BUYING A HORSE THANKS TO DATA
The emergence of data in the world of horseracing is still a very recent trend. However, its use has been booming in recent years. Trainers are slowly beginning to adapt to this new tool. The use of data will not replace the work of the trainer; it provides additional indicators to support his decision making. The arrival of a new young generation of trainers also gives a new perspective on data in the world of horseracing and facilitates its integration into daily trainings. Data represents a real challenge in racehorse sales: it is now possible to rely on tangible indicators to buy a horse. These data can confirm or not the feeling that the future buyer has or not about the horse concerned. How could data change the way horses are sold?
Who are the different stakeholders involved in the sale of a racehorse and what are their missions and traditional selling methods during the sale?
Today, owners willing to sell their racehorses have several options. Some of the traditional selling methods include auctions and claim sales.
Auctions are organized by auction houses. They bring together sellers and buyers of a particular category of horse, so the price is set by the highest bidder.
Claim races are opportunities to buy horses at a lower cost and ready to race. All the horses at the start of the race are for sale. The minimum price of each horse is defined before the race. Anyone present at the racecourse can, at the end of the race, deposit a claim form to acquire one of the horses in the race and leave with him immediately.
Working with a broker is a real asset when you wish to acquire a racehorse. The broker is the best intermediary between buyers, sellers and breeders. He puts his knowledge of the equestrian world and the racehorse market at the service of his clients throughout the entire process of acquiring a racehorse.
It is also possible to sell a horse amicably with a buyer who is generally already familiar with the world of racing. This type of transaction reduces the number of intermediaries and therefore the costs associated with the purchase of a racehorse. This form of transaction requires a good knowledge of the racing environment and good contacts in the sector.
The latest types of racehorse sales are the Breeze-Up sales. The principle of breeze-up sales is to present each horse during a canter at the racecourse where the sale takes place. In general, the horses presented are 2 years old already in training, some have already run, others have not.
Several criteria are relevant in the choice and purchase of a racehorse. The career and pedigree of the parents are very good first clues to the horse’s potential and level. If the horse has already raced, its winnings gives a very precise idea of the horse’s level of performance and its current racing abilities.
Naturally, the physical evaluation of the horse is a very important factor in the valuation of horses. Visually, buyers focus on the horse’s legs, the way his muscles and bones are built, the length of his back, the width of his chest, his head, his feet, etc. Then the way in which the horse moves influences the price of the horse, especially for unbroken yearlings, since walking is the only gait that can be shown to a buyer.
At breeze-up sales, buyers have access to even more information as they can see the horse at work. They can study the way the horse gallops, breathes, and get an idea of its mouth, or the nature of its character. It is very interesting for the buyers to compare the reference times made during the canters and gallops of the sale with already existing data on the same distances of other horses of the same age already in training. This comparison work carried out during the sale gives a much more precise idea of the level of each horse before buying it.
Brokers are key intermediaries in the transactions between the various players in the world of horseracing. This stakeholder is involved at all levels of the transactions. He is a true expert in the racing environment and facilitates contacts between buyers and sellers to ensure that the transaction goes as well as possible. The broker also has an advisory role in the choice of horse and in all the steps associated with the purchase and sale. He is sometimes involved in the entire operational management of the horse’s training and racing choices afterwards.
In the process of buying a racehorse, the transaction expertise (medical check), carried out by the veterinarian, provides the future buyer of the horse with guarantees concerning the fitness and health of the horse. This medical examination facilitates the buyer’s decision making in the acquisition process.
During a medical examination preceding the purchase of a horse, the vet will verify certain elements that influence the health and performance of the horse in view of its future career. The veterinarian conducts a complete check-up of the horse and pays particular attention to the horse’s limbs by performing X-rays and echocardiograms. Flexion tests allow the detection of possible tendon and ligament injuries. Endoscopies inspect the airways to detect any peculiarities that could cause problems during training.
THE AUCTION HOUSES
The auction houses organize the largest annual horse sales. Each horse presented at the sale is shown to everyone. This means that everyone present during the auction or online can bid on the horse presented. As a general rule, the auction house’s sales fee is 6-7% exclusive of tax. It is also possible for a person presenting a horse at an auction to buy it back if the price offered by the buyers is deemed too low; in this case the sales costs are 2% exclusive of VAT. In addition to these sales fees, the registration fees of the horses at the sale must be added. These registration fees are due to the auction house. Each sale groups together horses of the same type: breeding sales present for example broodmares, foals, stallion shares. Yearling sales present horses that are one year old and have never been trained before.
How can the data provide additional information?
Longitudinal tracking of a racehorse can be a strong selling argument. It provides information on the health and performance of a racehorse through its fitness, speed and locomotion. As a prevention tool, it also enables to follow the evolution of performance and to detect any warning signs of pathology in the horse.
The monitoring of the horse at each training session can also be used to show potential future buyers the horse’s best training session(s) and to convince them of the horse’s performance level.
ONE SHOT MONITORING
Before buying a racehorse amicably or before it is set up for auction, it may be possible to go and watch the horse working in training. This visit is an opportunity to put a sensor on the horse and collect data from its training in order to get an idea of its abilities.
During this monitored training, we can directly detect the locomotor profile of the horse thanks to the stride frequency and stride length which helps understand the horse’s acceleration strategy and its preferred racing distance. It is important to pay attention to the intermediate times on the best 200m and 600m; these times should be compared with the times of horses of the same age already monitored in training or in a race. The recovery capacity of the horse after the effort allows to compare the horse with the other horses of the group.
Similarly, the heart rate of the horse during and after effort is very important to get an idea of the horse’s limits and the effort that the training has represented for him. By extracting the electrocardiogram (ECG), it is possible to detect possible pathologies that could have an impact on the horse’s future. These analyses allow, for example, the detection of anomalies in the horse’s recovery times, locomotion problems or the detection of cardiac pathologies thanks to the analysis of the ECG. This analysis completes the medical examination of the horse carried out by the veterinarian and allows the future buyer to be 100% reassured.
Therefore, the use of data to buy and sell racehorses is a real asset. The extracted data allows buyers to be oriented towards the horses they are interested in whether they are looking for sprinters or stayers for example. For sellers, sharing the data can be a real advantage as it demonstrates their professionalism and provides an additional proof of confidence. As a factor of trust and transparency within the transaction, could data sharing be an element of differentiation on the racehorse market in the future?