Andrew Black played a key role in reshaping the gambling industry by co-founding the exchange website Betfair, so it should come as no surprise that he sometimes takes a different approach to breeding and rearing racehorses at his Chasemore Farm in Surrey.
For example, he was ahead of the game in going to Japan to buy foals by Deep Impact long before the sire had lived up to his name, and has taken great pleasure in sourcing mares from some unlikely places – including a Lingfield claiming race in the case of Baldovina, who went on to produce the stud’s signature performer Ceiling Kitty.
Thanks to its close association with vet Pat Sells, Chasemore Farm (pictured below) has also been in the vanguard of using a number of relatively novel practices, such as the Madigan Squeeze for treating dummy foals or placing a rejected foal with her retired 22-year-old great-granddam as a foster mare, both detailed in Good Morning Bloodstock this year.
Black is also an early adopter of the latest technological advances, as can be seen from the state-of-the-art facilities at the stud, and his team will be responsible for what is believed to be a small but significant first at the coming Tattersalls October Yearling Sales: QR codes on the stable door cards that give access to enhanced information about each of the lots.
Don’t despair if you’re one of my more luddite readers and have no idea what I’m talking about; as long as you have a smartphone or a tablet like an iPad, QR codes are childsplay. You just need to point the camera on your device at the square of black and white shapes and, as if by magic, a link to a website will appear.
In this case, the link will take you to not only the usual Tattersalls pedigree and photo/video uploads, but also footage of the yearling being lunged, a summarised Gro-Trac report that contains detailed information about the horse, including weights and sizes from the day they were born to a week before the sales, and a Weatherbys iPedigree that features the latest happenings in the family.
It is hoped that the digital data capsules will be ideal for agents to forward to their overseas clients who can’t make it to the sales themselves. The QR codes will also be available on the Chasemore Farm website for everyone to use.
“We were discussing ways of giving prospective buyers even more information, and with most people switched on to modern technology now, we thought this would be a useful concept,” says farm manager Jack Conroy. “It’ll be interesting to see how it goes down with agents and trainers, but I think the lunging videos should be especially popular.
“Maybe it will help us, as a yearling who isn’t the greatest walker could look better on the lunge, or maybe it will put some buyers off a certain horse. Who knows? The important thing, though, is that we’re being transparent, and we hope that encourages people to buy from us with confidence.”
“When selling a yearling with a radiographic lesion, usually an OCD [Osteochondritis Dissecans] we believe to be genuinely cosmetic – that is, highly unlikely to interfere with training – we provide a certificate of warranty,” says the ever informative Pat Sells.
“The warranty states that if that lesion is proven to cause lameness during training, we’ll pay to have it surgically removed. The aim is twofold: firstly as a stand against the unnecessary practice of removing cosmetic chips in young horses, and secondly to build trust with our buyers.
“It was gratifying to see Piet Ramzan, widely accepted as one of the best ‘leg men’ in the world, post a tweet during last year’s yearling sales applauding the Chasemore ‘chip warranties’ as a welcome precedent.”
Chasemore Farm’s star yearling graduate from 2021, the unbeaten Gimcrack Stakes winner Noble Style, was sold with that very warranty. Food for thought there.
Another interesting fact about the classy Kingman colt out of Eartha Kitt, a Listed-winning daughter of Pivotal and Ceiling Kitty – well, interesting to an irredeemable anorak like me, anyway – is that he was Lot 1 in Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale.
Did the Chasemore team have any misgivings about being given that slot for one of the farm’s most prized lots?
“He was always a colt we loved and we were confident he’d sell well but, all the same, I can’t deny we were a little bit worried,” says Jack. “No one really wants to be first through the ring, and one agent did say to me during showings that he couldn’t spend all his money on the first lot!
“Our yearling manager Barry Stafford and I were looking at the stats on the drive to Newmarket and we saw that Lot 1 had sold for 400,000gns one year, and we wanted to beat that, so we were really pleased when he was bought by Godolphin for 525,000gns.”
By a quirk of fate, or perhaps due to having too many mares with ‘a’ or ‘y’ as the second letter of their names in a world where yearlings are catalogued in alphabetical order of their dams, the stud also sold the very last lot in Book 3 last year, a Roaring Lion filly out of Dynaforce bought by Julia Feilden for 13,000gns.
Chasemore Farm have a more favourable looking spread of lots at Tattersalls this year, with four in Book 1 including another Kingman colt in the brother to Prestige Stakes winner Boomer, four more in Book 2 including the Starspangledbanner brother to recent Prestige Stakes second Breege, and seven in Book 3 including a Ten Sovereigns half-brother to crack sprinter The Cheka out of the aforementioned emergency foster mare Veiled Beauty.
“They’re a nice, solid bunch,” says Jack, and you can judge for yourself by checking out those inventive QR codes that will be on the doors of the Chasemore boxes at the sales and available on the farm’s website in due course.