Fast forward to the future
By Michael Guerin
Moving one of New Zealand’s biggest horse sales totally online could mean a fast forward to the future of the standardbred sales industry.
Because while the major yearling sales every year look certain to remain a physical experience what is about to unfold in May could be an interesting test case for the future of secondary sales.
New Zealand Bloodstock’s Standardbred division has been forced to move its All Aged Sale next month to the Gavelhouse.com platform because of the Covid-19 restrictions.
The sale is usually held at the sales grounds and many of the larger prices have been for weanlings, with buying them later enabling good pinhooking opportunities at the yearling sales nine months later.
But with a physical sale not possible this year the entire catalogue of 148, including 125 weanlings will be sold via Gavelhouse.
Gavelhouse started as a steady burner for New Zealand Bloodstock but has now built up a registered buyer base of over 1000, with that number set to rise quickly.
While online platforms are sometimes considered an easy option for those wanting to sell excess stock, including going horses and broodmares, that has changed dramatically in the last few months.
Firstly group one thoroughbred mare Consensus was sold for huge money online and then last month 1000 Guineas winner Hasahalo followed, showing the online platform can work for elite level stock.
Now it is harness racing’s turn. Gavelhouse has already been hosting regular standardbred sales but they have yet to skyrocket, with the going horse market to Australia and North America already a successful avenue for selling horses of all price ranges.
So moving the All Aged Sale to Gavelhouse is going to greatly raise awareness of online selling in the harness racing industry.
The catalogue is online now, then moves to the Gavelhouse platform with more pics and information on the horses on May 1 and bidding starts on May 20, with a week until the sale closes on May 27 at 5pm.
The horses never have to leave home and either do the buyers, who have the whole week to decide on their final bid price. And the bottom line is, it cheaper for vendors, with no transportation costs for a start.
But to get the best out of harness racing sales on Gavelhouse they will need vendors to step up their presentation levels.
At present online harness racing lots vary from well-presented lots with professional photography to pics of horses taken with cellphone up against the side of a shed.
New Zealand Bloodstock boss Andrew Seabrook says his team led by James Jennings are going to work with vendors to provide the best advice on how to present the horses in an online world.
“For this particular sale a lot of the horses are being sold by Woodlands and Alabar so they will have a good handle on presentation already,” says Seabrook.
“James and the team will be sending out some hints on what to look for and it is a real chance for the whole standard to go up.
“Gavelhouse is getting bigger every day and the two top thoroughbred mares we were able to sell for Australasian record prices recently show what is possible.
“And while we would love to be holding the sale as normal we are thrilled to still be able to offer it using Gavelhouse.”
Seabrook is hoping that if and when Level 4 restrictions are lifted that could allow at least some potential buyers to get out to see some of the horses on offer, particularly the weanlings.
But if they can’t the onus goes on vendors to take high quality photos and/or video, the use of which has been enormously beneficial to yearling sales vendors who have embraced it in the last three years.
And don’t be surprised if a successful sale on Gavelhouse and the resulting more registered standardbred buyers doesn’t see the platform open up even more.
That could see flexibility soon whereas rather than having one sale her code per month there hare smaller, more specialised sales, maybe even just one high profile lot, which goes up for a week and can test a truly international market.
While there will always be those who want to see the horses in the flesh, when it comes to actual going racehorses or recently retired broodmares most of what potential buyers want to know is readily available and vet reports can always be uploaded.
The moving of the May sale to Gavelhouse comes as the far richer Inglis Easter Sale in Sydney is conduced this week entirely online, with not a horse leaving its home base.
While it saw varied results, Seabrook says any sale could experience that at the moment.
“We have great faith in the Gavelhouse platform and what it has already achieved and it is obvious is it only going to get better and play a larger role in both industries.
“But as for this May sale, it is coming up at a very unusual time in the world economy so it will be very interesting.
“But could mean so real bargains for buyers.”