Its appeal has survived 9/11, war in Iraq and global recessions from the end of 2008 to the current slump.
But even judged by its own remarkable powers of recovery, the latest bounceback by Newmarket bloodstock auctioneer Tattersalls is simply stunning.
The pedigree company behind the UK sale of thoroughbred racehorses is having to extend its October Yearling Sale to meet what chairman Edmond Mahony calls “enormous demand.” Bloodstock remains big business.
Massive global interest is expected from buyers of horseflesh despite the worldwide economic downturn. Spending power can only be measured after the sales season – taking in France, Newmarket and Kentucky – is over but Tattersalls has every chance of at least matching last year’s excellent returns.
Most pundits were predicting a similar or slightly lower foal crop this year but the opposite has been the case. And when you have a proven winner like Camelot on your CV, it is easy to appreciate why Tattersalls has such global credibility as THE place to buy quality horseflesh.
For the uninitiated, Camelot – foaled in March 2009 – is an undefeated British-bred, Irish-trained thoroughbred racehorse. He was one of the leading European two-year-olds of 2011 and on his three-year-old debut won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and followed up by winning the Derby at Epsom and the Irish Derby at the Curragh.
It was in October 2010 that Camelot was sent as a yearling to the Tattersalls sales where he was bought for 525,000 guineas by the bloodstock agent Dermot ‘Demi’ O'Byrne on behalf of the Coolmore organisation.
The Camelot factor will loom large in this October’s Newmarket sales. Edmond Mahony says there has been especial interest in Books 1 and 2. Because of the demand Tattersalls has made the decision to add a fourth day to Book 2 and to start Book 1 – Europe's premier yearling sale – on Tuesday October 9, a day earlier than originally envisaged.
Book 2 of the sale, which is expected to number more than 1,000 lots, will now start on Monday October 15, while Book 3 will take place on Friday the 19th as scheduled.
Mahony said: “We have received almost 15 per cent more entries for our October Yearling Sale this year which is a huge tribute to the sale, but does present challenges as to how best to accommodate the greater numbers.
“At present we expect Book 2 to number in excess of 1000 lots which is more than can be catalogued over three days and therefore Book 2 will now begin on Monday October 15, rather than the following day as originally envisaged, and run for four full days.
“While Book 3 will take place on Friday October 19 as scheduled, the extra day of Book 2 means that Book 1 of the October Yearling Sale will now start on Tuesday October 9 and end on Thursday October 11.
“We feel that this is the best way to accommodate this year's increased numbers and we are confident that the date changes are in the interests of both vendors and purchasers alike. The extra day in Book 2 will allow us to catalogue very manageable numbers on each day and provide the optimum viewing time for prospective purchasers in all three books of the October Yearling Sale.”
Tattersalls marketing director, Jimmy George, felt the upsurge in demand for bloodstock had brought a timely boost for the UK economy.
He told Business Weekly: “It is tremendously encouraging. Of course one should beware of labelling the purchase of racehorses as an investment because racing is after all a sport and the enjoyment it brings to owners, breeders, trainers and everyone involved with horseracing is paramount.
“Having said that, if you buy well and the horse racks up a number of big race wins then it can make you a lot of money.
“The greater numbers of horses we will have in the October sales reflects great confidence in the quality that Tattersalls parades year after year. The sales results exceeded expectations last year when the global economy was failing and the world economy is in no better place this year so it will be interesting to see the level of sales achieved this time round.
“Perhaps in a recession people need a diversion and horse racing certainly provides a sense of thrill in the gloomiest of times.”
Rachel Flynn, a partner and bloodstock specialist with Cambridge law firm Taylor Vinters felt the Newmarket sale was benefiting from the recession in Ireland.
She said: “Tattersalls October sale is very popular and prestigious (especially Book 2, which is being extended) and doing incredibly well, but one reason for the increased demand may lay in the location of the alternative sales – i.e in the Eurozone - and the fact that the Irish (who breed the most racehorses) do not want to sell at home owing to the state of the Irish economy.
“Overall, this may lead to unhappy British breeders if the Irish flood the British and French market in search of purchasers and Tattersalls will catalogue the better yearlings in the best slots regardless of where they come from.
“There have been changes to the size of past Tattersalls catalogues in line with demand over the years but it is most encouraging that so many vendors want to sell in Newmarket in 2012.”