Auction offers bargains and key insights

14th Aug 2011

The Age - Andrew Garvey - August 13, 2011

NEXT Thursday, William Inglis will conduct one of its regular Bloodstock auctions at Oaklands Junction, just past Tullamarine Airport.

With over 400 lots on offer there will no doubt be the regular bargains that make good along with the slow horses that just get slower but the action is perhaps even more interesting out of the sale ring on the opening day.

The day starts with a parade of seven Victorian first-season stallions, which will allow broodmare owners the opportunity to see them all in one location rather than traversing the state.

However, it is after the first day's selling session that the real bargain is on display.

It won't cost a cent and given the thoroughbred breeding industry's ability to swallow money it could well save a fortune for many would-be and perhaps even current breeders.

From 5.30pm Inglis auctioneers Peter Heagney and Simon Vivian will conduct a seminar titled ''Breeding Thoroughbreds for Commercial Sale.''

It's a pursuit many attempt but just as many eventually fail at, even after enjoying huge success in other fields of business.

''In this business, people are reluctant to ask questions, not wanting to show their ignorance. The industry has a history of successful business people trying to apply the same principles to the thoroughbred industry and getting burnt,'' Vivian said.

''Hopefully we [the seminar] can get them on the right path from the start or at least back on it.''

The bottom line for any commercial breeder is what their stock can command at the yearling sales and as the dominant auction company in Victoria and New South Wales it is in Inglis's best interest as agent to achieve the optimal selling price for every horse that goes through the ring.

Each yearling sold attracts a commission of 8 per cent on the first $150,000 and 6.5 per cent of any amount above that.

While each yearling only has a couple of minutes in the sale ring, a lot of time is devoted to which sale they should be in in the first place.

With entries having just closed for Inglis's three major sales, Easter and Classic in Sydney and the Premier in Melbourne, there will be approximately 4000 yearlings to be graded by the Inglis selection panel, with around half eventually accepted for sale.

Pedigrees are generated for each horse before the panel of about 10 staff gathers in Sydney in September for a week, where each horse is given a grade for its suitability in the various sales in which it has been entered. ''We go through every lot and I can guarantee that there is plenty of discussion and argument,'' Vivian said.

It is at that meeting that the decisions made by breeders three years earlier are judged for the first time.

Some boom stallions will have already gone bust and matings of mares going to higher-priced stallions on the back of a promising two-year-old or outstanding looking weanling can be looking ordinary after the youngster failed to make the grade.

Vivian says part of the grade can even come down to where a stallion is more popular.

''There are always stallions whose progeny are more successful in one state compared to another, so a yearling by a stallion that Victorian buyers like will get a better grade for a sale here than it would if it was entered in a sale in Sydney.''

Once the pedigrees have been graded each horse is inspected for conformation and even a horse with the best pedigree can be knocked out by the vagaries of nature.

While some breeders can tend to overlook faults in their horses, the majority of buyers do not - or certainly apply significant discounts to what they are prepared to pay for them - and for Vivian, Heagney and their cohorts it is the horses with the less fashionable pedigrees or with conformation faults that take the most effort to sell under the hammer.

''Many people can make a great study of pedigrees without having a great grasp of conformation and it can lead to plenty of disappointment,'' Vivian said

The seminar will also cover broodmare and stallion selection as well as outlining how the sale process works.

Also on the agenda is the difference between breeding for the sale ring and breeding to race, with Vivian pointing out that a horse having ''X crosses of this and X crosses of that" is of little relevance commercially if the horse in question is by an unfashionable sire from an unsuccessful mare.

A seat at the Inglis complex dining room next Thursday afternoon will not guarantee a ticket to equine riches but there will be plenty of food for thought for anyone wanting to try their luck.

Over the two days of the sale the 34 entries in the inaugural Inglis Equine Art Prize will be on show, with entrants chasing a $15,000 first prize and all entries available for sale.

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