The yearling sales are the breeders’ harvest. Breeders come in many forms. They are either self-made business people who love to keep a few mares at their country home or are commercial stud owners who may have other people’s mares boarding.
However, Flat racing in the UK has two or three very big players. The biggest two are the ruling family of Dubai, the Maktoums and the Coolmore/Ballydoyle team headed so shrewdly by John Magnier.
The 2008 Flat season belonged entirely to the Coolmore/Ballydoyle team based in Ireland. Magnier is the most successful breeder in the world at present and he controls the major stallions, Montjeu and Gallileo among many others.
The Maktoums have many more horses than the Irish, running both in their own names and under the title of Godolphin. However they had a wretched year on the racecourse.
The Tattersalls Newmarket yearling (a one-year-old horse) sales seemed unaware of the financial crisis that has hit the world. Prices remained high for the top end lots and that was mainly down to the huge influence of the oil-rich men from Dubai.
In the last 10 years the number of mares in Ireland has increased by over 70% and in England by at least 10%. As a result there is a serious case of over-production of foals and yearlings.
The lower end of the market does not appeal to the Dubai or Irish teams and the weaker individual with an ordinary pedigree has been much harder to sell. The sales are the breeders’ annual harvest and many a yearling loses money.