925,000gns English King Sent to Rule Australia


Wednesday's topper and current sale topper English King | Tattersalls


NEWMARKET, UK—There are obviously lessons to ponder, regarding the divergent economies of British and Australian racing. But first and foremost, let's pause and give due credit to those who brought English King (GB) (Camelot {GB}) to the point where he could on Wednesday become much the most expensive colt ever sold at Europe's premier horses-in-training sale.

After all, when auctioneer John O'Kelly tried to coax one last effort out of underbidder Ted Voute for lot 1153a, he told him: “There's only one chance to buy English King.”

But Jeremy Brummitt could tell you otherwise, having picked him out as a yearling at the Arqana October Sale for €210,000. As a result, following a dazzling rehearsal in the Lingfield Trial, patron Bjorn Nielsen was able to savour the exhilaration of fielding the leading home-trained colt for the G1 Investec Derby itself—an experience that very pardonably, given the vagaries of the game, eludes many a lifelong investor.

Things did not play out on the day quite as hoped, English King finding himself adrift with most of the field early before staying on for fifth. But all the embryonic attributes perceived by Brummitt have now matured to the point that Armando Duarte was prepared to see off Voute at 925,000gns and send English King from the Tattersalls Autumn Horses-in-Training Sale to the Ballymore Stables Australia of Mike Moroney.

Brummitt, moreover, can also take credit for amplifying the marketability of the colt's sire in Australia. For it was in this ring, 12 days before his Deauville coup, that the agent found another son of the Coolmore stallion for 120,000gns out of Book 1. As Russian Camelot (GB), that colt has this year become the pioneering winner of two Group 1 prizes Down Under for trainer Danny O'Brien, before finishing third in the G1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate only last weekend.

Others have played their part. The Cox Plate winner, Sir Dragonet (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), is himself a recent import and also gave a boost to the profile of their sire. And then there is the work of trainer Ed Walker, who understandably described the sale of his most cherished charge as a “very bittersweet” spectacle.

“I'd far rather have won the same money on the track,” Walker admitted after congratulating Duarte. “I'd far rather have won it in the Derby, obviously. But it was all a bit of a perfect storm. I suppose in a normal year, Bjorn may have sold more yearlings, and might have been up for competing internationally with this horse. But when I tried to persuade Bjorn to keep him, and aim for all these big races in Australia and Hong Kong and around the world, quite rightly he was worried as to whether we'd be able to race in those races. Will racing be happening? Will we be able to travel? Will the horse?

“But look, it's a great result. Bjorn puts a lot into the game. So I do take great pride. A lot of trainers nowadays are selling through professional consignors. But Luca [Cumani, whom Walker served as assistant] used to take a lot of pride in preparing his horse for the sales, and I try to replicate that. When Luca retired, I wrote and asked for his spot in the Somerville Paddock and Tattersalls kindly gave it to me. We try to produce our horses sound and well, and it's always good to get a result.

“And this has all been a great journey. English King made lockdown a bit more interesting, that's for sure. Obviously it didn't end as we hoped. I'm still looking for my first Group 1 winner. I was absolutely certain it would be him, but things just played against him.”

The eccentric way in which the Derby unfolded this year certainly made strenuous demands of English King, and Walker is certain that he will regroup for his new connections after twice disappointing since.

“He'd had a couple of hard races,” he said. “You don't break a 30-year-old track record, like he did at Lingfield, without giving your all. And he had a very hard race in the Derby when he ran an absolute blinder. His next two races weren't up to that level, but he's not the biggest horse and those probably took their toll. For me, he's tailormade for the Melbourne Cup. He stays, he travels, and he loves that fast ground. I am very grateful to the guys who bought him, and wish them every bit of luck.”

This transaction set a spectacular seal not just on Duarte's purposeful shopping for brothers Mike and Paul Moroney over the preceding couple of days, but on the critical value of the Australian export market this week.

Duarte admitted that this was a real stretch but had anticipated a price between 750,000gns and 1,000,000gns and played his cards accordingly. Voute, seated to the right of the rostrum, was on a video call to his client in Saudi Arabia as Duarte lurked outside the ring, bidding through a spotter. At 875,000gns, Voute appeared to quit, only to bounce back just as the gavel was coming down with a last-ditch sally of 900,000gns. That caused a chuckle around the ring, but Duarte quickly closed in for the kill.

Paul Moroney outlined his thinking from home. “English King's track-record performance at Lingfield, beating [G1] St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco (Fr) (Sir Percy {GB}), was one of the most breathtakingly dominant performances anywhere this year,” he said.

“He is clearly a highly talented colt with loads of quality and we are thrilled to have secured him. Through their joint sire Camelot, and with similar race records at the same stage, English King maps the same as Sir Dragonet.

“We've bought him for a syndicate headed by two New Zealand businessmen and a collection of Ballymore Stables' Australian clients. He's certainly an exciting addition to the team, and our first time playing at this very high level, so one could say the pressure is on for him to perform.

“He will head Down Under in December to join Mike's Flemington stable early January and [we'll] play things by ear. He will likely race in our autumn but next spring will be the main focus going forward.”

Congratulations to all concerned, then, most obviously to Nielsen himself. It was a bold idea to come here, as a wildcard, and presumably there was an equally bold reserve. But the reward was a deal that blew the previous record for a colt at this auction—the 625,000gns paid by Joseph O'Brien for Summer Sands (GB) (Coach House {Ire}) last year—out of the water. But Royal Ascot winner Aljazzi (Shamardal) retains the record after her 1,000,000gns transfer, as a broodmare prospect, to Newsells Park in 2018.

Following hard on the heels of the Juddmonte draft, English King duly completed the predicted rally in the third session of the sale. Turnover of 9,779,600gns represented a 19% gain on 8,206,000gns last year, driving the average up 15% to 34,803gns from 30,393gns. Clearance was strong even by 2020 standards at 92%.

With a fairly low-key finale anticipated for Thursday, year-on-year comparisons have meanwhile now levelled off more validly. And while aggregate business is down to 20,488,800gns from 24,037,000gns, the 26,748gns average dipped from 30,235gns last year; and the median dropped to 12,000gns from 16,000gns.

Bullfinch Joins the Migration

With stronger domestic prizemoney apparently reserved for Shangri-La, this sale has certainly reiterated how precious is the symbiosis between the British and Australian Turf; between the heritage of one, and the quality of stock duly attracted, and the prosperity of the other.

As John Ferguson stressed, after signing a 370,000gns docket on behalf of Chris Waller for Bullfinch (GB) (Kodiac {GB}), “The minimum prizemoney at an Australian city track at the weekend is Aus$125,000. The minimum! That does make a difference, you know.”

The 3-year-old Bullfinch (offered as lot 1100 by The Castlebridge Consignment) is a classic example of the value that can be established even in winning barely £25,000—his nugatory reward for winning three of just five starts for Roger Charlton. The colt was homebred by the Rothschilds, at a stud with a venerable history now undergoing dispersal; he has been brought along expertly on the historic Beckhampton gallops by Roger Charlton; and he has been measured against competition that far surpasses the rewards contested.

“From an Australian point of view, there are a lot of reasons why a horse like this could be a lot of fun,” Ferguson said. “Kodiac has already sired a [G1] Caulfield Cup winner in Best Solution (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), who we bought a few years ago, and the dam [Group 1 winner Thistle Bird (GB) (Selkirk)] was a champion older mare. This is a progressive horse, with undoubted ability, that has been quite beautifully trained.”

Best Solution, a 90,000gns find in Book 2, shows the range of Ferguson's long service for Godolphin and Waller could hardly have entrusted his recruitment to more seasoned judgement. Each of Bullfinch's wins was marked by real flair, and he clearly can't be judged on a disappointing stakes debut at Goodwood last time, having raced freely over a new trip. Ferguson and Waller had teamed up for three other attractive lots the previous day, for an aggregate 520,000gns.

Emissary Acts as Pathfinder for King

Duarte and the Moroney brothers had shown the vigour of their interest just minutes before topping the sale. Having given 200,000gns for Ballydoyle's Keats (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) the previous day, they invested in another elite draft—Juddmonte —when paying 350,000gns for Emissary (GB) (Kingman {GB}).

A half-brother to Derby winner Workforce (GB) (King's Best) and winner of his only start at two for Hugo Palmer, Emissary ( lot 1126) returned to form to win a York handicap last month.

“Physically, he's a very nice horse,” Duarte said. “He's 16.2, has not had many runs, is improving all the time, and there's plenty more to come. It is the same story as yesterday. We probably had to pay a bit more than we expected, but he could be a special horse in Australia next year. This sort of horse does not come onto the market very often. The background family, the first dam and second dam, is very important to the buyers; and this horse passed the vet too, which is very hard.”

Australian Bloodstock/Ronald Rauscher meanwhile crowned their own brisk investment through the sale when giving 180,000gns for Fifth Position (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), who has achieved a mark of 104 for Roger Varian and was sold as lot 1107.

In terms of prizemoney, it was much the same story as Bullfinch. Fifth Position leaves Britain with the metre stopped at just over £30,000; and Emissary, not quite £25,000.

Urban Opportunity Finally Cashed in

Having been coolly retained for no less than 340,000gns at this sale last year, when he included sixth in the G1 2000 Guineas among his accomplishments for Richard Hannon, Urban Icon (GB) (Cityscape {GB}) was back as lot 1052.

In the meantime he had maintained his rating at 110, notably in winning his first stakes race at Wolverhampton in March; and, with everything else that has happened, had arguably done just as well to maintain broadly the same value.

Certainly Ted Voute's bid of 320,000gns represented a very satisfactory dividend for owner Michael Pescod, as the colt had been picked out as a yearling for just £23,000 by Peter & Ross Doyle at the Tattersalls Ireland Ascot Sale.

Voute was operating for the emerging Saudi venture, Najd Stud, as when buying five lots at the inaugural August Horses-in-Training Sale here.

“He's a big, robust horse who should stand a lot of training out there,” he said. “He's tough and consistent and will go on quicker ground. He'll ship out and we'll see how he adjusts and acclimatises, but ideally he'll go the normal route through the Cup races and then see if he can be good enough for the big Saudi international day.”

Voute also gave 340,00gns for Derevo (GB) (Dansili {GB}) (lot 1130). Having won three times for Sir Michael Stoute last year, Derevo has found a plateau in the mid-90s though beaten under a length in a Doncaster handicap last month. He should find new horizons in the desert.

“We like to buy from the Juddmonte draft and Dansili is a big plus in Saudi Arabia,” Voute said. “This horse has good form and has been well produced.”

Underbidder Ed Dunlop did at least manifest plenty of appetite and perseverance for the locals, throughout the Juddmonte draft, and finally got his reward when landing Derevo's younger brother Society Lion (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) (lot 1132) for 180,000gns.

Fight Opening a New Front in Dubai

The Middle East also beckons for Fight Zone (War Front), two of whose siblings have already proved effective in the U.A.E.

It has been quite an odyssey for the 2-year-old, as he had failed to meet his reserve at $120,000 as a Keeneland September yearling; and was then scratched from Lynn Lodge's draft at the Arqana Breeze-Up Sale in July. Instead he surfaced in the care of Ger Lyons, for whom he has steadily improved to win a Naas maiden last month and a Dundalk nursery a few days later.

Everything finally came together when, presented by The Castlebridge Consignment as lot 1068, he brought 290,000gns from Victoria de Sousa and Chris Dwyer.

“He'll be going out to Dubai for Sheikh Rashid and will hopefully be one for the Carnival,” de Sousa said. “I'd say he'll probably go to one of the lads based at Meydan. He's a lovely, scopey horse, well put together, and vetted very clean. It's hard to get all that here, along with good form, and Chris really liked him.”

Festival Day Back to Her Roots

The fireworks later in the day were preceded by a rather torpid morning, but proceedings were enlivened by the appearance of Festival Day (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) as lot 912. Despite regressing at three, she did win a maiden by six lengths for Mark Johnston last year and would have been a valuable proposition had she never even made the track.

That's because she is out of a Storm Cat daughter of the mighty Miesque, who matched her stellar track career in establishing a wonderful dynasty through the likes of Kingmambo (Mr. Prospector) and East Of The Moon (Private Account). The family continues to thrive, the latter's daughter Alpha Lupi (Ire) (Rahy) having produced two of the last three winners of the G1 Coronation S., while Karakontie (Jpn) (Bernstein) and Study Of Man (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) are now trying to establish branches of their own at stud.

Any breeder would relish access to those bloodlines, but Festival Day turned out to be returning to the Niarchos fold after a 170,000gns docket was signed by Martin Buick. Himself of a notable Turf family, of course, Buick has had “the huge privilege” of working for the Flaxman bloodstock empire for around five years.

“It's obviously one of the best pages in the Stud Book,” Buick reasoned. “And the Niarchos family were keen to get back in. The pedigree speaks for itself, it's just amazing how it keeps repeating.”

This was not the first time his employers had reclaimed this blood. Festival Day's dam, having been placed in a light career in France, was recruited by Godolphin on her retirement for 1,800,000gns at the December Sale here in 2007. She was culled 10 years later, however, when Flaxman Stables were able to retrieve her for just 160,000gns; yet all six foals of racing age have won.

Buick was wearing a Ulysses (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) baseball cap and evidently that was instructive of his employers' intentions for Festival Day.

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