It was Charles II who started it all by establishing a court at Newmarket to pursue his love of hunting and horse racing and, his even greater passion, the fairer sex. Newmarket Heath remains completely unchanged to this day, with horses still racing on the same strips of turf as King Charles and his noblemen did. But what was initially a sport of the English aristocracy has now become a worldwide phenomenon.
The sales season at Tattersalls in Newmarket has just finished. This follows the same rhythm every year with the sale of yearlings (unbroken, untried one- year old horses) kicking off proceedings in early October, to be followed by mares and foals as the autumn unfolds. However, it is the yearlings, those tantalisingly unfinished articles, that are the bedrock of the industry and cause a feeding frenzy like no other. They will be ready to race in the next 12 months but so much is unknown.
Will they show the athletic ability that there genes imply they should? They may have the perfect physique but will they have the will to win? Horses are flight animals that seek security in the herd. When racing, many will seek that protection and be quite content to remain in the peloton. However, the prize for picking a winner can literally be measured in millions. Frankel was undefeated in 14 races, won £3 million in prize money and now earns over £20 million in stud fees each year. But it is not only about the money. A thoroughbred is a thing of beauty and the adrenalin rush for an owner of seeing a magnificent creature win in his or her colours actually is priceless.
Turnover at Tattersalls has more than doubled from a low point of £162 million in 2010 to £331 million this year. 17 yearlings sold for more than £1m with the most expensive at £4m. The broodmares, 50% of the essential raw material, saw similar excitement and £6 million was paid for a filly that will be bred for the first time next year. In all, buyers from over 30 countries from every part of the globe attended the season of sales. At a time of huge economic uncertainty over Brexit, geo-political concerns everywhere you look, bloodstock is a commodity that transcends these and seems almost more attractive as a result. Ownership is a form of escapism that is addictive.
For Weatherbys Hamilton insuring bloodstock is both enjoyable and profitable. Although many owners can afford to lose and don’t insure, or at least not until a horse is successful, racing does provide an ideal entrée to the world of the wealthy and it is hard to think of a better model for a private client broker. Forging relationships by sharing a common passion gives a great opportunity to insure not only a client’s bloodstock but also their other possessions such as houses, collections and all the other trappings of wealth. We are confident that there will continue to be plenty of demand for the sort of personal service which we and our fellow Beacon Group members pride ourselves on, as what our competitors offer becomes increasingly indifferent and monochrome. For our part we have every reason to be grateful to Old Rowley and the Sport of Kings that he inspired getting on for 400 years ago.