What gloom? The racehorse market is doing rather well, thank you

January 18, 2023 0 By Cypher9ja

Horse racing is currently a small beacon of optimism in an otherwise horribly gloomy South African economy. It’s an unusual situation for an industry that, just two years ago, was in the financial dwang and looked headed for extinction in the country.

Not only are two new operators – 4Racing and Cape Racing – investing new energy and money in bringing excitement and crowds back to the nation’s courses, but the thoroughbred breeding industry is buoyant.


Testifying to the upbeat mood, last weekend’s Tattersalls Cape Premier yearling Sale delivered outstanding results. A total of nearly R45-million was shelled out for 101 yearlings, at an average of R443,812 and a median of R300,00 – better stats than achieved at South Africa’s main yearling sale in 2022, in Germiston.

Ten lots went for seven-figure amounts, with the sale-topper – a Gimmethegreenlight colt from Maine Chance Farm – fetching R3.8-million.

Leading bloodstock agent John Freeman commented that the sale was “yet another milestone in the resurgence of our industry”, adding: “Do we need any more proof that we are on the right track? I don’t think so!”

“It was a terrific sale with a good middle market and strong top end,” Cape Racing Sales executive Grant Knowles told Business Day.


All this splashing of cash might seem irrational, even unseemly, in a country beset by poverty, crime, dreadful leadership and declining economic prospects. Do rich people operate above the common herd?

Are the wealthy having one last hurrah, enjoying money while they still have it? Or is there genuine optimism that racing has a future?

Whatever the answer, it was noteworthy that there was plenty of foreign interest in a comparatively small auction, held in the posh environs of the Cape Town International Conference Centre. The Hong Kong Jockey Club bought the aforementioned top lot, while leading British bloodstock agent Amanda Skiffington paid R2.75-million for two horses.


The arrival of Tattersalls, one of the world’s most famous sales houses, as a headline sponsor of the event was perhaps more significant. It is an injection of foreign capital at a time when the government can barely attract a zac.

The Tattersalls involvement was commented on by John Koster, boss of Klawervlei Stud, the leading vendor by aggregate with more than R10-million banked from 18 horses.

“They are the world’s most reputable and probably oldest bloodstock sales company, so it is amazing they have supported South Africa like this … we are going to build up a lot of friendships overseas through Tattersalls,” said Koster.

One wonders how long it’ll be before a “business forum” makes an appearance.