A Joke to Be Taken Very Seriously

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Lot 71, a filly by Practical Joke topped Tuesday's session Tattersalls

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NEWMARKET, UK—After such giddy disruption to the last cycle, the first session of the European breeze-up calendar gave the sector a comforting sense that its world might be easing back on its axis. But those seeking continuity could find it, not between the market that was eventually salvaged last summer and the one that was tested here on Tuesday, but extending from the 2-year-old sales already staged this year across the ocean.

Practical Joke has been the toast of the Florida sales, not least with the $750,000 filly who topped the OBS March Sale, and the rookie son of Into Mischief achieved a remarkable mirror distinction when another of his daughters dominated the opening session of the Tattersalls Craven Sale at 360,000gns.

This was an exciting moment for those of us who deplore the modern schism between the American and European gene pools. After all, it was with a turf breeze that this filly had arrested so much attention. In the event, however, it turned out that she will now be repatriated to her native land to join Chad Brown.

Presented by Tally-Ho Stud as lot 71, she was bought by Alex Elliott on behalf of White Birch Farm.

“The 2-year-old guys in Florida were raving about Practical Joke all winter,” the agent said. “But it's another thing then to go and do it. And they seem to be doing it. This is a beautiful filly and will be going back to Chad, who trained Practical Joke. She has been very highly thought of from day one. Roger has raved about her all along.”

Of course, the phenomenal Into Mischief initially had to make his name with mediocre mares and his encouraging start as a sire of sires suggests that his genetic alchemy is not necessarily going to be confined by their limitations. Practical Joke won three stallion-making Grade Is, at two and three, and was in corresponding demand from the outset with commercial breeders. This filly is a half-sister to Group 2-placed Rebel Tale (Tale Of The Cat) and boasts a Grade I winner as the third dam.

“The sire line is magic,” enthused Roger O'Callaghan of Tally-Ho. “And this is as good a filly as I have had to breeze. She has been a genuine natural from the start. I bought her as a foal with Archie St George [$185,000 Keeneland November weanling]. She didn't make the yearling sale, and we brought her here.”

Elliott noted that the complexion of this catalogue has responded to the new Royal Ascot bonus, but felt that this filly was a more traditional Craven type.

“She is a May foal, and is going to need a bit of time,” he reasoned. “She is scopey, with quality, and the more time you can give those, the better they can be. But she was the one. She did everything.”

Overall the session represented a very positive reset after the traumas of last year, when the sector was exposed to the first wave of the pandemic. In the end a Craven Sale was staged after Royal Ascot, so direct comparisons would not be valid. But the 65 lots sold of 75 offered (86%) this time turned over an aggregate 6,485,000gns for a 80,000gns median and 99,769gns average. The 2019 and 2018 sales finished with medians of 85,000 and 75,000, respectively, so while the averages then tipped 120,000gns and 140,000gns, this definitely felt like a bold step in the right direction.

Night Improves Swann's Evening

Though this sale is dominated by colts, the most conspicuous demand through its first half was for fillies. One thing is for sure: Peter Swann will be hoping that his outlay of 265,000gns for a daughter of Night Of Thunder, presented as lot 50 by Star Bloodstock, ultimately gives his evening a more auspicious look than it had achieved to that point. As chairman of Scunthorpe Football Club, he was obliged to report that his team was already 4-0 down to Morecambe.

In this sphere, however, his Cool Silk Partnership is in the Premier League. Swann reckons he is now up to 62 winners from the breeze-up sales, and one of them is already being targeted at the richest prize on the planet next January. Working with agent Matt Coleman, Swann has found the likes of Royal Ascot winner Prince Of Lir (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) and Group 1 winner Sands Of Mali (Fr) (Panis) at the breeze-ups; while now the ongoing success at Meydan for Midnight Sands (Speightstown) sets him up for a crack at the Saudi Cup.

Not that rocket science had been required to identify the exuberance of this filly's breeze the previous morning. But their record has allowed Swann's team to be confident in their focus.

“We've been doing it a long time now,” he said. “We just use everything we can, and ensure the horse is sound if we can. We though this filly's breeze was excellent. And she has a great pedigree, so if we can win a race then we're halfway there. But she's definitely the sort of thing we're looking for, the way she's built: a real specimen, very strong and not too tall in the leg.”

She is the first foal of a sister to G1 July Cup runner-up Main Aim (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}), the pair out of G3 Prix de Sandringham winner Orford Ness (GB) (Selkirk). The dam, who had a light career in France, offered relatively affordable access to a Juddmonte family when picked up by Rabbah Bloodstock for 38,000gns at the December Sale here in 2016. She was sent to Night Of Thunder in his second season at stud, and her daughter could duly ride the wave with the Kildangan stallion after he made a flying start from his first couple of crops (fee trebled to €75,000 this spring). She was picked out of Book II here last October by Byron Rogers / Star BS for 95,000gns.

Coleman signed a 210,000gns docket a few minutes later for lot 56, a son of Oasis Dream from Oak Tree Farm bought by Mags O'Toole for 67,000gns in Book 1 last October. But this time he was acting on behalf of colleague Anthony Stroud and Godolphin.

“Anthony and David Loder thought he was one of the picks of the sale,” Coleman said. “He breezed very well, and obviously has a good pedigree: his mother is a sister to the dam of Calyx (GB) (Kingman {GB}). And this is the same cross as Calyx. He is a grand-looking horse, Norman [Williamson] has done a good job with him.”

Dabirsim Filly Is Different Class

Dabirsim (Fr) has had an interesting career as a breeze-up stallion, his first-crop daughter Different League (Fr) having been rejected at 14,000gns at Doncaster before entering training in the colours of his consignor's wife and winning at Royal Ascot. There was rather more interest next time she entered a ring, making 1,500,000gns at the December Sale here.

So prospectors nowadays know to take a second look at this rare European outlet for the Sunday Silence line, and there was corresponding demand for a charming filly pinhooked by Robson Aguiar as lot 25. Picked up for €50,000 at Arqana last summer, this daughter of an unraced sister to French Listed winner Oriental (Jpn) (Smart Strike) (next dam a half-sister to Classic winner Falco (Pivotal {GB}) realised a handsome profit from Roger Varian at 240,000gns.

“She did a good breeze but wasn't blitzed,” the hometown trainer noted. “It looks like there is plenty of horse left to train. She has plenty of scope, she moves nicely and it looks like she has a good mind on her. That's what I liked: that she's not just a rock-and-roll bullet.”

Auctioneer Ollie Fowlston put down the hammer declaring that he looked forward to seeing the filly at Royal Ascot, where a new £125,000 sale bonus will be up for grabs.

“Who knows?” said Varian with a shrug. “But she looks the sort that could be out in May. She's mature, she's strong, there's no reason not to move on.”

Varian is always considered in his judgement and his observations on the bonus scheme are worth heeding.

“She's for an existing client and I don't know that the bonus was the absolute thing that brought him to the market,” he said. “Those bonuses are jolly hard to win. But we're in a very bleak time, regarding prizemoney, a very dangerous time. So we can't knock any incentives, whether through bonuses or other schemes.”

Radcliffe's Tall Order

No pressure on lot 34, a daughter of Toronado (Ire) presented by Kilminfoyle House Stud. She only has to be another Lady Aurelia (Scat Daddy).

Kerri Radcliffe, who gave 210,000gns for the filly, was acting on behalf of Peter Leidel—one of the co-owners of Lady Aurelia, whose consecutive scores at the royal meeting were by an aggregate of 10 lengths.

“Peter hasn't been to Ascot since Lady Aurelia,” explained Radcliffe. “So that was a factor for him. She's very racy filly from a good consignor who gets results, and that makes a big difference. She behaved well and did everything right. Hopefully she can be an Ascot filly, that's what we were looking for, and she'll be trained in England though no decisions have yet been made as to where.”

Whether she will retain her first registration is another matter: she arrived here as Babycri (Fr). Regardless she was a splendid pinhook, bought by Federico Barberini for just €33,000 at Arqana last October. She's out of a young Acclamation (GB) mare, but the second dam was a clue to the dash she exhibited in her breeze as a half-sister to another dual Royal Ascot winner Equiano (Fr), himself of course also by Acclamation.

Kilminfoyle celebrated a remarkable supplementary dividend after the sale when sealing a deal for lot 8, a Kingman colt who had been scratched after breezing. Tattersalls added him to its listed transactions as a 335,000gns private sale to Manor House Stud. Bred by Frank Dunne from listed winner Flying Fairies (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}), his physique can be judged from the fact that he made €310,000 as a foal at Goffs November.

Marnane Lands Running

The first proper “touch” of the new circuit was celebrated by the Bansha House team, who pinhooked a Kodiac colt out of the Tattersalls Ireland Yearling Sale (transferred here) for £38,000—and brought him here as lot 7, to make 160,000gns from Stephen Hillen and Kevin Ryan. “A good start after a dodgy time last year,” said Con Marnane, with the wry smile of one who knows there is still a long way to go. “Amy picked him out, he came from a very good farm in Egmont Stud, and I suppose we were just in the right place at the right time.”

The buyers bought the evergreen Brando (GB) (Pivotal {GB}) at this sale back in 2014 and Marnane is confident they have one of similar calibre here.

“I think he's a right candidate to win that Royal Ascot bonus,” said Marnane. “He has just been a pleasure to have around, a real gentleman of a horse who did everything right all the way through. I'm thrilled he's going to such a good team and they can run him straightaway from here.”

His evident precocity augurs well for this Apr. 26 colt, and he has the page to back him up too: his dam is a half-sister to the dam of the flying machine Battaash (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}); and therefore also to the G2 Champagne S. winner Etlaala (GB) (Selkirk), and to the dam of multiple Group 1-placed sprinter Tasleet (GB) (Showcasing {GB}).

“He'll look a cheap horse if he wins that bonus,” Marnane said. “Because he has a stallion's pedigree as well.”

The Hillen-Ryan combination later went to 200,000gns for lot 62, a Mehmas colt from Longways Stables.

“Mehmas is doing wonderful things,” Hillen remarked. “And this horse has a good stride pattern, he's a very nice individual and never put a foot wrong, he has a great attitude.”

He is from the family of Mount Nelson (Ire) and ultimately Reference Point (GB) but Hillen said with a shrug: “At the breeze-ups I want to buy the individual, to be honest I don't even look at the pedigree: they can even run or they can't.”

Donohoe Hopes to Be Lucky Again

Not every headline number represents a headline sale and while 240,000gns looked a good price for lot 10, the fact is that he only mildly advanced similar bids made twice for him in the past in this same ring. The Lope De Vega (Ire) colt was first bought by Woodford Thoroughbreds as a foal at the 2019 December Sale, only to be bought in for 200,000gns in Book I last October. Entrusted to a man who would give him every chance in Willie Browne of Mocklershill, he responded with a breeze persuasive enough for Michael Donohoe of BBA (Ireland).

The agent has a happy history with this stallion, having bought last year's G1 Keeneland Phoenix S. winner Lucky Vega (Ire) as a yearling.

“And this colt is a very good physical,” Donohoe reasoned. “I liked him as a yearling, just thought he might have been a bit raw, but Willie has done a great job with him. I saw him at Willie's before he came over: Willie was quite high on him, and the horse breezed the way he thought he would. He looks precocious, as though he has plenty of speed and won't take too long.”

Donohoe was acting for a Middle Eastern client with an international presence and no decision has yet been made on which trainer will be fortunate enough to receive this fellow. Repeated interest in this colt is easily explained, his second dam boasting none other than Classic winner Speciosa (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}) as half-sister, with that wonderful mare Pride (Fr) duly lurking in the next generation.

Practical Joke is not the only Coolmore youngster now trying to make his name and, in the middle market, John Gosden appeared to make an astute early strike in giving 95,000gns for lot 3, a colt from the first crop of the admirable Highland Reel. With a second dam by Rainbow Quest out of Ebadiyla (Ire), the G1 Prix Royal Oak-winning half-sister to two G1 Ascot Gold Cup winners, he hardly had the most obvious profile for this environment. But he did a bright breeze for Malcolm Bastard and he'll be in good hands to show that this sector can produce performers of every stamp.

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