Harness - News

Sales sector shake-up - NZB muscles in

  • Thu, 14 Jun 2018
  • Garrick Knight
Sales sector shake-up - NZB muscles in

Sales sector shake-up - NZB muscles in

New Zealand’s internationally renowned thoroughbred auction house is expanding in to the standardbred sector.

And its ambitious CEO says he will shake-up the public sale market as the harness racing industry knows it.

New Zealand Bloodstock announced on Thursday that from 2019 it will hold standardbred auctions in New Zealand.

It will start with yearling sales in both Auckland and Christchurch in February and plans on expanding to mixed bloodstock sales and a ‘ready to run’ sale too.

CEO Andrew Seabrook says he started looking in to the idea a couple of months ago when rumours were swirling that the existing auction house, PGG Wrightson, were looking to sell their standardbred arm.

“I had heard that there had been an approach to PGG Wrightson from an Australian outfit about selling the business, but they declined.

“I decided to get to the bottom of the situation and enquired myself but was also told the same thing.

“I let them know that if they were ever interested in selling, to contact me.”

Meanwhile, with the rumours swirling and both vendors and buyers growing disenchanted, Seabrook started getting lobbied by numerous industry heavyweights to make a go of it.

“We’ve been getting approached by breeders for years, to be fair.

“But in the last few months that has really heightened and we’ve been encouraged.

“It’s quite remarkable, really, the number of breeders that have told us we should be involved in the game again for the first time since 1987.”

Seabrook was not about to saunter in and do a middling job, though.

He had to be ‘all in’.

“We’re not entering this lightly to let it go along like it has been.

“We really want to make a difference and take it to another level.

“It will take time, but I really believe that with the NZB machine behind it, we can really transform this.

“We’ll be placing a huge emphasis on promotion across all media, especially social, and we will absolutely be listening to what the breeders have got to say.”

It is those breeders that form the basis of the whole industry and if they aren’t on board, it’s a wasted endeavor.

Seabrook would not confirm it, but The Informant understands virtually all of the country’s biggest breeders have agreed to jump ship to NZB.

This includes Breckon Farms, Woodlands Stud, Studholme Bloodstock, Arden Lodge, Alabar Stud and Rosedale Farm.

It seems inherently likely that PGG Wrightson will be forced out of the New Zealand Standardbred sales market, if not by choice then by necessity.

It is understood their longtime General Manager Bruce Barlass resigned last week and, earlier this week, a majority, if not all of their standardbred division, followed suit.

In a further blow, Seabrook confirmed that PGG Wrightson would no longer have access to the Karaka sales complex from which they have run their Auckland sale for many years.

So, with no staff, no location and a significant lose of vendors, the writing is on the wall for PGG Wrightson’s standardbred division.

At the most recent mixed sales, a number of buyers contacted The Informant upset that their previously liberal credit terms with PGG Wrightson had been nixed due to new policies.

Seabrook says NZB prides itself on it’s lease-to-own scheme and its in-house finance division.

“All I know is our business got huge shot in the arm in 1997 when, after being purchased by the Vela brothers, we opened up a credit arm and started financing both short and long-term.

“We see it as a pretty significant part of our thoroughbred business, giving people to opportunity to secure their future breeding stock, and it has been a very successful endeavor for us.

“For young trainers, especially, this will significantly change their approach to the sales.”

Seabrook also has plans to tap in to the American market and further develop the Australian market, both areas he says as ripe for growth.

“The American market especially, looks to have been neglected in recent years.

“But with some good New Zealand-bred horses up there like Lazarus, we plan on making a splash in that market, too.

“We are quite excited about the future of this and are not going in to this lightly.”

Harness Racing New Zealand’s Chairman, Ken Spicer, himself a commercial breeder, trumpeted the announcement.

“From the breeders I have been talking to, there was a groundswell of support for this change.

“This is exciting and I think could be the best thing for the industry in the last ten years.

“Harness Racing New Zealand had some reservations about the direction the sales were going, but we are buoyed by the fact that a company as successful as New Zealand Bloodstock have shown faith in our industry.”

Ken Breckon is the principal of Breckon Farms, one of New Zealand’s largest breeders and a significant vendor at the Karaka sale.

He is also a buyer of outside stock for his own band and runs a number of highly successful businesses outside of the racing industry.

For him, this is a huge step in the right direction.

“At the end of the day, as breeders, all of us from up north to down south felt there has been a lack of new buyers.

“New Zealand Bloodstock specialize in selling horses; if they weren’t bloody good at it, they wouldn’t survive.

“They are very professional in what they do and they provide the whole package.

“They are great marketers, they have a large buying base to work with, their financial division will be a big help to most people, especially the young guys, and they even do freight.

“Some of these younger trainers will be more inclined to buy yearlings now, knowing that there are favourable credit packages available to them.”

Breckon agrees the North American market is a huge potential growth area, as is the thoroughbred buying base.

“We have three of the top 10 free for allers in America at present, and with Lazarus going up there, it’s only going to increase awareness for our stock.

“These international markets are key, and it’s where NZB specialise.

“I dabble in the gallopers and I have been approached by a number of guys from that side of the fence keen to get in to harness racing with the increased stakes available at Alexandra Park.”

On PGG Wrightson, Breckon says the feeling amongst breeders is that they just weren’t well-enough equipped in the modern media age to get the best out of their sale.

“I just don’t think their model had changed.

“The world is changing at a million miles an hour and social media is a massive part of that; it’s an incredible way of growing your business.

“In my own businesses, I am amazed at much we have changed how we do things in the last 10 years.

“You’ve got to move with the times.”

Peter Moore, General Manager of Livestock for PGG Wrightson, was not available for comment this afternoon.