Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

In recent years, there has been no shortage of prophets of doom ready to deliver the last rites to the Thoroughbred Breeders Association (TBA).

Due to the success of the Cape Thoroughbred Sales — notably the Premier Yearling Sale in Cape Town in January — TBA’s turnover plummeted. Some breeders followed the money and — in parliamentary terms — "crossed the floor". They could not believe they were getting three or four times more for horses than expected.

Recent social media posts suggest this did not go down well with loyal buyers. One said: "I’ve been shunned by previously friendly breeders because I haven’t got millions to spend."

Obviously, there will not have been too many tears shed by TBA officials after the recent Steinhoff saga and now — with the 2018 Emperors Palace National Yearling Sale in Germiston starting on Tuesday — we have the bounce factor.

Interviewed by Sporting Post, Michael Holmes, CEO of Bloodstock SA, predicted this week’s sale is "set to be one of the most well attended in many years with a host of local and international inquiries suggesting a vibrant buying bench".

Holmes said: "The 2018 catalogue is a bumper one and the diversity and range give everyone a chance to get among the action and bid on the next life-changing champion racehorse.

"South African horses have once again held their own internationally in recent months and there is no better advert for the quality product that we offer than our horses lighting up the world stage."

The Bloodstock SA management team is made up of Holmes, who learnt the trade from the doyen of bloodstock agents Chris Smith, Gary Grant and Chris Haynes.

Also talking to Sporting Post, Grant said: "The catalogue speaks for itself. The depth in stallions is good and we’ve got a wonderful range of 59 vendors. I think the top end of the market will be strong. Last year we had more money than horses at the top end and I think breeders took note of that, which has helped form a strong catalogue.

"My dream result would be an increase in the median and clearance rate. I’d like to get the median up because that’s a barometer for breeders as a whole. If you could get a median of R200k you’re starting to have a chance of making money.

"The clearance rate is one of the key factors. We want to sell the horses. If we could get a 90% clearance rate I’d be happy. It’s a brittle market so it’s probably a bit unrealistic but if I’m shooting high, that’s where I’d aim."

But the minimum bid of R100,000 for the Select session might thwart Grant’s hopes for a good clearance rate. While these select lots have been selected by a panel on a combination of pedigree and conformation, there has to be doubt that some of the less glamorous pedigrees will battle to reach six figures.

Grant is aware this move has not gone down well with some buyers but defends it.

"It’s not radical and is a trend that’s consistent with sales around the world. The median for this sale last year was R175k and more than half the horses sold for more. These are the best on offer and I don’t think a vendor would be willing to part with them for less than R100k."

A total of 526 lots will come under the hammer over the three days (April 24-26) with an 11.30am start on each day. There is a wide range of stallions to consider, not only favourites such as Captain Al, Dynasty, Trippi and Silvano. First South African yearlings include Capetown Noir, Captain Of All, Flower Alley, Kingsbarns, Linngari, Soft Falling Rain, Time Thief, Vercingetorix and Wylie Hall.

Final word from Grant: "I think a lot of people kept their powder dry for Nationals because there is such a range available and because it is a selected sale. I would say that we are cautiously optimistic."