THE Irish bloodstock business enters its most important week of the year on a wave of optimism as inspections begin this morning at Goffs ahead of the Orby Sale.

Yearling sales from Keeneland to Deauville have been universally strong in recent weeks. Closer to home, this week’s Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale returned average and median prices approximately 25% up on 2019 levels.

Goffs CEO Henry Beeby is taking nothing for granted but says his team can do no more to ensure the sale goes well. “Everything is in place for a strong trade,” he said yesterday.

The Orby Sale bounced back last year after a disappointing 2020 edition staged in Doncaster. Beeby commented: “Last year was a recovery year following a wrong call to move the sale in 2020. We got back on track, we launched the Million initiative, and now we truly have an exceptional catalogue fpr next week. Breeders have given us a far greater share of the best available horses and we are nothing without them.”

Last year’s Orby Sale saw the average price reach almost €110,000 and the median price was €75,000. This compared well with the corresponding figures from 2019 of €118,000 and €65,000 respectively.

Bigger catalogue

“We have a bigger catalogue this year, up to 515 from 444,” Beeby said. “That’s because of unprecedented interest from vendors. The catalogue has an exceptional sire profile, headed by 11 yearlings from the penultimate Galileo crop.

“Couple that with the work done by our buyer recruitment team and Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, plus the results on the track from the likes of Eldar Eldarov and Prosperous Voyage, and the continued vibrancy of the bloodstock market. It all looks set for a good sale but we have to walk the walk.”

Asked to try and explain why the demand for racehorses remains strong despite global economic uncertainty, Beeby said: “The short answer is I don’t know. Notwithstanding the concerns over prize money levels in British racing, the quality of racing in Britain and Ireland remains very high. This is where the best horses are coming from.

“Coming out of Covid, there has been a hunger to buy quality stock and we still have them here. This is an amazing industry to bounce back from adversity. We saw it after the last recession and again after Covid.”

Today [Saturday] at the Curragh sees the first running of the Goffs Million since 2009. Confined to graduates of last year’s Orby Sale, the race has attracted 19 runners and there will be over €1.2 million divided between the first 10 finishers.

Goffs are pulling out all the stops to make the day special for those involved and general racegoers too. “We have boosted the attendance as much as we can. All registered racehorse owners and all ITBA members, along with our own shareholders, have received free tickets,” Beeby said. “The focus will be on giving racegoers more information and content that the viewer at home.”

The Curragh is also hosting the Taste of Kildare food festival during racing on Saturday and Sunday, which is expected to attract significant numbers. In-depth racing and bloodstock previews are planned, while four jockeys riding in the Million will wear helmet cameras, aimed at giving racegoers a fresh perspective.

Beeby concluded: “Goffs are involved in promoting racehorse ownership, so we want those people who have a runner in the Million to have such a great experience that they want to go in again. The Million concept appears to have caught the imagination and it is really gratifying to see the race attract a big field.”

The Orby Sale will be immediately followed by the two-day Sportsman’s Sale on Thursday and Friday, which will see a further 500-plus commercially bred yearlings on offer.

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