Paul Nicholls To Train Ascot Yearlings

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Megan Nicholls and Tom Malone were the sale’s leading buyers | Steven Cargill/Tattersalls Ireland

By Emma Berry

The yearling sales calendar is an ever-evolving beast and the latest change to the fixture list this season came in the form of a new one-day auction, the Tattersalls Ireland Ascot Yearling Sale. A snappier title might be in order for future renditions but the inaugural event served a purpose in offering the alternative option of a relatively early sales slot for horses who might otherwise have found themselves in Books 3 and 4 of Ascot’s much bigger sibling, the Tattersalls October Sale at Newmarket.

The surprise name of the man who will handle the careers of two of the day’s more expensive lots is champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls. His daughter Megan, currently one of the leading apprentices on the flat who enjoyed a stint at Richard Hannon’s stable, has clearly got her eye in when it comes to appraising potential 2-year-old talent over the big chasing types for which her father has become renowned. Perhaps encouraged by fellow National Hunt trainer Gordon Elliott’s success on the flat this year, including a first Group win with Beckford (GB) (Bated Breath {GB}), the Nicholls family signed up a couple of new recruits in the hope of targeting some early-season races next year.

Lot 88, an April-born son of Sepoy (Aus) and the Ripon Champion 2yo Trophy runner-up Anosti (GB) (Act One {GB}), is one of two yearlings to be joining the team at Ditcheat after being bought from Houghton Bloodstock for £47,000.

Agent Tom Malone, who assisted Nicholls in her purchases, said, “Megan has to get her finger out and make sure these horses win. I like the sire and the colt has a nice pedigree. We’d like to have a few 2-year-olds who could win early but we may buy a couple of yearlings that could eventually end up being dual-purpose sorts who could do both jobs.”

Early in the session, the pair had signed for lot 9, a Mayson (GB) colt consigned by Greg Parsons’ Upperwood Farm Stud on behalf of his breeder James Patton.

“He’s a lovely stamp of a horse and looks like he’s going to be quite sharp,” said Nicholls of her £25,000 purchase. “He’s quite sharply-bred as well and athletic, a really good mover, so hopefully he could win a couple of early races.”

She continued, “Dad will be training him and hopefully I’ll get the ride on him but we’ll just take it step by step. I’m just looking forward to getting him going and then seeing him running.”

The colt’s dam, La Fortunata (GB) (Lucky Story) was a five-time winner over sprint trips for Patton and her first foal, the 2-year-old La Farfallina (GB) (Compton Place {GB}) has been placed at Chantilly this season.

The day’s results were relatively modest, certainly when set against the elite sale currently taking place on the other side of the Atlantic. Of the 126 yearlings catalogued, 114 stood their ground and 85 were marked as sold for a clearance rate of 75%. A total of £787,500 was accrued at an average price of £9,265 and median of £7,000.

But for agents worth their salt and trainers with an order, no sale should be left unscrutinised as history so often relates that good horses can come from anywhere and don’t always fall into the hands of those with the deepest pockets. Someone who knows that better than most is Gill Richardson, an agent widely respected for finding good-value purchases that go on to be classy gallopers, often in partnership with Mick Channon. One such example is the 2012 G1 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Samitar (GB) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}), plucked from the Tattersalls Ireland September Sale for €39,000 before winning the G3 Albany S. and becoming Channon’s first Classic winner.

Channon also trained the dual Group 3 winner and young sire Bungle Inthejungle (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) for owner-breeder Chris Wright and it was to Wright’s Stratford Place Stud draft that Richardson turned to claim the second-highest priced yearling of the day. Lot 59, a colt by Clodovil (Ire) out of the unraced Fairy King mare Shemissa (Ire), brought the hammer down at £36,000.

“He’s a lovely type of horse and I like the stallion,” said Richardson, who is unsurprisingly a fan of Rathasker Stud resident Clodovil having bought his Group 1-winning daughter Nahoodh (Ire) for Channon from the Tattersalls December Yearling Sale for just 19,000gns. Her most recent signing is a half-brother to six winners, including the listed winner Shediak (Fr) (Selkirk) who was also third in the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere for the Aga Khan, and will head to West Ilsley to be trained.

She added, “He looked a racehorse – a good walker with plenty of timber. He’ll go to Mick Channon and hopefully soon we’ll have him sold. Mick had seen him at Chris Wright’s stud – he liked him, I liked him and Jack (Channon) liked him so the whole team agreed.”

Tattersalls Ireland Director Richard Pugh was “delighted” by the company’s first foray into the yearling market in Britain.

“The support from clients, trainers and agents ensured a real buzz around the sales arena throughout yesterday’s viewing day and the sale today,” he said. “Today’s sale gives us the foundation to build on in 2018. Ascot Sales is gaining the industry’s confidence as a venue for sourcing reputable flat performers as illustrated by the recent Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Winner Sands Of Mali.

“A lot of hard work has gone in to producing and promoting the Ascot Yearling Sale catalogue and I would personally like to thank the Tattersalls team who were involved in making today a success.”

That team will soon swing back into action at its traditional Fairyhouse home for the three-day September Yearling Sale, which starts on Sept. 19.

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