Last weekend marked the end of both the point-to-point season and the breeze-up sales season.

Two very different branches of the racing game – one cohort racing over three miles and jumping fences, the other covering just two furlongs at maximum speed in what is effectively a time trial in front of buyers.

But there are a lot of links between the breeze-up and point-to-point markets. Lots of horsemen are involved in both, or at least have tried both before specialising in one or the other. And both markets have witnessed a sharp dip in prices and clearance rates this year.

As usual we have seen some spectacular ‘pinhooks’ this spring, where leading breeze-up consignors such as Katie Walsh, Norman Williamson, Con Marnane, Danny O’Donovan and Roderic Kavanagh generated huge profits for themselves and business partners, but that doesn’t tell the full picture.

Rookie traders

A worrying high percentage of horses offered for sale this year failed to find any buyer and there is talk that some established players, as well as plenty of rookie traders, are exiting the game.

This week Con Marnane of Bansha House Stables in Tipperary told me that he thinks “nearly half” the horses offered for sale at the breeze-up sales failed to sell.

Con, who thankfully had a good year, does things a bit differently to most other consignors. He has never been afraid to put a horse in training himself and race it if he can’t get it sold, and he has been doing more of this over the past five years or so.

“You only have to pay a month’s training fees as they are ready to race,” he explains. With a bit of luck, if the horse is good enough to reach a place in a two-year-old maiden at any Irish racecourse the phone will ring and a deal will be done.

Famously, just last year Con and his daughter Amy raced a horse named Givemethebeatboys. Jessica Harrington trained it to win the Group 3 Marble Hill Stakes at the Curragh and the horse was sold for £1.1 million a few weeks later.

I asked Con why the breeze-up market stuttered this year and is it right that two new breeze-up sales (at Goffs and Goresbridge) have been added to the calendar for 2025.

Poor prize money in England and increased export costs associated with Brexit are the two main factors impacting the market, he said. “An Italian bloodstock agent told me it now costs €5,000 to get a horse from England into Italy,” Con reported.

He thinks the two new Irish sales could work “but one of them needs to be moved to earlier in the year, around 1 April. This would improve cash flow for vendors. Having one in June is too late because owners want a chance to buy a horse who could run at Royal Ascot (in mid-June).”

Con was in Australia earlier this year and was very impressed with the health of the racing and bloodstock industry there. “There could be 500 people in a syndicate sharing one horse and the prize money is incredible,” he said.

“Here, we have the IRE Incentive [€10,000 sales voucher payable to winning racehorse owners for selected races] which is a huge help, but I think we need to treble the prize money for auction maidens and median auction races.

“ That would be a real game-changer.”