Badger on Australian Breeding

9th May, 2008


ANZ Bloodstock News - 20th May 2008

Grant Pritchard-Gordon is one of the industry's most respected and active bloodstock agents, operating between the European and Australasian markets. On the eve of the Easter Broodmare Sale in Sydney, ANZ Bloodstock News posed some questions to the man known as 'Badger', purchaser of Miss Finland as a yearling, and always with a view on a specific issue.

Has Paul Makin's concept of buying mares worked at promoting Starcraft? How was it received in Europe? How do you think the market will receive the draft next week?

As with most matters relating to Paul Makin, the Starcraft Promotion was always going to be 'different' ! Has it been successful? Well, the sale of the first tranche of mares at Magic Millions last June has completely washed it's face financially. But that was just part of the plan. More importantly, there are now 18 foals (from mares specifically purchased for the horse) out there on other farms throughout Australia whose owners will be preparing them for sale in the next twelve months. These breeders will provide the vocal promotion of Starcraft for us, along with the many other breeders that used the horse in his first season. To this end, Arrowfield have reiterated that the interest in using the horse was very much boosted by breeders seeing the quality of mares that Paul Makin was buying to send to the horse. Last year's draft had the unique selling point of a free return to Starcraft in his second season. Twelve breeders took up this option, having seen the foals that were dropped by their mare. Everywhere we go, breeders have been very complimentary about the Starcraft foals on their farms. We have to take their word for it, but why do they need to bullshit us?!

How will the second draft be received?

Now that is the big question! There are some very nice mares amongst them, some of them having been very high class performers on the racetracK. Potential buyers should also gain confidence from the fact that one of the mares ( Episode ) that we sold last June has thrown a Group winner since....someone got a nice bonus! There is no doubt that the market is wavering and maybe some of the lesser individuals will possibly sell below our expectations. However, Paul's intention remains the same...to get the second Starcraft foal crop (from mares selected by us) out on to third party farms. Paul has given his horse an amazing opportunity to succeed and breeders have been totally complimentary about his novel way of doing it. When this second tranche has been sold, Paul will take a rest from his promotional duties. The next step will be to inspect the 2008/9 yearling crop and select the best ones to purchase at auction to carry the Makin 'Red, White and Blue' colours. Obviously we will initially be drawn to the progeny of the mares that we personally selected for Starcraft!

The story in Europe has mirrored that in Australia, except that it is six months in advance. Paul's purchasing of high class mares encouraged very many others to use the horse. The Makin mares sold well at auction and the many foals from the first crop were well received in the sales rings, where Paul was an active buyer. He now has six high class yearlings to enter training with the very best trainers in Europe. The sad fact is that injury prevented Starcraft from returning to Europe where he would have again been well supported by breeders.

As an agent, do the markets of Australia and Europe converge?

Inevitably the markets converge at the top end where many of the major players are active at sales in both hemispheres. I am not just talking of the Darley, Shadwell and Coolmore involvement in Australasia. The coming Inglis broodmare sale includes mares owned by major international farms in Juddmonte and Newsells Park. Both farms are dipping their toes into Australia for the very first time. Then there are the individuals who race in both hemispheres and buy in the Australian market place. Agents such as Adrian Nicholl, Hubie de Burgh and Dermot Farrington have brought considerable investment from Europe, while I have been pleased to have helped Europeans, South Americans and South Africans make major purchases in this market. However, it is not just one way.

Breeders such as Bob Scarborough, the late-great Jim Fleming, Philip Esplin and John Messara have long been buying high value stock in Europe and North America. More recently we have Bruce Neale, Dean Fleming, Paul Makin and Nathan Tinkler taking up the baton. Yes, the answer is that the marketplaces throughout the world are now as one...populated by breeders who are now very informed of what is happening in the racing and breeding industries throughout the globe. The catalyst has been the major advances in telecommunications and media, giving everyone the ability to source required information instantly.

What do you see as the opportunity in either hemisphere?

Last week's yearling sale removed for ever the suggestion that it is possible to buy 'value' in Australia. With the Australian dollar strengthening up to 25 per cent against some currencies within one year, it was always going to be a struggle to persuade overseas investors to buy. The first part of the Inglis Easter Yearling sale felt like Keeneland in its 'July Sale' heyday, with onlookers staggering from the ring in disbelief at the sheer audacity of the bidding. I find it remarkable that the South African Markus Jooste has continued his strong buying in the face of such disadvantageous currency rates, or for that matter that the Yoshida family bought strongly again as well. It says more about their desire to be involved in such a thriving and fun Australian industry than getting value, especially with the top end of the market rising yet again. The main opportunity now is for Australia to showcase its bloodlines to the world. With ambassadors such as Miss Andretti and Starcraft, the world is now focusing on this part of the world. Every one in the international business is looking to get an edge over his peers... Australian sprinting blood could be that edge and should be marketed as such.

What did you make of the yearling sales? Personally I have a very queezy feeling about the market. Something registers in my memory that there is the same gay abandon in the sale ring as appeared before previous slumps. Australia has seen the 'perfect wave' come together in 2008 with the noisy arrival of Patinack to challenge the might of a supercharged Darley and a re-fuelled Bob Ingham. Can these conditions last when every financial indicator in the world is pointing nervously downwards? History says that the Australian bloodstock market has a year's delay to financial slumps...hang on to your hats then! The bottom end of the bloodstock market has already rocked badly at The Classic Sale. It is a worldwide problem brought on by overproduction. Every market needs to lose 15 per cent of its foal crop to avoid financial meltdown. Australia has been lucky again in that EI has done exactly that for the breeding industry (for one year anyway!). Maybe it will have a softer landing than others...maybe not!

Are there any first-season sires that you particularly like?

Like many others, I have been very taken with the Fastnet Rock yearlings and have bought three to date. I have liked quite a few of the Charge Forward yearlings and bought one. Sharmadal has had some interesting staying types. My sleeper would be Lion Heart, who gets a very precocious type that will encourage trainers to get on with them quickly. We will not die wondering about this breed! My long shot would be Dane Shadow who gets very attractive and athletic yearlings...and being a son of Danehill gives him every chance to succeed!

Are there any European stallions that you’d like to see shuttle?

Contrary to popular belief, England and Ireland have a two year old racing programme that encourages more precocity than Australia. (I welcome all discussions on this matter!). Stallions such as Acclamation could hold their own anywhere in terms of early winners, while the likes of Oasis Dream and Pivotal would have been world class sprinters and get stock that would be interesting to race in Australia. Dansili is a very high class sire by the great Danehill, so why wouldn't he succeed here too? Do I want to see them shuttle? No! Come and buy them in Europe or send mares to be covered to Southern Hemisphere time.

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