To see if any emerging pattern can shed light on these questions, I looked at the racecourse performances of the best-selling breeze-up juveniles and three-year-old National Hunt store horses from certain sales.
I chose the period of 2005 to 2014 to obtain 10 years of data and to allow for the most recent of the graduates to reach their potential on the track, and I followed the careers of the 10 highest-priced lots sold (not unsold or bought in) at each selected sale. Because the Goresbridge Breeze-Up sale only began in 2006, a total of 490 horses were included from the five selected sales.
As most trainers earn a living by trading horses, career earnings often have little relevance on whether or not a purchase turned a profit. Many of the graduates here have gone on to long careers in Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Australia, or the USA, so their second-hand value is likely to have exceeded their original purchase price.
In the case of the fillies, a residual paddock value also renders their career earnings redundant.
However, the earnings on track do provide a measure of the ability of the individual and the longevity of career. A non-blacktype winner amassing more than €30,000 has undoubtedly been a top-class handicapper or a tough and consistent performer throughout a lengthy career.
What is quite shocking to see is that some British-trained horses who have both won and placed second during their career have amassed only €4,000 or less in earnings.
This covers just eight weeks of training fees and is surely scant reward for a winning horse, particularly when in Ireland, for example, minimum prize money has risen from €6,000 to €10,000 and a single win could pay the bills for five months. Regardless of whether a Flat breezer or National Hunt store horse can recover its purchase price, we can be sure that the store horse will at least recover its physical and mental well-being by the time its career begins.
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National Hunt stores
As might be expected, given the advantage of maturity of a three-year-old store horse, there were significantly few unraced purchases. The Derby Sale saw only 8% fail to reach the racecourse, while the Land Rover sale boasted an even better 4% of unraced purchases from its Top Tens of the decade. Seventy percent of the Derby Sale horses became winners, compared to 59% from the Land Rover sale.
When it comes to getting a day out at the races, owners chasing the choicest lots do well to shop at the NH store sales.
Nevertheless, it is interesting that the added maturity of the three-year-old store horses has, in the end, proven to be of very little benefit to buyers, other than providing them with a greater chance of actually having a runner.
There were no surprises among the top represented sires; the seven stallions with the highest number featuring in the Top Ten of the decade showing a strikingly high rate of those earning €100,000 or more and recovering their purchase price. Kalanisi may only have had four here, but all four won.
It appeared that the maturity of the store horse did result in more of the graduates reaching the racecourse, but in surprising contrast the number of unraced breeze-up graduates was 14%, and in fact Goresbridge produced the highest percentage of unraced graduates from all of the nine analysed sales. Goresbridge did, however, produce the highest percentage of the Flat horses to recover their sales price.
If there is no obvious benefit to the buyer in having more mature horses to choose from, is there a benefit to the trainer in receiving a horse already brought to a certain level of fitness? That is, of course, up to the individual trainer to decide, but the pure statistics show that, from the 10 highest-priced graduates from the three major breeze-up sales between 2006 and 2014, 14% failed to reach the racetrack, 60% raced as two-year-olds, and 26% managed to win as two-year-olds.
Quite a large number of the breeze-up graduates later won under National Hunt Rules and the results would suggest that there is as good a general mix of type among the breeze-ups, and these aren’t simply a source for precocious two-year-olds. As to whether the breeze-up graduates are truly ready to run, 40% of the graduates did not start their careers until three-year-olds or older. Of those that raced as two-year-olds, the highest number of debuts were made in July, with August close behind. More started in September and October than in May and June, and 11% managed to win first time out at two.