Elite sport horse sales thrive despite Covid-19 restrictions *H&H Plus*

  • As rapidly changing Covid-19 restrictions are limiting people’s ability to attend many elite auctions in person, H&H finds out how the sector has risen to meet the challenges and what this means for forthcoming elite sport horse auctions such as the Monart Sale and Goresbridge Go for Gold...

    ELITE sport horse sales have been running successfully despite Covid-19 restrictions, as organisers focus on “controlling the controllable”.

    The Monart Sale of elite event horses in Ireland is due to run online from 2 to 4 November, while the Billy Stud’s first Elite Auction, which ended on 18 October, was a great success, with the top lot, Big Star national six-year-old champion Billy Masai, selling to the US for £92,000.

    Highclere Thoroughbred Racing held its yearling parade via live-stream on 18 October.

    Highclere chairman and managing director Harry Herbert said: “We would normally have been welcoming 250 people per day over three days but with Covid, we decided to live-stream the parade. It was really well received and since buying our yearlings we have sold over 80% of our shares which is fantastic.

    “The live-stream reached a much larger audience than ever before and proved that there is real interest in racehorse ownership despite the current challenging economic climate.”

    The Billy Stud’s William Funnell told H&H that more than ever, with current restrictions, auctions like his give everyone an opportunity to buy online.

    In the first elite auction, Billy Tiberius and six-year-old mare Billy Seymour went for £90,000 and £72,000 respectively.

    “Some of them might have made more from private sales, but I think this is the way forward,” William said. “Originally, we started the online auctions as a pre-event to the main auctions, but even before this year things had started to move online, as I think it works for seller and buyer.”

    William added that having detailed footage, vetting and X-ray details for horses helps buyer confidence, while the stud protects its good name. Another 10 top Billy horses go up for auction this weekend.

    The Monart Sale (2-4 November) has a changed format, with investment in the equestrian venue to cope with hosting the auction. This includes new broadband lines to cater for the auction live-stream.

    “Monart has never done online bidding before and this is a positive development that will be here to stay for future sales, but it’s a big investment upfront with no guarantee that the business generated will match the investment,” a spokesman said.

    Sale director Niall Griffin added that: “Our main focus is to control the controllable.”

    “No matter what way this goes, a lot of it is out of our control,” he told H&H. “We want to give our vendors and buyers as much confidence as possible.

    “We’ve invested heavily in making Monart Equestrian as Covid-secure as possible.

    “The biggest development is the new online bidding platform and the live-stream. We’ve never done a live-stream for the sale before, but we’re hopeful it will open the sale up to new bidders from around the world. In a normal year sales would expect online bidding to equate to 20 to 30% of sales, but in a Covid year we’re expecting that to be more.”

    Mr Griffin said different plans have been made depending on what level of restrictions are in place, as is the case for the Goresbridge Go for Gold sale. This select event horse sale has been postponed for four weeks, until 7 to 8 December.

    Goresbridge managing director Martin Donohoe told H&H it is hoped that by then, restrictions will have eased, so those coming into the country will not have to self-isolate, and buyers may be able to attend sales.

    “If not, it will all be online,” he said. “When we took promotional videos this year, we took a lot more views, to give more people opportunity to see the horses if they can’t attend in person.

    “People are buying more online and getting more used to it; most people are having to think differently and change their ways of doing things in these unprecedented times.”

    H&H 29 October 2020


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