In our latest blog, we asked nine time former Irish National Hunt Champion Jockey Charlie Swan about the business of the sales ring.
How many days before a sale do you arrive and what pre-planning do you do researching the horse's breeding?
I like to be there a full day before the sales start. I would have gone through the breeding before. You know the sires, the dams, the dams of sires and look up to see what the dam is rated. You know of lot of it yourself through experience over the years.
If its a foal sales we could have as many as 100 on the list so you would have to be there the day before to look at them all. Then your list would get shorter after we look at them.
If it's a horse in training sale there would probably only be about eight or nine on the list. We would only be looking at certain types - the best prospects, those who might be a champion.
How long have you been going to the sales?
I have been going to foals sales for six or seven years and horses in training for about 15 years as I used to go there when I was still training.
Once you get to a sale what work do you do before the horses for sale enter the sales ring?
Firstly, we would have cut our list down to our main list of about twenty for foals and three or four for horses in training. The main reasons to remove a horse from the list would be their conformation, they might not walk well or be big enough.
For the foals it's a lot of work to do but as a team of four we would split up in two and look at half each.
When a horse enters the ring could you explain the process?
The auctioneer normally starts them off quite high and goes down until he gets his first bid. That can take a couple of minutes. They are probably in the ring for four or five minutes. Though it would depend on how popular the horse is. A sought after yearling in the Tattersalls Book 1 sale could take a while.
What do you look for in a horse you are interested in buying?
A good walker is essential, conformation, his eye and his colour. You wouldn't want a big Flashy Chestnut with four white socks and white face. If we are buying a foal like that, it is harder to sell. A lot of people can be put off by that. You have to buy what you think people will buy.
You don't like too much white around the eye, where their temperament can be a bit funny. It doesn't mean they all are. You like to see them walk up and down. But if they are from a good family you would probably take a risk
Do you personally make the bids or do other members of your team bid on your behalf?
The odd time I do the bidding but not usually. Kieran McManus (son of JP McManus) or another member of the team would bid normally. If I do bid I would be in contact on the phone with JP McManus or Kieran advising them what the horse is making.
If you are particularly interested in a buying are you asked to make yourself known to the auctioneer and stand in a certain area?
They have a fair idea. All the auctioneers know everybody that usually buys. They see you standing in the crowd. There are lots of spotters around. You wouldn't miss a bid; it's your own fault if you miss a bid!
What is the process like after you have bought the horse?
If it's a horses in training sale you would get him wind checked after. You get the horse lunged and the vet would listen to his wind to see if it was ok. Beforehand we would have scoped him, scanned his tendons and seen some x rays.
Could you cancel the bid?
Once you have bid you can't cancel it. The only way would be if they didn't mention that he was a box walker or if failed his wind test afterwards. Sometimes it might have to go to a panel and if it's a horse in training they might have to bring him up to the gallops, but is pretty unusual.
What arrangements do you have for the horse after purchase?
We use the same transport company depending on what country. If its a horse in training they go back to JP McManus's place at Martinstown. A group of people including JP McManus then decide which trainer to send them to.
Personally the foals I buy go back to my father-in-law Timmy Hyde at Camas Park Stud, County Tipperary, Ireland. The foals are then sold on as three year olds.
What has proved to be your most successful purchase?
Defi Du Seuil, the winner of last season's Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, who I bought privately after a bumper in France
Finally is there a horse we should look out for in the 2017/18 National Hunt Season
I like Dame De Compagnie a four year old mare trained by Nicky Henderson. She won a race at Uttoxeter in early November and is a possible for one of the mares' races at the Festival.
Blog by Stephen Wallis