Another Sale, Another Record

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Boltaway | Tattersalls photo

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By Chris McGrath

NEWMARKET, UK–This has already been another record-breaking auction, even if they decide to release the whole of Thursday's closing catalogue into the high street–and a significant one, in terms of underwriting a yearling market that had appeared so curiously immune to the challenges of domestic prizemoney and a volatile economic environment.

Once again, the third session of the Tattersalls Autumn Horses-in-Training Sale was defined by twin channels of export traffic: one to the Middle East, with investment seemingly driven not just by the Saudi Cup but by broader ambitions in Riyadh; and the other to Australia, where an ever-widening spectrum of investment was aptly measured when one of the highest lots of the day was secured by telephone at around

4 a.m. in Sydney. Horses that met the respective briefs for these different environments have generated so much competition between compatriots that they have sometimes created a market within a market.

Even with no English King (Fr) (Camelot {GB}), who injected 925,000gns into the third session at a generally tepid sale last year, trade this time round again exceeded that registered at the equivalent session both in 2020 and in the pre-pandemic market of 2019. Building on frenzied turnover through the first two days, the net result is already the most lucrative edition of the premier sale of its type–exceeding the 27,282,200gns turned over in 2017.

So far as the year-on-year indices are concerned for Wednesday's trade, 10,661,000gns changed hands for 279 sales (a clearance rate of no less than 93%) to register a 9% climb on 9,779,600gns for virtually identical traffic last year. That translated into a 38,211gns average, up 10% on 34,803gns, and a 21,000gns median, up 31% on 16,000gns.

Prince Khalid's Legacy Appreciated In His Homeland

It felt especially fitting that Najd Stud, in again topping the session, should have done so to secure the transfer of Boltaway (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) (lot 1114) from the Juddmonte empire built up by Prince Khalid Abdullah. True, for all the ardour exhibited by its representatives this week, they can hardly be expected to aspire to the kind of success achieved by their late compatriot. Nonetheless, their commitment has offered succour to those fretting about the outlook for the industry following the loss not only of Prince Khalid, but also of a neighbouring Turf superpower in Sheikh Hamdan.

Certainly, Saad bin Mishraf has proved reluctant to let anything off the hook, once he has cast a line, and duly saw off strong competition at 400,000gns for a 3-year-old who has won four handicaps over middle distances for Roger Charlton this summer, in the process hoisting his rating 20lbs to 93.

“We tried to buy this horse privately, but that wasn't possible and so we waited for this sale,” said bin Mishraf. “It's proved to be one of the toughest markets I have ever seen for horses in training. He's by Dubawi, whose offspring have succeeded in Saudi Arabia, and out of a Dansili (GB) mare, and Dansilis have also done well there, so he had the right pedigree. He also had size and good feet for racing on dirt.

“He's not been over-raced, and he vetted 100%. All the races in Saudi Arabia are on the up, with better prizemoney, sometimes increased by four or five times. There are races for locally bred horses and imported horses, and while we don't have many imported horses, the ones we have are very good.”

Najd Stud also corralled a hardy juvenile from the Gosden yard in Implore (GB) (Ulysses {Ire}), for 160,000gns as Lot 1137; and also his stablemate Fundamental (GB) (Dark Angel {Ire}), a Cheveley Park homebred who ran fifth in the G3 Jersey S. and exports a rating of 103. He made 240,000gns as Lot 1142. Najd Stud, with co-signatories Peter and Ross Doyle, duly heads the overall purchasing table with a dozen recruits for 2,491,000gns.

New Start Beckons Old Flame

The big Australian target in the Juddmonte draft had immediately preceded Boltaway through the ring, another 3-year-old in Old Flame (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) [1113] bringing 250,000gns from Snowden Racing/Will Johnson Bloodstock-bidding, by a pre-dawn call from Sydney, through Tattersalls representative Jason Singh.

This colt remains lightly raced, having only made his debut for Ralph Beckett in August, and looked rapidly progressive in winning his next two starts over seven furlongs before getting stuck in the mud at Newbury last week.

Colum McCullagh, racing and bloodstock manager to the father-and-son team of Peter and Paul Snowden, broke off from trackwork at home to explain that he had not been bought for a particular client and will probably be syndicated.

“He'll be on the first shipment here from Europe,” McCullagh said. “He looks to have the right sort of profile for Australia and his sire has had a huge influence here through his son I Am Invincible (Aus). He should suit a lot of races here, from six furlongs to a mile, he's a real sprinter-miler type.

“He came highly recommended by his trainer, who loved him every morning and evening. And I have to give special mention to Will Johnson, who spent time in Newmarket as assistant to Roger Varian. Will has put a lot of work into the catalogue, and it's great to have someone with his knowledge of racing in the region. To have a horse from an organisation such as Juddmonte Farms speaks for itself: Old Flame has just two dams on the page, he has a stallion's pedigree.”

Sure enough, his dam is a half-sister to the mother of stallions Cityscape (GB) (Selkirk) and Bated Breath (GB) (Dansili {GB}).

Chipoltle Leads Hot Yearling Finds…

Few projects this week reflect better on their authors than Chipotle (GB) (Havana Gold {Ire}), who was found for just 10,000gns at the Tattersalls Ascot Sale (transferred here last September) by Anthony Bromley of Highflyer and Eve Johnson Houghton, even though his second dam is a half-sister to Attraction (GB) (Efisio {GB}).

He was one of three youngsters bundled together for a 20-strong syndicate, with a commitment to sell at the end of the campaign, and promptly won the Brocklesby and a Royal Ascot trial before returning to win the Listed Windsor Castle S. itself. To Johnson Houghton's credit, moreover, he regrouped from a midsummer lull to win a valuable Listed race at Redcar earlier this month. All told, that catapulted his value to 210,000gns on his return to the ring as Lot 1055, as part of the Najd Stud spree.

Johnson Houghton was justly emotional afterwards.

“I'm a bit teary, because he has been amazing,” she said. “For a 10-grand purchase to do all that and then come here and sell so well. Of course I'm sorry to see him go. He's going to do a job for someone, he really will: he has grown again, he's tough, he's sound, and he'll get the seven furlongs. I hope he does really well in Saudi, I'm thrilled with the price and wish the best of luck to the new owners.”

In that context she noted how hard it is for horses of this type in Britain.

“If the horse isn't Group class as a 3-year-old, and obviously I'm not saying he won't be, then you're just hammered by the handicapper,” she said. “It does make it so hard for them.”

As it is, he couldn't have been expected to meet his brief better.

“I was a bit concerned, with Covid last year, that I was going to end up without any horses,” Johnson Houghton recalled. “So I bought those three horses to be sold at the end of the year. Ant [Bromley] did a brilliant job. It's a hell of a result and I'm just very proud of him.”

No less than one would hope, the whole syndicate has subscribed to a repeat endeavour.

Towards the end of the session, another inspired touch could be credited to Richard Venn and Andrew Balding, who found Classic Lord (Ger) (Lord Of England {Ger}) for just €20,000 as a Baden-Baden yearling. A lot more people were interested in him here, as Lot 1171, having meanwhile won two juvenile races plus two staying handicaps this time round. That made the chestnut colt eligible for quite a few different agendas, with plenty of jumping irons soon in the fire, but he was ultimately summoned to a very different destiny, with Oliver St Lawrence prevailing at 200,000gns to join Fawzi Nass in Bahrain.

“He looks a nice horse and, while I know the jumpers were on him, he seems to go on firm ground and will suit all the criteria,” reasoned St Lawrence.

Stuart Williams is a reliably shrewd shopper and he was another to turn a handsome profit late in the session, having taken Motorious (GB) (Muhaarar {GB}) [1188] aboard as a 55,000gns Book 2 yearling. He has since advanced his rating to 90 and his value to 220,000gns, courtesy of Boomer Bloodstock.

“He's going to California to Philip D'Amato for Tony Fanticola,” explained Boomer's Craig Rounsefell. “Tony was one of the owners of Obviously (Ire) (Choisir {Aus}), who was purchased at this sale and we had a lot of success with. This horse reminded us of him: he has a great turn of foot, he's lightly raced and looks like he is going to really enjoy the firm turf in California.”

Obviously, who changed hands here for 130,000gns in 2011, went on to win three Grade Is including the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

Flinders Another Voyaging South…

This was the anniversary of a poignant success for Ed Walker, who bade farewell to his Derby fifth English King (Fr) (Camelot {GB}) in this session last year for 925,000gns, an auction record for a colt in training.

English King has admittedly proved a disappointment in Australia, reportedly due for castration after his latest start, but perhaps his former stablemate Matthew Flinders (GB) (Siyouni {Fr}) will have better luck after making 230,000gns as Lot 1008. He will certainly be an apt migrant, named as he is after the English naval captain who first circumnavigated and charted the Australian coast.

And it can only be auspicious that his purchaser, Stuart Boman of Blandford Bloodstock, found new trainer Annabel Neasham none other than Zaaki (GB) (Leroidesanimaux {Brz}) for 150,000gns out of Sir Michael Stoute's draft at this sale last year. His lucrative endeavours since include Group 1 wins in the Doomben Cup and Underwood S.

“Zaaki has been phenomenal,” Boman said. “It's fantastic what one horse can do for people's lives and careers. He's going to be a hard act to follow, but we wanted to target here what we felt could be one of the nicest horses in the sale for Australia.

“His ability is definitely far better than what the form book shows. He's a horse who constantly travels best of all, any field he is in. I spoke with Ed and I think he has probably felt like he's had a Group horse on his hands for a long time. He just wanted him to win his big handicap but has never had his day, and now the handicapper has forced his hand by raising his mark so high. But he's thoroughly consistent, always runs to 105 [Timeform], and as a strong-travelling horse should really suit Australia.”

Boman celebrated his winning bid by exchanging high fives with Neasham's mother Patricia, who had come from her Northamptonshire home to witness the sale.

“I'm delighted for Annabel, she's flying along,” Boman said. “She's got two runners in the Golden Eagle S. on Saturday, which is worth A$7.5 million. Things are healthy in Australia!”

Youth Spirit a 230,000gns 'Bargain'

The same destination beckons G1 St Leger fifth Youth Spirit (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) [1186A], candidly acclaimed by his purchaser Johnny McKeever as not just the bargain of the week but as “the best value horse I've bought in about 10 years.”

Quite a claim, you might suppose, at 230,000gns. But this is a G3 Chester Vase winner who has reiterated his class for Andrew Balding with podium finishes in races as diverse as the G2 Great Voltigeur S. and G2 Vintage S. As such, this was yet another astute yearling punt to generate a handsome dividend on the day, having been a €48,000 private sale to Federico Barberini at Arqana's August Sale.

But this was a case where everyone was a winner, McKeever sounding ecstatic to confine the vendors' profit to the level he did in securing the colt for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.

“I'm extremely excited,” the agent declared. “I've been trying to buy this horse all year, and knew there was a lot of activity from Australia. In this market, I really, really believe that was the best value in the whole sale. The level of form is outstanding, he's a beautiful-looking horse by Camelot, he has absolutely everything going for him. I don't know why, maybe it was because he was a wild card, but that's just a blip.”

He had earlier been obliged to pay exactly the same, on behalf of the same clients, for King Of Clubs (GB) (Intello {Ger}) [Lot 952] after winning a maiden and a handicap during the course of his second campaign for Hughie Morrison. Auspiciously, the 3-year-old has reached a rating of 93 without being tried beyond 10 furlongs-despite only getting up late on the Sandown hill in August.

“Same formula as usual,” McKeever observed then. “Robbie Waterhouse liked the form, I liked the horse, and Hughie recommended him. I've had a couple of blank days, I had quite a lot of vet fails and others were just making a lot more than we were prepared to spend. The right horses are hard to come by and it feels like we are all sharing them around. But it's good having Robbie behind me, he's a very clever man on the form, and that takes a bit of pressure off as all I have to do is look at them to see if they're the right sort physically.”

King Of Clubs was certainly in more demand than had been the case on his previous visit to this ring, as a Book I yearling from breeder Meon Valley Stud. Unsold at 19,000gns that day, he ended up racing for Castle Down Racing–the same partnership (under Meon Valley managing partner Mark Weinfeld) that had campaigned Telecaster (GB), another Book 1 buyback from the same family, to win the G2 Dante S. among other races on his way to Haras du Mesnil.

A rather different story is Swift Verdict (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) who topped the Arqana August Yearling Sale as a €1.4 million yearling but was soon transferred from John Gosden to Willie Mullins for whom he could only manage to win a Dundalk maiden. The project was abandoned when he arrived here as Lot 933, costs defrayed to the extent of 25,000gns by Mohammed al Jeadiah.

Even Juveniles Joining the Exodus Down Under…

The opportunity to recruit horses as young as two through the Shadwell cull has created a lot of excitement this week but even this market proved vulnerable to Australian investment when Billy Jackson-Stops signed a 120,000gns docket for Hanaady (GB) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) [Lot 1000] to be shipped out to Matt Cumani.

This filly won a Nottingham maiden for Ed Dunlop last month and, though below that form at York next time, it obviously remains early days for this daughter of a half-sister to G2 Gimcrack S. winner Blaine (GB) (Avonbridge {GB}) and another accomplished sprinter Bogart (GB) (Bahamian Bounty {GB}).

“Myself and Sam Haggas have done some work together and we put her to Matt,” explained Jackson-Stops. “Night of Thunder has been going really well down there, and Matt was pretty keen to try a filly. We thought we'd see if it works, there are options for her: she's good-looking, and will have some residual value.”

Earlier Shadwell had produced the only six-figure sale of a relatively torpid morning when Tasfeeq (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) [895] brought 120,000gns from Qatari trainer Ibrahim Saeed Al-Malki. The 3-year-old gelding has won three times this season for Marcus Tregoning, showing his purchaser a helpful aptitude for firm ground.

Queen's Piper To Play a Different Tune…

National Hunt prospectors have found themselves particularly squeezed by the Australian dollar, but one or two have found the backing to give themselves a chance and Gordon Elliott continued his quest for rehabilitation by recruiting a pricey 3-year-old from the royal stable in Pied Piper (GB) (New Approach {Ire}) [1139].

This lad has stood up to a busy campaign for the John and Thady Gosden, albeit had to wait until this month to win for the first time since breaking his maiden. Both his wins have come on the mud, so he will clearly operate in winter ground. Presented by the Castlebridge Consignment, he was knocked down to Elliott, standing alongside agent Mouse O'Ryan, for 225,000gns; the docket was signed in the name of Irish agent Joseph Logan and patrons Andrew and Gemma Brown.

“Pied Piper has been bought by Andrew and Gemma, who have a string of horses with Gordon,” explained Logan by telephone. “The horse will go juvenile hurdling and run back on the Flat next summer: he's a dual-purpose type. I saw some videos of him, but Gordon saw him at Tattersalls and really loved him.”

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