Yearling Sales vs. Breeze Ups: Where Should You Buy?

Introduction

There are two options for buying racehorses with a flat campaign in mind – the Yearling Sales or Breeze Ups. At the Yearling Sales, which take place in the Autumn, horses are sold unbroken, wheras at the Breeze Ups, which take place the following Spring, part of the sales process is that the horses catalogued breeze for 2 furlongs. Breeze times are used by many as an input into their buying decision. Breeze Up sales have their critics. Young horses being pushed too hard, too young, with a preparation  that instills poor habits (‘boiled brains’), horses do not train on and are more prone to a lack of soundness. Added to that is a perception that horses sold at the Breeze Ups are expensive for what you get. There also exists the perfect totem for Breeze Up critics – The Green Monkey, who breezed in sub 10 seconds, was bought for $16m by Coolmore and never won a race. So is what happened with The Green Monkey indicative of what happens with many Breeze Up graduates? Or can a variant of Godwin’s Law be invoked, so that anyone who mentions The Green Monkey in a discussion regarding the merits of Breeze Up sales has automatically lost the argument? In this blog post the graduates from  Tattersalls Yearling Sales from the Autumn of 2011 are compared with the graduates from the Spring 2012 Breeze Up Sales that took place at Kempton (Ready to Run), Tattersalls Guineas, Tattersalls Craven and DBS. Racecourse performance is compared, along with prices paid.

Methodology

The analysis that underpins this piece was carried out in the R statistical environment accessing Raceform Interactive (RFI) data. This is the same data used by the Racing Post.  Sales information and racecourse performances (wins, runs, ratings) for the 2012 and 2013 flat seasons were collected. For analysis of racecourse performance horses were categorised as coming from either yearling sales, or breeze ups. Horses that sold at more than one sale were placed according to the category of the latest sale.

Catalogue Numbers, Appearance Rates and Withdrawals

Table 1 shows the number of horses in each sale category and the number of horses that went on to compete in a race. the appearance rate for Breeze Ups is 72%, higher than that for the Yearling Sales. The underlying data is from RFI, which records all GB and Irish racing and higher grade overseas races. Sales graduates that raced overseas at a lower level will not be included and so there is a degree of under-reporting in Table 1.  It is possible the Yearling Sales would be more affected by this than the Breeze Ups when overseas buyers are considered, even taking this into account there is little evidence that horses prepared for Breeze Ups are less likely to reach the racecourse.

The withdrawn columns show the numbers/percentages of horses that are withdrawn from sale but subsequently race. The withdrawal rate is twice as high for Breeze Ups. Because horses have to do more at the Breeze Ups than the Yearling Sales, it is not surprising a higher withdrawal rate exists. Consignors do not wish to jeopardise the sale value by sending horses to the Breeze Ups that are not ready to do themselves justice.

Category Catalogued Raced Raced (%) Withdrawn Withdrawn
Yearling Sales 1670 1137 68% 78 4.7%
Breeze Ups 601 434 72% 58 9.7%
Grand Total 2271 1571 69% 136 6.0%

Table 1: Catalogue sizes, appearances and withdrawals by category

Sales Prices

Table 2 shows the number of horses that were sold by category, as well as median, average and maximum prices. Sales exclude vendor buybacks and horses not sold, and the yearling sale numbers exclude those horses that went on to be sold at Breeze Ups. The median sale price was £38,000 at the Yearling Sales and £30,000 at the Breeze Ups. Averages and maximum sale prices were also higher for the Yearling Sales.  These numbers exclude any saving on training fees that accrues from buying ca. 6 months later at the Breeze Ups.

Category Number Median (£) Average (£) Maximum (£)
Yearling Sales 809      38,000             65,972   700,000
Breeze Ups 291      30,000             42,711   300,000

Table 2: Sale Information by category

Ratings Achieved by Sale Category

Table 3 shows, for each sale category, the median of the maximum rating achieved by each horse over its racing career in 2012 (2 year old) and 2013 (3 year old). Medians are also given for ratings achieved first time out, and considering the racing career in 2012 as a 2 year old only. The results for Yearling Sales and Breeze Ups are very similar. At the end of their 2 year old career ratings are both 69. At the end of their 3 year old career they are both 74. Horses sold at both types of sale are of similar quality and progress similarly from age 2 to age 3.

Ratings for first time out runs are lower for Breeze Up horses at 57.5 versus 60 for Yearling Sales graduates. This is an unexpected result. Breeze Up horses progress further from their first run to their maximum than horses sold at the Yearling Sales. The difference isn’t large, however the view that Breeze Up horses are as ready as they can be for racing isn’t borne out by the data. A possible explanation is as follows: Breeze Up consignors are concerned to get their horses to the sales, not wanting them to break down, as a result they veer on the side of caution and under rather than over prepare their horses. When these horses arrive with trainers, they fear the horses have been over prepared, given the reputation that exists for Breeze Up graduates, and the horses are trained more cautiously than Yearling Sales graduates that have been in their charge for longer. The end result is that Breeze Up graduates post lower ratings first time out than Yearling Sales graduates.

Category Rating Rating 1TO Rating 2yo Highest Rated
Yearling Sales 74 60 69 118
Breeze Ups 74 57.5 69 118

Table 3: Ratings by category

Win Rates and Runs per Horse

Win rates for Yearling Sales and Breeze Ups are similar, with 58% of Breeze Up and 55% of Yearling Sale graduates going on to win races. The number of runs per horse is higher for Breeze Ups graduates. The difference is 1.2 races per horse when all races as a 2 year old and 3 year old are considered. It is possible that the Breeze Up preparation selects horses that are able to withstand racing, and buyers are able to identify these horses at the Breeze Ups.

Category Win Rate Runs/Horse all Runs/Horse 2yo
Yearling Sales 55.3%                7.5                    3.7
Breeze Ups 58.0%                8.7                    4.2

Table 4: Win rates and runs per horse

Summary

A comparison of  racecourse performance and sales prices for ca. 1,500 Yearling Sale (2011) and Breeze Up (2012) graduates shows the following:

  • Breeze Up horses sold more cheaply
  • A similar proportion of horses reached the racecourse
  • Ratings achieved were similar
  • Breeze Up horses progressed somewhat more from first run to their maximum rating
  • Win rates were similar
  • Breeze Up horses ran more often

There is little evidence that the criticisms levelled at Breeze Ups are justified, with both types of sale offering opportunities to buyers.

More detailed performance information is available from www.breezeupwinners.com

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