Tom Goff (Blandford Bloodstock) and Angus Gold
(Photo : Barronstown Stud, Grangecon, Co Wicklow, Ireland)
CAPE PREMIER YEARLING SALE
Cape Town International Convention Centre
Cape Town, South Africa
26 - 27 January 2012
Summerhill Stud CEOJust recently, The Economist magazine, Europe’s leading voice on global economic opinion, carried a foreboding graphic about an uncertain future on its front page, with the words “Be Afraid”. The message is misleading, representing as it does a world view of historical western political, economic and social dominance that is struggling to come to terms with its own relative decline, and with the emergence of another world, stepping boldly into a future of momentous change and great opportunity.
The results of the past week’s thoroughbred trade at Cape Town’s International Convention Centre tell us to their credit, that few of those at whom The Economist’s warning was directed, namely the Brits and our European friends, took any notice. To the astonishment of many, and especially our foreign visitors, the international community splashed out of the order of USD$ 5 million (around R40 million) of the gross turnover of R107 million. When you factor into the equation the suspension of our exports and the fact there is no resolution in immediate sight, it says something for the esteem in which our horses are held, and the marketing job the organisers did. In the end, an average of R403,000 (last year R404,000) was a satisfactory performance, given the entry of an extra 60-odd lots, and while there are still some questions to be asked regarding the future structure of the sale and where it goes from here, in broad terms it was a great way to begin the New Year.
The disparities between the top end and the rest which were apparent at last year’s inaugural version, were still there, however, and while the national propensity to concentrate largely on the progeny of those sires that have proven track records, is understandable, you can’t help thinking that it’s taking risk-aversion too far when it’s done to the point of almost ignoring the stock of a troupe of freshmen which carry some of the best credentials we’ve known. One of the world’s top “bloodstockers”, Tom Goff of Blandford Bloodstock, was among several who made that observation during the week. We all know the attractions of the proven sires, but in some respects, that’s a little bit like kicking for touch. Back in Europe, the old adage ‘get in, before they get out of reach’ is very much on the minds of those with a respect for the first crop of a top class racehorse, and an eye for a good looker. In a country in which courage and enterprise have been the foundation stones of what we are today, it’s strange to find that being “fearful” is the characteristic of South African horsemen these days, and it seems our people are paying more attention to The Economist, than their own.
Another man whose name is known around the world, racing manager to Sheikh Hamdan, Angus Gold, pointed to the yawning gap between the top and the bottom of the sale, and especially the hole in the middle market, and wondered whether the concentration of resources by so few on so many of the top lots, isn’t a deterrent to outside investors. It is a point, though it’s fairly typical of what happens in boutique sales wherever you go, and was a hallmark of the old days at Keeneland July, scene of the world’s most famous slugging matches between the Maktoum family and the old O’Brien, Magnier and Sangster firm.
There is something though, about a horse sale that transcends all cultures and all tastes. This was a triumph for the organisers, bringing together players from 15 different countries. The lure of a good horse is as compelling today as it ever was, and in a world in which government debt and sovereign bonds are demoted to junk status, the international currency of horse trading is right back in vogue. Nowhere in the world can you hook up with a greater diversity of people, and in this lies a salutary lesson. We teach history the wrong way around. The first thing we should learn as a child, is that we’re part of the human race, the last thing we should learn is that we’re Protestant, South African and of European descent. The horse world, and raising horses, teaches you that.