Tattersalls’ December sale ended quietly in England with a breeding stock session in which a 3-year-old colt, sold as a jumping prospect, topped trade at 65,000 guineas. The other figures for Dec. 4 were 139 horses sold, a gross of 656,650 guineas, an average price of 4,724 guineas, and a median price of 2,800 guineas. During the four-day breeding stock portion of the December auction, the 610 horses that sold grossed 33,355,150 guineas and averaged 54,681 guineas. The median was 12,500 guineas.
The combined results for the yearling, foal, and breeding stock portions of the 10-day sale included a gross of 49,901,250 guineas (for the 1,275 horses sold from the 2,014 offered), which was down 51% from a year ago, and an 11,000-guinea median price, which plunged 45% and was the smallest since 1998. The 39,138-guinea average dropped 35%.
"This has been a year of stark contrasts,” said Tattersalls chairman Edmond Mahony. “The Tattersalls year began with record-breaking sales in February and at both the Craven and Guineas breeze-up sales despite a sense of disquiet surrounding the economic outlook. The July sale, although solid, did not match the levels of recent years and as the sheer scale of the economic upheavals became apparent the autumn sales season was approached with a degree of apprehension.
“Fortunately, throughout the 2008 sales season, the contribution from our overseas buyers has been outstanding, but the implications of a mismanaged domestic economy have been very evident. Book 1 of the Tattersalls October yearling sale displayed remarkable resilience, as did the Autumn horses in training sale, but it has been clear over the last two months that the bloodstock industry is anything but immune from the impact of a global economy painfully short of confidence.
"The industry has experienced a prolonged period of unprecedented growth since the last downturn in the early 1990s, with sales turnover at Tattersalls growing by almost six times between 1992 and 2007. The key now is to adjust as quickly as possible to the prevailing market conditions. The combined British and Irish foal crops are at an all time high driven by the sustained growth of recent years and the 2008 sales season has illustrated graphically that the market is unable to absorb the numbers. This is an observation which we made last year and that was after a record-breaking December sale. The need for adjustment is now rather more pressing, with the impact of the downturn being felt in all sectors of the industry.
"Even in a period of sharp declines it is, however, important to accentuate the positives. It would be fair to say that the 2008 December catalogue lacked the extraordinary strength and depth of 2006 and 2007, but buyers have consistently remarked that quality individuals were still very hard to buy. Our vendors have responded swiftly and positively to a challenging time as the market finds a new level and the weaker currency looks set to benefit our multitude of overseas buyers for a while to come.”