Sport of Kings: How to purchase a racehorse at Europe’s most prestigious bloodstock sales
It is rare to find a more exhilarating experience than owning your own racehorse. The roar of the crowd as the horses gallop up the straight towards the finishing post, the sound of thundering hooves, and the swoosh of colourful silks flying past; the atmosphere is electric. Watching your own horse brings the experience to the next level – the excitement of a winner and the champagne popping celebrations that follow. But where to find the right horse?
Tattersalls is the oldest and most prestigious bloodstock auctioneers in the world and holds a strong reputation for producing elite performers. Founded near Hyde Park Corner in 1766, but now firmly established in Britain’s racings headquarters of Newmarket, the Tattersalls team carefully select the thousands of racehorses to enter their ring for sale each year. Anyone is allowed to take a seat in their impressive amphitheatre style sales ring and then the bidding begins for a future champion.
At Tattersalls horses are still sold in guineas, one guinea being the equivalent of £1.05, with the company keeping the 5p. The commission structure has been in place since its establishment over 250 years ago and gives a nod to old traditions. Whilst the large electric selling boards reflect the modern business and its international clientele, with the bidding followed in all major currencies. Last year Tattersalls sold the most expensive horse ever purchased at European auction for 6 million guineas (£6.3 million).
A sale to suit all budgets
A total of 12 sales are held each year at Tattersalls in Newmarket of which the most prestigious is the October Book 1 Yearling Sale. This is where the serious money is and where Tattersalls displays its crème de la crème. It has proven an unrivalled source for Group 1 and Classic winners, with four Investec Derby winners purchased at this sale in the last decade. This is followed by Books 2, 3 and 4, for those looking to spend a little less, then the Horses in Training, foal sale, and breeding stock sale.
“Our team can guide buyers as to where they are best suited,” says Jason Singh, Tattersalls marketing manager. “Book 1-4 of our October Yearling Sale take place over two weeks and there’s no point wasting your time looking for a yearling with a specific budget in the wrong sale. By contacting us we can ensure you are coming to a sale that will best suit.”
There are also many racing syndicates out there depending on your budget and preference. Highclere Thoroughbred Racing was set up by the Hon. Harry Herbert and has attracted many high-profile owners including Olympian Denise Lewis and actor Hugh Bonneville. Highclere provides the opportunity to get involved in top bloodstock without paying a fortune and a serious chance to race at a high level.
“The most important thing if you are thinking of coming and buying a horse is to get professional advice, either from a trainer or an agent who will guide you to make sure you buy the horse that suits your needs,” explains Singh. As there are lots of different options at the sales, from foals to older horses, and as most owners are not experts in assessing thoroughbreds, it is advised to enlist the help of an industry expert. Bloodstock agents provide valuable form, pedigree and physical analysis and help ensure that the buying process is made simple. Buying your own racehorse is incredibly exciting, so is something that should not be rushed. “It is also important to contact Tattersalls in advance of the sale to register as a buyer,” Singh adds – something your agent can also assist wit”
Racing and bloodstock in the UK are regarded as the very best around the world. Many of the horses purchased at Tattersalls go on to perform on the main global stage, winning contests in Dubai, America, France and Japan, so it is no surprise that overseas buyers have a big presence at the sales.
According to Singh: “Tattersalls attracts buyers from more than 50 countries each year, many of who will export their purchases back to race or breed in their country and many who will leave the horses locally.” In total overseas buyers account for approximately 60% of horses sold at the sales each year.
Investing in excitement
Racehorse ownership should be viewed as an investment in a unique and exciting experience. Financial returns can be few and far between, so it is important that a first-time buyer has a realistic approach when getting involved. “Making money from racehorses is not easy and very few racehorses will return a profit, so we would encourage first time owners to enter it for the excitement and pleasure rather than as an investment,” says Singh. “A good horse can still return a good financial return, but it shouldn’t be the overriding reason of entering into ownership.”
The four-day Tattersalls December Breeding Stock Sale starts at 10am on Monday 3rd December.