QUEENSLAND RACING INDUSTRY FUTURE BLEAK AFTER DEPLORABLE YEARLING SALES ACROSS TWO CODES

20/02/13

It’s a well-known fact of life in racing that if you want to know the state of health of the racing industry, a good place to start is by attending a yearling sale in the thoroughbred or standardbred codes, or a puppy auction in the greyhound world.

Put simply all three codes of racing are dependent on many different people to survive and in many ways all are equally important, however if you don’t have breeders there are no horses or greyhounds to sell, so the racing industry would obviously cease to exist. Then you need buyers who have enough confidence in the future of a particular code to turn up at a public auction and buy an equine or canine athlete as without new owners the breeders would not be able to make a dollar to allow them to 1) stay in the business and 2) have the capital to spend money in either Australia or internationally to buy progeny to improve the bloodlines of their own stock. So it’s a no brainer that breeders and owners rely on each other to survive.

High profile yearling sales like say the annual January Magic Millions “select sale” have many high profile globally recognised players from the industry all turn up to pose and spend someone else’s money, in many cases the money of those who have more money than sense, but as it’s their money they can waste it in any way they see fit. The big spending at a sale like this January Magic Millions sale attracts the big headlines in the media but rarely is the subject of disappointing sale results for some breeders with stock at the sale ever mentioned. In the halcyon days of what would fairly be dubbed “yearling sale madness” when a stallion like Arrowfield Stud’s Redoute’s Choice stood for a service fee of $330,000 (2007 and 2008 seasons) there was never an article penned in mainstream media about all the hobby or fulltime breeders who experienced massive losses with progeny by Redoute’s Choice at a yearling sale, as that wouldn’t have been a good news story and the racing industry dwells on good news stories. When it comes to hobby breeders in particular losing money from their venture, it’s a case of “why let the truth get in the way of a good story”.

And so it came to pass that with Queensland being Queensland there was a stuff up of monumental proportions last weekend when both the Brisbane Bloodstock thoroughbred sale and the Australian Pacing Gold standardbred sale were stupidly both run on the same day at venues five or 10 minutes apart, depending on whether you encountered green lights or red lights at each intersection. Justracing attended both sales to gauge the health of the Queensland racing industry across two of the three codes and I must say what I witnessed first hand was an industry in crisis, seemingly at the crossroads of its very existence. Just as Sydney racing is buggered at present due to small fields and a few of the big stables totally dominating the scene, the Queensland industry will continue to lose both breeders and owners at an alarming rate if the two sales from last Sunday are any barometer. In fact both sales cumulatively painted such a gloomy picture for the future of thoroughbred and harness racing in this State that most hobby breeders and the odd full time breeder will have no option but to walk away from the industry. One studmaster at one of the two venues on the day told me, “We’ll just sell up and walk away I think. This is terrible”. If that person enacts his own words let me assure you that the decision will rock the Queensland breeding industry. Naturally his identity is safe here, but I have to admit I can see his point of view as for any business to remain sustainable in the long term it has to make a profit at least some of the years. I can assure you that there were a stack of financial losses incurred at last Sunday’s sales. Whilst buyers are entitled to mark harshly poorly conformed, ordinary bred, or undersize stock at a yearling sale, what I witnessed last Sunday went way beyond that. And lack of marketing wasn’t an excuse as both sales were marketed well enough to give them adequate exposure, so a lack of marketing was not a possible problem. Brisbane Bloodstock had plenty of Sky Channel 1 advertising for the weeks leading into the sale, even scoring a prized last minute plug with a segment prior to the popular Racing Retro show on the day of the sale.

The scene of the disaster that unfolded before my eyes was everywhere across both sales. For instance a standardbred yearling filly sold on behalf of Clive Palmer’s Cold Mountain Stud at the Australian Pacing Gold sale at Albion Park revealed how bad that code is going. I can report she was a nicely grown and presented filly having been foaled on 15 December 2011 and she was by Cold Mountain resident stallion Gold Dust Beach. For those not remotely interested in harness racing, Gold Dust Beach was a precocious American pacer and he earned US$348,315 in his 3YO year alone, rating a fast 1.51 when winning a US$250,000 final. So it’s taken as read that he was no slouch. For her part, the dam of the filly being sold was named Free. In her illustrious career she won 25 races in America and earned US$535,027. At age 4 she rated an incredible 1.49.4 – amazing for a male, let alone a female. God alone knows what billionaire Clive Palmer paid for the stallion and the mare to bring not only those two, but a whole heap of other wonderful pacers to Australia, to Queensland in particular, to improve the standardbred gene pool. Yes he’s got plenty of money, so he won’t go bankrupt from losses incurred last Sunday, but the fact remains that the man is entitled to also make a profit to keep his harness enterprise going. If you can believe it, the filly with that wonderful world class breeding and being the first foal to her mother – and featuring a catalogue page littered with black type was sold for a pathetic $9,000 after it took what seemed an eternity to get an opening bid of $2,000 from the public. That $9,000 wouldn’t even pay for the air fare out here from America for the mother of the subject foal. I nearly stuck my hand up and bought her myself, but “Lovey’s” got angry in the past when I’ve bought a horse on impulse and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that she’s actually “another Lorena Bobbitt” given the right set of circumstances, so I just kept my hand on my camera.

If you think that $9,000 is a totally pathetic result, well it was even worse up the road at the Brisbane Bloodstock sale. If you had $1,000 or $2,000 you could proudly walk out the front gate of that sale with a Clang yearling, a number of Freeze yearlings, one by Natural Destiny, or a yearling by “sire sensation” Real Saga. Here are some of the deplorable results that were achieved at the Brisbane Bloodstock sale last Sunday. At the start is the yearling sale price and in brackets thereafter is the advertised service fee that the stallion in question was standing at last season, so you can gauge the massive financial tear-up for yourself. And don’t forget the following financial loss incurred by the breeder is without the yearling ever having so much as one mouthful of food, being broken in to be able to be led into the sales ring, being prepared for the sale at $30 or $40 a day for say five to seven weeks out from the sale, paying for any vet bills incurred along the way, parting with any transport costs to get the horse to the sale, paying the nomination fee to be eligible to even be included in the sale, or for paying the horse up for a bonus scheme to give it added buyer appeal and so on. A Mossman yearling sold for $6,000 (service fee $27,500), Danzero sold for $4,500 (service fee $11,000), Show A Heart $7,000 (service fee $22,000), Dane Shadow $7,000 (service fee $16,500), Red Element $1,000 (service fee $7,700), and Monashee Mountain $2,000 (service fee $8,800). Now I can accept that the odd one of these aforesaid yearlings may have had a conformation problem, been poorly presented, had a lack of pedigree on the catalogue page or whatever, but they most certainly can’t all have issues – and just look at the losses incurred here.

Over yesterday, today and tomorrow on the www.brisbaneracing.com.au website you’ll see some of the deplorable results that breeders were forced to endure in a sad day in the history of the Queensland racing industry.

Anyone who thought that an LNP government and a change of Board at Racing Queensland would make any great difference to the Queensland racing industry is sadly mistaken and should have stood next to me last Sunday to see first hand the Queensland racing industry under the whip – and going up and down in the one spot. In fact if things get any worse and they keep flogging the obviously beaten horse, they’ll have to fine themselves for “hitting a horse that was out of contention”.

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there is the second huge montage of photos from the Vince Curry greyhound semi-finals at Ipswich last Friday, along with photos from Doomben thoroughbred action last Saturday and Sunday’s Australian Pacing Gold sale and the Brisbane Bloodstock sale the same day. On www.sydneyracing.com.au there’s the story about the stallion success story that is Street Cry, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Matt Nicholls writes of Racing Victoria’s pathetic response to three jockeys found betting.

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