MANY National Hunt breeders and vendors are smiling this weekend after a month which has seen over €42 million spent on store horses at Goffs and Tattersalls Ireland, up 23% on last year.

Just two weeks ago Part 1 of the Goffs Land Rover Sale returned an average price of €51,792. This week’s Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale saw the average reach €57,903, astonishing levels for unbroken National Hunt prospects.

Charles O’Neill, CEO of Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, said: “We’re thrilled how both sales went. The clearance rate for both came in at 90%, which is unheard of. There was a huge buying bench from England and Ireland. I think the English were much more active this year and that is probably because their horses fared a bit better at Cheltenham this year. Fingers crossed, it will continue into the yearling sales.”

Shane O’Dwyer, CEO of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, added: “It’s great to see sales going so well, especially for the National Hunt fillies. Credit must go to the teams at Goffs, Tattersalls Ireland and ITM.”

O’Neill admitted it was not easy to find hotel rooms for visitors, while the steep rise in the cost of hire cars meant that the ITM team had to provide a chauffeur service at times.

“The hotels were a nightmare but we managed to secure rooms for those who needed them,” he said.

“Airport delays are a problem, however, both here and in England. We had some clients who were held up for eight hours and that is not good for our business.”

Asked to comment on the trade for store horses, bloodstock agent Tom Malone said: “I knew after the Land Rover Sale that the Derby Sale would be comparable. The staggering thing is the jump in the average price – the Derby Sale has gone from €50,000 in 2019 to almost €60,000 this year.

“The point-to-point handlers have been the main reason for the rise in prices. They are competing with the traditional buyers, such as bloodstock agents and trainers. There are more and more of these guys getting involved and they all want to buy a nice horse for point-to-points. Some of them are buying 20 and taking a share in another 20, to spread the risk.”

David Minton of the Highflyer Bloodstock Agency said: “We struggled a bit this week as we didn’t have much money to spend. Irish money was dominant. Horses that were making between €30,000 and €50,000 a couple of years ago were now fetching between €60,000 and €100,000. It’s incredible when you think what’s happening in the world with interest rates. Those point-to-point lads are brave and they love to spend.”

Love of racing

Henrietta Knight bought four horses at the Derby Sale for €645,000 and two at the Land Rover for €320,000, all for racehorse owner Mike Grech. She told The Irish Field: “Owners like Mike know there is little chance of financial return on their investment but they do it for the love of racing and the glory of winning.”

Speaking from Connemara where she was inspecting ponies for potential purchase, Knight confirmed that most of her store sale buys will be trained in Ireland. “Mike is moving a certain amount of his business to Ireland and opening offices – he loves it here.”

Grech said this week: “The Irish set-up is very, very much on my mind, in terms of spending a little bit more time in Ireland. Some decisions are going to be made around that during the course of the off season, so you will probably see an awful lot more of me in Ireland.”