Despite the uncertain economic climate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand bloodstock agent Stuart Hale is remaining optimistic about the future.
While many in the racing industry couldn’t do much more than go for a walk and watch television during lockdown, Hale was kept busy and even traded a couple of horses during that period. “It’s been pretty good,” he said. “I have been fairly busy. I am hearing from clients I haven’t heard from in a few years, which is good. “I have sold a couple of horses in Level 4 to Hong Kong. I think it is mainly because Hong Kong buyers and owners can’t travel, so the bloodstock agents are made a lot more use of. “They were a couple of PPG’s (Private Purchase Griffins) and I just sold another one Tuesday, a No Nay Never two-year-old of Michael Pitman’s called No Never No More. “He is a trial winner. He is a beautiful moving horse and is a strong, precocious type. That’s what the owner wanted.”
Hale’s main clients are Hong Kong-based and he said demand is still strong despite the Asian nation going through a challenging time of late. “I have had a few clients whose budgets have been affected,” he said. “Some of my best clients have been affected because they are in the tourist, retail, and hospitality trade in Hong Kong. “That was firstly affected by the riots. They were hit hard by them. They even stopped a couple of meetings at Happy Valley. “The virus then struck, so they got a double whammy. Their businesses just came to a stop. It’s going to be a while before it starts to pick up, but the budgets of a lot of the buyers now is a lot lower. They are looking for a cheaper horse.
“A lot of the Hong Kong owners want to use their permits because they feel if they throw their permits in, they may not be able to get a ballot again for a couple of years. So they would rather take the cheaper option to retain their permit.”
The Hong Kong Jockey Club offers 150 Private Purchase Permits (Previously Raced Horses) and 440 Private Purchase Griffin Permits (Unraced but can have had a trial) every year. Demand for permits is very high, so permit holders will endeavour to utilise their permits.
Hale expects demand for racing stock to improve over the coming months, but he admitted to being worried about New Zealand’s ability to supply that demand. “I think it (demand) is going to be very good, especially with the climate of New Zealand racing at present,” he said. “My problem is going to be a lack of New Zealand product, with less racing. “Not all permits are for unraced horses. I am worried about that, so that’s why I am going to be searching Australia and Europe as well.”
But Hale said the New Zealand-bred has a strong reputation in Hong Kong and the Island nation’s product would continue to be in high demand in the Asian racing jurisdiction. “New Zealand horses have always been very popular,” he said. “Mainly because we have had a lot of Hong Kong Horse of the Years, along with the durability of the New Zealand horse as opposed to the European horse.”