Bloodstock business goes online

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-9-10-51-amThoroughbred racing has long been a sport on the move.

However, by embracing modern technology, a new move in the big business of high stakes horse trading could prove a winning formula. JON RAWLINSON explains.

In life, sport and in business, rich rewards are born of risk. So, rather than play it safe and stick with ‘sure things’, Karaka-based New Zealand Bloodstock (NZB) has put its money on the line, betting that a new way of horse trading will hit the nail on the head with its clients.

Just as the internet changed the way we bet on horses, it’s now set to change the way we buy. Andrew Seabrook, NZB’s managing director, asserts that is on course to change the way the bloodstock industry operates here and abroad through its fortnightly online auctions.

“We’ve sold horses valued at up to $138,000, some for more than $100,000, and in our first seven sales we turned over about $1.5 million. Our clearance rates are improving too, so we’re bloody pleased with how it’s going,” he says.

NZB’s ‘real world’ sales at its Karaka Sales Centre will continue and the upcoming National Yearling Sales (Jan 30 – Feb 5) are again expected to see big money buyers whipping out their chequebooks. However, Andrew believes offers a more cost effective option to buyers and sellers of lower priced bloodstock, such as untried horses, foals, brood mares, weanlings, or even stallion shares and services.

“It’s expensive for us to run a sale here at Karaka and it’s expensive (when you consider such factors as transport costs, travel and accommodation for staff) for many to come up from the South Island, or elsewhere in the world, to buy or sell.

This way, they don’t have to. At the top end, where horses average $180,000 each, it makes sense to put on these big events, but it’s prohibitive when selling a horse which might only make $5000 or so. That’s where comes in.”

Purchases through the site don’t need to be made ‘sight unseen’. Andrew confirms that photos, videos, vet reports and other information can be provided and buyers can still arrange viewings without horses leaving their home paddocks.

“Buyers can arrange to see horses beforehand and I’d be surprised if, for the higher value ones, they don’t. When you’re buying bloodstock, you can do your due diligence, do your homework, do your study to mitigate the risk, but it’s still always a risk.”

Despite focusing on the middle to lower end of the market, Andrew concedes that it could well take food from NZB’s trough, in a manner of speaking.

“It’ll affect some of our sales by as much as 20% in terms of numbers, but our traditional sales certainly aren’t going to fall over. During our Yearling Sales we sell more than $100 million in bloodstock. It’s a brilliant event when people from all over the world converge on Karaka to buy some of the best horses money can buy; that’s not going to change.”

Andrew is betting that an overall increase in the number of lots should more than offset any reduction in business NZB could experience at its traditional sales.

In addition to attracting more buyers and sellers – those who wouldn’t usually travel to Karaka – the Kiwi company expects to net business across the ditch as undertakes a homecoming of sorts.

“ was initially Australian owned but it just operated as a listing based website through which people would advertise their horses. It was up to the buyer and seller to negotiate between themselves,” Andrew explains. “We initially kept it as a listing site but that didn’t really work. So, we developed it into a full auction site.”

In November, returned to the Australian market and as in NZ, it will target the mid-lower end of the market.

“We’ve never earned a dollar over there, but now we can really start earning some money. As people cotton on that is backed by NZB, we’re expecting it to take off. We have a good reputation in Australia. It’s a challenge, but we’re confident that it will do well there.”

Should the company stake its claim successfully in Australia, further markets could soon beckon.

“The beauty of is that we can take it anywhere in the world,” Andrew says. “We don’t want to run before we can walk but, once we’re happy with how things are going in Oz, we’ll look closely at other markets. The next could be South Africa; it could work well there.

“Beyond that, we might look at England, Ireland and even the USA. There are some big players there but not so much in terms of online auction sites.”

Karaka sales steam ahead

Karaka’s 2017 National Yearling Sales should prove lucrative, says New Zealand Bloodstock’s (NZB) managing director, Andrew Seabrook.

“We sold 290 two-year olds for approximately $28 million during the Ready to Run Sale in November and our turnover increased $5 million on last year, which was very encouraging,” he says.

“This gives us a pretty good feel as to what we can expect from the National Yearling Sales, so I’m cautiously optimistic.”

The programme starts with the Premier Sale (January 30-31) at NZB’s Karaka Sales Centre, followed by the Select and Festival sales, on February 1-3 and 5, respectively. Full details are available via

While the bloodstock industry was hit by the Global Financial Crisis, it has rallied well since.

“It took us about three years to recover,” Andrew says, “but we’ve seen steady growth and 2016 was a very good year, so we’re hitting our stride again now.” – Rural Living, Auckland


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