14th Sep 2017
By this time next week, nearly 1000 young thoroughbreds (called yearlings, equivalent to teenagers) will have paraded around a busy sales arena at Fairyhouse in Co Meath. All of them strutting their stuff and their pedigree pages, in search of new owners who will train them as juveniles on Flat racetracks next year.
This first Irish sale opens a season of trading and as many as 5000 will change hands between now and the end of October in Britain and Ireland. Breeding and preparing racehorses is big business for Ireland and it’s people, with the vast percentage of that stock hailing from these shores.
Our own draft of yearlings is overseen by long-time team member PJ. Each summer, he’ll take a long look at the potential sales horses, decide along with their current owners, which horse should be in which sale and advise how long a preparation they might require.
Preparation is essential for a sale as the potential racehorse needs to be primed and ready for the big day, but not overdone so at to detract from his/her future racing career. The youngster will have probably spent most of their life grazing in a paddock up until now, so now it must learn to thrive in a stabled environment.
Next jobs are to teach the horse to behave with good manners (no biting or silliness), to walk with purpose and stand in a set position so that their physique may be shown to best effect. Most yearlings are intelligent creatures and come to hand very quickly, learning all the time. Some won’t want their ears groomed or their feet picked out, but with gentle persuasion from our skilful team, the drill becomes easier as the days go by.
Each preparation can vary depending on the needs of the individual, but 8/10 weeks is the optimum time allotted. A special high-protein diet ensures they are in great physical shape and they’ll be lunged regularly (trotted and cantered around in a circular motion) to develop their muscles. Walking takes place too on a special mechanical horsewalker which will build up stamina and then some hand-walking ensures they are able to show themselves with a handler come sales time.
As the auction approaches, the team of horses will be assembled at the sales yard and shown over a couple of days to prospective buyers, trainers and various agents who specialise in the purchase of thoroughbreds. The buyers will home in on the way the horse looks, it’s head, eye and most importantly it’s walk. Will it be the ultimate athlete?
It’s very hard to tell at this point who’ll be the winners and losers at the track in future, but the yearlings are given the best chance to shine in the sales ring. When the bidding starts it makes fascinating theatre and is open to all, so don’t be afraid to look up the dates when our stock are selling and check them out. Some horses make €1000, some make €1m, so there’s a big range to suit all budgets.
Tattersalls (Ireland) sale starts next Tuesday, 19th September and Goffs starts Tuesday 26th September. Here’s to a busy season!