Woodlands Stud boss Andrew Grierson knows he is about to gift somebody a bargain.
But he says that is all part of game for the breeding powerhouse as they count down to New Zealand’s largest ever online auction of standardbred stock.
Grierson started Woodlands Stud nearly three decades ago with Charles Roberts, his good friend who passed away last week aged 96.
“Of course it was sad to see Charles pass on but what a life he had,” said Grierson this week.
The business of running New Zealand’s largest standardbred nursery continues and a new chapter has begun with the catalogue for NZB Standardbred’s All Age Sale now online at gavelhouse.com, with bidding to start on May 20 and the sale concluding on May 27.
The change to the online format have been forced by COVID-19 restrictions and come after success of far bigger thoroughbred sales in Australia online.
Grierson says his team has done a wonderful job meeting the new challenge.
“We have a lot of horses going through, which is what you have to do when you are breeding as many horses as we do,” says Grierson.
“We breed between 150-170 mares a year and not all those foals can go to the yearling sales.
“Some go there, some we retain and some we do private deals on but this sale has been a very good outlet for others.”
That could easily lend the cynics to think of the traditional May sale as a dumping ground but Grierson says that is definitely not the case.
“We have sold horses like Hard Copy and Line Up at this sale,” explains Grierson.
“Hard Copy fetched $6000 as a weanling and went on to win over $1million, while Line Up we sold the day before his sister Partyon won the Jewels.
“The Breckons bought him and made huge profit reselling him as a yearling and he has since gone on to win two Derbys and be the top three-year-old.
“And that makes me happy. You want to see people do well because they are still our horses, by our stallions, out of our mares out there winning.”
Grierson says that has also been the case with Australian buyers who have pinhooked weanlings, taken them home and made big profits selling them at yearling sales in Australia.
So how does an operation the size of Woodlands decide who will head to the May sales as opposed to being retained or go to the more commercial February yearling sale?
Obviously being by the King, Bettors Delight, helps get you a February date, especially as demand at the yearling sales is based so much around the leading five or six stallions.
“The reality is, and it has become even clearer in the last five years, is that if we didn’t support the new stallions we brought in they would struggle to get established,” admits Grierson.
“Because so many breeders want to go to the well-known commercial which we can understand.
“So we will breed to our stallions and then sell some in February but some go to the May sale and people tend to buy them cheaper.
“That gives buyers two chances, they can pinhook them to next February or race them and have the option to sell them as horses.
“Again, with us breeding so many mares we can’t race up to 100 horses if they aren’t among the yearlings we sell. Grierson says Woodlands use the stallion’s service fee as a good indicator for the reserve at a sale.
“Obviously you don’t want to go much lower than that but sometimes we do. We get together as a team and work out what we think is a fair but also realistic price and go from there.”
With this month’s sale on gavelhouse.com, the Woodlands team have had to approach the marketing differently, with even more emphasis on photos and video because buyers won’t be able to see the horses for sale on the day.
“So we have taken a lot more photos than we would with previous sales and concentrated on things buyers might find important, like specific areas of the horses to check conformation.
“We are lucky we have a good team here with Tony Grayling, whose daughter Maddy did the photos, and Kelly Blakemore and then Stacey White has been able to package those up with details about the horses.
So how does Grierson expect the sale to go on gavelhouse.com at a time of such economic uncertainty?
“I think it will go well. I think we can expect good Australian interest because of the prices and the good pin-hooking success they have had, plus the fact they are not disadvantaged in any way by not being here.
“And it is a big bonus that weanlings offered here will be eligible for the Harness Millions series.
“But of course there will be bargains. That is the attraction of this sale.”
-By Michael Guerin