any luck I will still be able to pick up another one or two between now and the start of next season. They are all back at Pip’s now and starting to be broken – we usually then turn them out for a few weeks after breaking to let them down a bit before coming into the main yard before Christmas.
It was fascinating at Goffs watching the bidding war on the Montjeu colt that was eventually knocked down to Coolmore for 2.85m euros, but it seems this figure has been eclipsed on more than one occasion at Newmarket this week. Obviously the market is being skewed by a few mega-wealthy individuals, but for a select few vendors it is great news. Buying in new 2yo’s is the lifeblood of our business – they enable us and our owners to buy a dream – that we may one day have a champion on our hands – and this is the carrot that spurs us all on, for it certainly isn’t the prize money on offer.
On this note, I’d like to add my thoughts to some of the lop-sided reporting in some media and social networks currently doing the rounds regarding prize money agreements, and particularly the non-participation of ARC. ARC have played a blinder here by rolling their PR machine into action and highlighting the fact that they will be pumping money into the all-weather season, culminating in a Good Friday finale worth £1million. Any trainer or jockey that dares to question the motives and reasoning behind any of it is shot down in flames. And of course, any injection of cash should not be sniffed at; but let’s look at what the Horsemen were requesting from ARC in order for them to sign up to a prize money agreement (agreements which had been considerably watered down from what was originally being requested) – to comply they would have been required to contribute a minimum of 33% of their betting related media rights income. I have yet to speak to anyone that feels this is an overly onerous amount, whilst many feel that it is a ridiculously low amount. Indeed, ARC shout about the fact that they will be contributing this amount anyway. So why not prove their commitment by signing up to these agreements, that many of us feel have been set at too low a level in the first place? And their answer for that is as follows – they are a private company and therefore do not feel that it is necessary for them to release the figures required to work out a percentage of media rights income! Why? What have they got to hide? Are they afraid that the same media commentators that are fawning all over them will get to see exactly how much income they derive from our product, and realise that actually yes, we might just be getting a little bit short changed?
The Good Friday situation is a bit of a red herring, but a significant one nevertheless. Whatever your views on whether we should, or should not be racing on Good Friday, and whether or not it is the right day for a season finale, being as it’s position in the calender is so moveable, there is no doubt that it was generally wanted by many bookmakers and racecourses, but opposed by many trainers and jockeys. Now in my book, that makes it a bit of a bargaining tool, and one which the BHA informed the horsemen they would be using (amongst others) to make sure that racecourses signed up to prize money agreements. So what happens? The BHA announces that ARC are getting exactly what they want, but are being allowed to completely disregard PMA’s, and sign their own short-term contract. This smacks of spineless negotiating against much more seasoned commercial bodies, and yet we are being expected to jump up and down at the extra prize money on offer without questioning it? Nonsense, and the sooner some people actually stop to look beneath the surface of this situation, without being dazzled by the glitzy headlines, the better.