A few observations from a Kiwi now living in Sydney:
First, NZ has the problem of market size. Simply too little demand. This leads to all the big money gravitating to Bettors Delight, etc. The Top End of Town. Easy money and a very few players get to play. There aren’t enough buyers to support the middle ground at our yearling Sales. Australia better in this regard, with more buyers, more races, etc, but the same issues face the industry there. Not so it seem in parts of the USA. Recent Lexington Sales results should encourage us all. The success at Lexington Sales didn’t come packaged as ours seem to do. In Australasia, a very small number of stallions, breeders, and buyers dominate, and we continuously lament the lack of return for breeders and sellers of more modest, but well-credentialed stock. We also wonder at the lack of support shown the newer stallions at our major Sales. In this Selected Sale, BD wasn’t in the top 20 averages, neither was Art Major. The stallions at the top of the pacing tree included Sunshine Beach, A RNR Dance, Sweet Lou, and Captaintreacherous. The top pacing lots were ALL by these stallions, plus Somebeach.
Second, with more racing and less bias towards futurity racing, Australian sire stats are very different from NZ. Last season, the top 10 2yo’s and top 10 3yo’s in Aussie were by BD, Somebeach, Mach three, Four Starzz, RNR Heaven, Courage, RNR Hanover, For a Reason and Sportswriter. In NZ, the same lot were by BD, Art Major, Mach Three, Changeover, American Ideal. Nine versus Five. It’s difficult to “branch out” in NZ, and almost as hard in Australia, with few moneyed buyers knowing these stats, and their impact on yearling prices.
Third, like the malaise in Australia rugby, a lot of our issue just must be the industry’s focus on the elite. Money, punting, yearling sales – all biased in such a way as the system only really rewards those few who throw money that most people can’t go even close to matching. I believe this is the biggest threat to our sport, and I’d love to see more initiatives to support the mid to lower tiers, and the new players, sires, breeders, etc. Races restricted to lower-priced, and/or first season stallions. Sure we have State racing in Australia where horses are supposed to have been bred in that State, except they aren’t! Lots of variations on those rules see horses cross, EG, from Victoria to South Australia, just for a single race or series, with no subsequent benefit to the local breeders. I’ll offer some metrics on this “top end of town” domination:
TEOT dominates! By far the majority of leading stake earners in NZ are 2 and 3yo’s. That’s where the money is now, particularly in Stakes/Futurity racing. Only 6 of the top 26 stake earners were over 3 years old. Accepting this, and it’s true in most racing arenas, this is where we stand, in the past couple of seasons. Don’t hang me on exact numbers, but I guarantee these are very close and representative of what’s happening. These are by stake earnings. BD sired 12 of the top 21 2/3yo’s. Only four other sires featured. The number one stable trained 16 of the top earning 27 pacers. Only 3 horses that featured in the top 21 that sold for under $50,000 at the Sales. 8 of those 21 were owned by only 3 individuals. The stats go on, so we have to work within an industry/sport with these realities. I offer some silver lined clouds, perhaps – fillies, by stakes won, made up 4 of the top 9 3yo’s and 5 of the top 12 2yo’s. And yet fillies are cheap and people won’t even enter them, knowing they’ll get hammered (poor choice of words re an auction). Time to rethink? New sires are featuring so strongly in the US, this trend must spill over to NZ – get in early, like some did with BD, Vance Hanover, etc. Trotting is on the increase everywhere. At Lexington, 15 trotting yearlings sold for over $200,000 and 4 for over $300,000. Trotters averaged about the same as pacers, and the fillies averaged 25% more than their pacing sisters. Trotting sires made up 12 of the top 20 stallions by average sale price. Again, new sires dominated, and most are available to NZ and Australian breeders. In NZ in those last few seasons referred to above, only 2 of the top 15 trotters were trained by the number one stable, all of these 15 were owned by different people, and they were by 11 different stallions. Spot the difference? Offered as food for thought.