I think valuing bloodstock is possibly the hardest thing in the world to accurately assess. As many of you will testify, trying to work out what a horse might make at an auction is extremely difficult. There are so many variables between individual horses. These variables are given different levels of importance by buyers. These buyers will also have differing levels of desire or enthusiasm in respect to purchasing a particular horse as it enters the sale ring. Once in the ring, these buyers will also have different levels of discipline, self-control, willpower, etc.

During my Stock and Station Agent’s licensing course, one area we focused on was “how do you define the market value of something?” The best definition supplied to us at the time was as follows, “The market value of something is the sale price achieved when neither the buyer or the vendor are over anxious to achieve a sale.”

At a thoroughbred horse auction, we’ve seen numerous cases of over anxious buyers, especially in the past several years. The prospective buyer will have usually done all their homework and have an accurate idea of a horse’s value as it enters the ring, however, in the heat of battle, off goes the head and on goes the pineapple – so to speak. In the current downturn, it now might be the turn of the over anxious vendor. Either way, this “over anxious” characteristic exhibited by both buyers and sellers can make the task of predicting a sale price extremely difficult.

As mentioned above, the variables that exist between individual horses can be immense. At the behest of a client, one night Rachael and I sat down and came up with a list of factors that could influence the value of a broodmare. The list that follows is by no means absolute, however, it might give you an insight into some of the things that we consider when trying to ascertain a broodmare’s value.

  1. Age
  2. Present health, condition and soundness, including feet (shape, shod, cracks), eyes (ulcers, cataracts), teeth (parrot mouth, missing teeth), any lameness, etc. Can they be covered for mortality insurance? Any exclusions?
  3. Health history – colic operations, etc
  4. Temperament
  5. Vices – windsucker or weaver
  6. Height
  7. Balance and overall athleticism
  8. Strength/Build – light/medium/heavy
  9. Physique – sprinter/miler/stayer
  10. Leg conformation – front and hind legs
  11. Bone – light/medium/heavy
  12. Head – small/big/plain/quality
  13. Shoulder angulation – upright or sloped
  14. Girth – light or deep
  15. Room – “well sprung” through the ribs or “herring gutted”?
  16. Action (only usually get to assess a mare’s action at the walk)
  17. Breeding Soundness – vulva, vagina, cervix, ovaries, uterus, udder
  18. Breeding History – number of seasons at stud, live foals, dead foals, failure to conceive (how fertile was the stallion?), abortions, seasons not served – why?, difficult foalings, fistulas, placentitis, any need for drugs to maintain pregnancies, high risk jaundice, standard of husbandry on farm/s mare has been resident on, etc.
  19. Current Breeding Status – Maiden, Pregnant, Slipped, Missed.
  20. Pregnant mares – last covering date? How many covers taken to conceive?
  21. Pregnant mares – the covering sire’s popularity and service fee? Is the mating for the mare compatible physically, temperamentally, aptitudinally, ancestrally, etc. Has the mare already produced any well or poorly performed horses by this covering sire? If the mare has foals on the ground by this covering sire, were they good or poor individuals? If they’ve sold at auction, have they sold well?
  22. Maiden and Barren mares – are they being sold with a breeding soundness certificate?
  23. Mare’s Produce – Number of foals? Named? Raced or trialed? Quality of their racetrack performances to date? How much potential are they showing in training, trials or races? Have they been well reared? Quality of their sires? Quality of their trainers? What do they look like? Is the mare consistently producing any congenital defects in her foals? Do the foals tend to look more like the sire than the dam or vica versa?
  24. Mare’s Race Record – unraced (Very slow and decided not to race? Had ability but injured before raced? Never tried? etc), unplaced, placed, winner, stakes placed, stakes winner, champion? How many starts? Percentage of wins and placings to starts? Quality of tracks and competition that raced on and against? Best on good or wet tracks? Best distances? Quality of trainer? Retired and raced sound or had soundness problems (legs, wind, etc) throughout career? One paced or had a turn of foot?
  25. Mare’s Sire – How popular or successful has he been at stud? How popular or successful has he been as a broodmare sire? If unproven as a broodmare sire, does the market think he could be a good broodmare sire? Has he been a superior sire of colts or fillies to date?
  26. Mare’s Sire’s Sire – Was he a successful broodmare sire?
  27. Mare’s Dam’s Sire – Was he a successful broodmare sire?
  28. Mare’s Dam’s Race Record – Is she unraced, unplaced, winner, stakes winner or a champion?
  29. Mare’s Siblings Race Records – number of runners and the quality of those runners? Are the best/worst performers full siblings or half siblings? What is the quality of their sires like?
  30. Mare’s Siblings – how many female siblings are there at or destined to enter stud? What sires are they by? What are their race records like? Are they owned/controlled by successful breeders? Are they being well mated? Do they have any produce racing or about to race that could enhance the pedigree? How have their produce sold at recent auctions? Have any of her siblings had runners and what has their race performances been like?
  31. Ancestry – overall strength of all stallions and mares that appear on both sides of the horses tabulated pedigree (catalogues print the first 4 generations, however, some breeders may also wish to focus further back).
  32. How will the mare’s produce look once it is in a catalogue? Is the first bit of black type in the first, second, third or fourth generation or even further back? All sales catalogue pages are edited. Sometimes clever editing can make a pedigree look better than it really is.
  33. How current is the pedigree? Generally families don’t retain their value if there have been few good horses produced in recent times? Alternatively, if there are close relations that are racing well at the time of the sale, then the mare can usually attract a stronger and more enthusiastic buying bench.
  34. Is the pedigree full of cheap black type or quality black type? Not all races in the world deserve black type status and therefore pedigrees have to be looked at closely and not taken on face value. Pedigree race records can often portray a misleading picture about the horse’s ability if they are not researched properly (i.e. a horse could have won a G3 race on a heavy track, with only 3 runners in the race and in the very slow time and started at 100/1).
  35. Recent sales of other comparable mares of similar age, progeny records, covering sires, from the same or similar families, etc, can influence buyer’s valuations.
  36. The bloodstock market conditions at the time. The Australian market is not only influenced by the domestic economy, but also what’s happening to other national economies. We are more reliant these days on other countries, especially Asian, to purchase our horses.
  37. Perceived future direction of bloodstock market at the time.
  38. Prizemoney – does not affect a mare’s value directly but the market in general.
  39. Why is the horse for sale? Is it a cull because of breeding issues, health issues, producing poor quality foals? Is the horse just being traded? Is the vendor a good or bad person to buy off, ie, do they have a track record of selling horses that others have had success from? Is the horse for genuine sale (doesn’t want to sell, but needs the money; etc)? Prices at dispersal sales are usually higher than what might normally be achieved if horses are sold without the dispersal tag. Buyer’s bid up, as they believe that the horses are for genuine sale.
  40. Scarcity value – If the mare is from a great family that is tightly held, her value is likely to be inflated as some buyers are prepared to pay more gain access to that family. For example, the Aga Khan families. Alternatively, if there is a large supply of mares by a particular stallion and/or from a particular family, this could decrease values.
  41. Families that are controlled or have large parcels owned by major commercial breeders can often be worth more. The mares are well mated, their yearlings are marketed well and as such as these can often sell for “over the odds”. This creates the perception that such and such a family sells well, so buyers are therefore extra keen to get a slice of it.
  42. Sentiment & Emotional Attachment – a trainer/breeder/owner etc will sometimes pay more for a relation to a horse they once owned/trained. Similarly, a seller will usually want more for the horse if they are emotionally attached.
  43. How well has the mare been marketed or presented at the auction or to a private buyer?
  44. Market timing – the mare market is usually most active from April through to September. Usually by the start of this period, breeders will have sold their yearling crop and will know how much capital they have available to purchase new breeding stock. Values can often jump at this time of the year, as there are more buyers about. During the other months of the year, October to March, buyers are generally dormant; hence, less demand can mean lower values.
  45. Familiarity with the pedigree or race record in the location where the mare is being sold. For example, if the sire or female line is not easily recognised in the state or country where the horse is being offered for sale, the price will be adversely affected.

As mentioned at the start, this list is by no means absolute. If you would like to suggest any other factors that could influence the value of a broodmare, please feel free to let me know and we might add it to the list.

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