We had hoped in the wake of our decision to consign our horses through CTS for this year’s Ready To Run, that we could let sleeping dogs to lie. However, the TBA’s press release calls for an explanation, in the first instance because it makes the “buy-in” the central issue (which it wasn’t at all), and it implies that we may not have had our customers interests at the forefront of our thoughts.
The Ready To Run Sale started out as a Summerhill idea 28 years ago, and the fact that in the past decade, it has outperformed all other sales from a growth perspective, tells us that the bulk of our customers like it and they feel looked after.
Unlike other sales where we are merely participants, the Ready To Run is very personal to Summerhill, and we’ve treated the responsibility for its development throughout this time as our own. That said, the whole point about a sale with an associated race, is about the odds of getting a run in the race, and until very recently, we have managed the number of entries carefully so as to ensure that our buyers get the best crack of the whip.
There is a tight correlation between the number of entries, the prize money on offer and the prospect of being one of the 16 in the field. The only winner with a bigger entry in the catalogue, is the sales company: bigger turnovers mean bigger earnings, as they get their commission, whether the horse sells or not.
Last year, the sales company took the rather drastic decision (in the light of this correlation) to increase the catalogue to 250 lots, significantly reducing the chances of a buyer qualifying his horse for the race. We protested before the sale, and it was of little satisfaction to us to know in the aftermath, that we were right: predictably, there was buyer resistance, and several vendors, particularly the smaller ones, were badly hurt.
The Ready To Run is an expensive sale for vendors to enter (+- R11,000 per horse) and more so if you fail to sell, as you still have commissions to pay. Unlike the majority of the bigger studs, there is no big business behind Summerhilll; there is a financial imperative to everything we do in order to survive, and that applies to many of our colleagues and most of our clients on the farm.
In the event, the then-CEO of the TBA, Tom Callaghan, eventually understood where we were coming from; it’s costly keeping horses for any sale, especially for November, and we arrived at an understanding that the 2014 edition would be limited to 200 entries, and that the levies would be adjusted in order to stage a R4million race.
This was the only way we could achieve a competitive comparison between the recently announced Million Dollar race for graduates of the two Cape sales, where 500-600 lots would be competing for the same number of places (16) in the race. This appealed to the sponsor, a casino operator which understands the relationship between odds and rewards better than most of us.
If we’d known the TBA was going to retreat from this arrangement well before the entry forms went out, the need for us to withdraw our draft would not have arisen, as we wouldn’t have entered in the first place: while it’s possible there was a disconnect between Mr Callaghan’s departure from the TBA, and the issuing of the entry forms for this year’s sale, it doesn’t mitigate against the fact that there was an understanding in place, aimed at the best interests of buyers and vendors alike, and that it should be respected.
What compounded the problem was the TBA’s advice that what we had understood would apply, was not going to, and when we requested a meeting to talk about it, we were summarily told in writing that we could discuss any other issues, but not these until after the sale! Ironically, the levy has now been adjusted to exactly what we had proposed; it’s just a pity it had to get to this, to achieve it.
We didn’t choose to change “horses”, we simply reached a point of realization that our paths on the future of the Ready To Run had diverged so far, that we had to seek an alternate means of marketing our horses in the best interests of our clients. It was comforting to know that in a matter of a weekend, we arrived at an understanding with CTS and our sponsors on a way forward, which should satisfy the needs of our buyers and our customers alike, the former being afforded three months free credit, and the latter a guarantee of payment of their dues.
It’s now a matter of the two sales companies getting together to work out a sensible means of running their respective sales. Neither warrants two days any longer, and with the original sale scheduled for Friday 31st October and November 2nd, one could quite easily slot in on the first day, and the other on the second. That would facilitate the convenience of everyone, and especially our buying customers.
Tarryn Liebenberg +27 (0) 33 263 1081
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