The Tattersalls Run Down
- Published: 14/01/2017
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The name Tattersalls is synonymous with all things equine and horse racing. The firm is regarded as the oldest bloodstock auctioneers in the world, having been formed in 1766. The group today holds 15 sales each year with more than 10,000 thoroughbred horses being offered for sale every year.
The company was founded 250 years ago in 1766 by Richard Tattersall (1724–1795). Before founding the auction house, Tattersall had worked as the stud groom to the second Duke of Kingston.
The business was first located near Hyde Park Corner, which in those days, was considered to be the outskirts of London! Two “Subscription rooms” were reserved for members of the Jockey Club, and they became the rendezvous for sporting and betting men. Among the famous sales conducted by “Old Tatt” were those of the Duke of Kingston’s stud in 1774. As well as horses from the stud of the Prince of Wales, who later became George IV in 1786. The prince often visited Richard Tattersall, and was joint proprietor with him of the Morning Post for several years.
Old Tatt was succeeded by his son, Edmund Tattersall (1758–1810), who expanded the business into France. His son, Richard Tattersall (1785–1859) soon joined the business. Richard was the third generation of the family to lead the business upon his father’s death. He had his grandfather’s ability and tact, and was the intimate of the best sporting men of his time. His son, also named Richard Tattersall (1812–1870), also took on control of the business. When the 99-year lease at Hyde Park Corner had expired, the business moved in 1865, to Knightsbridge. Richard was followed by his cousin, Edmund Tattersall (1816–1898), and he by his eldest son, Edmund Somerville Tattersall (1863–1942).
Tattersall’s remained a family business until Somerville Tattersalls’ death in 1942, when it was passed to his partners, Gerald Deane, Robert Needham and Terrence Watt. At this time Major Gerald Deane took over as chairman. In 1965 it introduced bloodstock auctions at Park Paddocks, Newmarket. Then in 1988, auctions began at Old Fairyhouse in County Meath, Ireland.
Today there are 15 auctions each year with 9 held at Newmarket and 6 taking place just outside Dublin, Ireland. Over 10,000 horses are sold each year. And in keeping with horse-racing traditions horses are priced in guineas (originally 21 shillings, and now one pound and five pence). You can expect to find over 50 nationalities present at each sale. From average race going punters, to billionaires, to middle eastern royalty.
The Newmarket set-up is quite impressive. At the heart of it, is a large sale ring, where people bid against each other for foals, yearlings, mares and horses in training. The site also features several hundred stables, offices and an elegant dining room based on a Georgian orangery.
While ever buyer hopes they will see a spectacular return on their investment with multiple wins and high stud fees, some horses achieve little and therefore see their value plummet. For example 4 of the Derby winners in the past 10 years were bought at Tattersalls’ October Yearling Sale. However, the 2015 Derby and Arc winner, Golden Horn, went unsold as a yearling after failing to reach his reserve price of 190,000 guineas!
Some of the most prolific winners, such as the 2001 Derby winner Galileo and Dubawi, unbeaten in his two-year-old season, command a stud fee in excess of £200,000.