H&H dressage editor’s blog: how much I think Uthopia will sell for

  • Ahead of Uthopia's sale by public auction at Wilsons Auctioneers in Northern Ireland – where we hope his future with Carl Hester will be secured – H&H's dressage editor attempts to work out how much he's worth as a breeding stallion

    Trying to work out how much Uthopia will sell for at public auction is rather like asking how long is a piece of string. Well, if you work out how long that string is likely to live for and what it might do in that time and how it might flex its commercial muscle, you can begin to work it out. Or at least make an educated guess.

    I won’t stretch the terrible analogy any further, but so many people are speculating over how much the Olympic gold medal winner will sell for at auction in Northern Ireland tomorrow (Friday 27 April) that I thought I’d try some maths.

    I’m adding a caveat here: maths never was my strong suit at school and I’ll probably get the decimal point in the wrong place, but I’ll have a stab at this anyway.

    Here are some things we know:

    • Uthopia, known as Uti, is a 15-year-old stallion.
    • He last competed — under Charlotte Dujardin — on 28 January at Amsterdam CDI where he scored 82.37% in the freestyle.
    • Since 2009 he has competed in at least two tests every year.
    • He is 1.64m, which is just over 16hh.
    • He has been standing at Meadow Stud and available to the public at a stud fee of £1,500.

    A vet report following Amsterdam CDI apparently stated that he needed time off to recover from an injury. The rigors of international competition may be too demanding for him, but perhaps he could be a schoolmaster for someone wanting to learn the ropes at grand prix? So is he still worth anything as a sport horse, or does his commercial value lie solely as a breeding stallion?

    Being 15, he could reasonably stand at stud for the next five years. How many mares might he cover in that time? Well, that depends a lot on who buys him. He has been standing in the UK, though not promoted or marketed heavily, so has not attracted many mares.

    But if one of the big continental studs bought him, the global marketing campaign would kick into overdrive, and he may well attract the attention of many more mare owners.

    I phoned the KWPN to find out how many mares their most popular stallions covered in 2015. While they couldn’t pull out exact figures, they said: “Over the past few years, the number of breedings registered with KWPN per dressage stallion is between 1 and 300.”

    Not a very exact guide.

    So. The magnificent stallion De Niro — ranked number one on the World Breeding rankings — covers about 40 mares a year in the UK.

    So lets estimate that Uti might cover a similar number, 50 say. He’s a proven performer, which makes him attractive, but at only a smidge over 16hh he isn’t the breed standard for most continental studbooks. Coupled with question marks around his soundness and that fact that few of his offspring have come to prominence, I can’t imagine he’d cover more mares than that.

    So, let’s assume he’d cover 50 mares a year for five years. And lets assume his stud fee stays the same. A lot of assumptions here, I know.

    Continued below…

    So, how does the maths stack up?

    50 mares a year at £1,500 = £75,000

    That means he has the ability to earn £375,000 over five years.

    But as everyone who has so much got a whiff of a horse knows, things often don’t go to plan, and any horse is a risky investment. It also doesn’t take into account any keep fees for the horse during that half-decade and any further years he might live.

    Let’s take off keep fees of, conservatively, about £200 a week, as well as marketing and contingency of about £50 a month. Then a bit more for when things go wrong, because with horses they always do from time to time. Then add a bit back on for good measure — and to account for a bit of bidding audacity.

    So, based on these calculations how much will Uthopia go for? I estimate about £228,479.

    By this time tomorrow, we’ll know if I am right…

    Log on to H&H tomorrow from 6pm when the sale gets underway as we cover the auction live from the auction house in Belfast.

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