Elliott’s Weapon Tops Final July Session

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The 300,000gns Lethal Steps | Tattersalls

By Chris McGrath

Newmarket, UK–Perhaps the clearance rate didn’t quite match that achieved by the ice cream vendor outside the ring, who was soon able to wheel away an empty stall, but there wasn’t a great deal in it as the Tattersalls July Sale drew to a close on another hot summer evening in Newmarket.

Vendors at this auction generally mean business and, once again, a diverse and international market ensured that the ratio of lots to find a new home exceeded nine-in-10.

The full spectrum was measured within a few minutes during the post-racing session. On the one hand, the decline of Outback Traveller (Ire) (Bushranger {Ire}), two years after he won the Wokingham at Royal Ascot, was poignantly crowned by his sale for just 6,000gns. Lethal Steps (GB) (Lethal Force {Ire}), in contrast, had arrived as a racehorse palpably in his prime after being beaten just two lengths when fourth in listed company down the road on the July Course barely 24 hours earlier, and was duly sold, as lot 823, for 300,000gns to Mags O’Toole.

“Seeing him back here in the evening yesterday, you had to love his attitude,” the agent said. “After his race, and all the X-rays and everything, he trotted out to his chin.”

Lethal Steps will be joining Gordon Elliott, whose occasional forays on the Flat show him to be no less effective than he is with jumpers.

“Yes, he’s been bought as a dual-purpose horse,” said O’Toole, who was acting on behalf of a new client. “But he’s certainly going to run on the Flat. We all know that Gordon’s an outstanding National Hunt trainer, but he’s also had two Royal Ascot winners from very few runners. He was too busy with runners to be here today, but saw the horse yesterday and loved his run, thought him the type to progress with a trip.”

Prior to advertising his wares on the eve of the sale, Lethal Steps had finished in midfield in the Britannia on his first start for Andrew Balding following his transfer from Ger Lyons by Qatar Racing. The latter, who consigned him here through Jamie Railton, had acquired the horse between two wins in his first two juvenile starts last year.

After a fairly desultory day’s trade to that point, the very next lot through the ring–another 3-year-old gelding–made 210,000gns. Nearest Green (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) (lot 824) had won for the second time in four starts for Kevin Ryan at Beverley last weekend, having also scored on debut at Newcastle in January, and will continue his career for Raymond Tai in Hong Kong.

The random incidence of lots of that calibre make year-on-year comparisons of limited pertinence at any horses-in-training sale. For the record, the aggregate on the third day sank 23% from 4,161,300gns to 3,184,300gns; giving rise to corresponding drops in the median (10,000gns from 13,000gns) and average (17,401gns from 23,378gns) of 23 and 26%, respectively. More importantly, for 183 of 197 lots to change hands represented a clearance rate of 93%; measuring up well to 95% on the final day last year.

At 645 lots, the overall number offered over three days was virtually identical to last year, with the clearance rate very similar at 87% (89% in 2017). Turnover of 12,074,300gns dipped from 14,691,700gns; producing dips of the median from 12,000gns to 10,000gns and average from 25,595gns to 21,485gns.

“As ever, the Tattersalls July Sale has attracted overseas buyers in huge numbers and we have seen sustained international demand from start to finish,” remarked Tattersalls chairman Edmond Mahony. “Quality consignments from some of the world’s leading owner-breeders–including Godolphin, Juddmonte Farms and Shadwell–have been as sought-after as ever. And although a handful of late withdrawals took some of the shine off the catalogue, there has been no shortage of competition at all levels of the market.”

“The [overall] clearance rate of almost 90% is the key statistic to take from this week’s sale and the abundance of buyers, both domestic and overseas, reflects the global reputation of the Tattersalls July Sale as a consistent source of both high-class horses-in-training and quality breeding stock.”

“While the individual highlight was the 350,000gns sale-topping filly Award Winning (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), who set a new record for a filly at this sale, the extraordinary international appetite for horses-in-training was yet again the most notable feature of Europe’s premier midsummer sale.”

The morning session had been illuminated by a draft of fillies from Juddmonte, whose family trees tend to guarantee them some residual value regardless of any potential that might be salvaged on the track.

Agent Joseph Burke has invested shrewdly in Juddmonte blood in the past, picking up a half-sister to an Invincible Spirit (Ire) yearling–subsequently given the name Kingman (GB)–after she failed to meet her reserve here a few years ago. And, in going to 68,000gns for Bansuri (Mizzen Mast) (lot 703), he was again pinning his hopes on some of the recent coverings across a family she had rather let down when last on her only start for Criquette Head-Maarek.

The 3-year-old, now on her way to Oghill House Stud, is a daughter of the GI Kentucky Oaks and GI Alabama winner Flute (Seattle Slew); and she is also a full sister to Filimbi, winner of the GII Goldikova S. at Santa Anita and four times placed at Grade I level. Moreover, Mizzen Mast’s mating with Flute’s daughter by Empire Maker produced Purser, who won a listed race on the Rowley Mile this spring.

“It’s a real live pedigree,” Burke said. “The dam is in foal to Arrogate, and Filimbi has a yearling by Tapit and a foal by War Front. You also have [GI Ashland S winner] Weep No More (Mineshaft) under the first dam. And she’s a complete outcross. As far as I can see there’s no Northern Dancer anywhere in her pedigree, so she should be pretty easy to breed.”

The half-sister to Kingman bought by Burke in 2012 is Pleasantry (GB) (Johannesburg), whose son Fajjaj (Ire) (Dawn Approach {Ire}) finished second in the German 2,000 Guineas this spring. But much more important breeding news concerned the arrival, six weeks ago, of Sadie–a first child for Burke and his wife Regina.

The highest price of the pre-racing session had been commanded by Midsummer Knight (GB) (Dream Ahead) (lot 721) at 90,000gns, highlight of a hectic spree of spending by Gassim Al Ghazali. The Qatar champion trainer had bought 18 horses the previous day and ended up exporting 25 lots altogether at an aggregate of 1,294,000gns.

Midsummer Knight had put himself in the shop window the previous afternoon, winning the last race on the card on the July Course. The 3-year-old had already proved his toughness–this was his 17th start halfway through his second season–and, in blazing clear off a mark of 80, had suggested he was only now getting on a roll for Karl Burke.

“I wanted him at any price,” Al Ghazali said. “He was the favourite for me today, and for a long time before he won yesterday. He will suit Qatar and I like the sire too. But that made sure I would go a little bit higher if I had to.”

Another on his way to Qatar is Comrade In Arms (War Front), a gelded half-brother to top-class runner and producer Peeping Fawn (Danehill) who had recently got off the mark at the seventh attempt for Sir Michael Stoute in a Wolverhampton handicap. Debbie Mountain gave 72,000gns for him as lot 846.

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