Transatlantic Pinhooks On The Classic Trail

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Mr Monomoy wins the Risen Star S. | Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir  

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A year after War Of Will (War Front) won the GII Risen Star S., another Arqana Breeze-up Sale graduate, Mr Monomoy (Palace Malice), landed the same race (which was divided this year) and is also on course for the American Classics.

The Brad H Cox-trained colt currently heads the leaderboard on the road to the Kentucky Derby with 52 points and he is not the only graduate of the 2019 sale in Deauville to have an eye on the Run for the Roses. Ete Indien (Summer Front) was runner-up to Tiz The Law (Constitution) in the GIII Holy Bull S. earlier this month and looks set to target next Saturday’s GII Fountain of Youth S. at Gulfstream Park.

Like War Of Will, who suffered a rough passage in a controversial running of the Derby and went on to glory in the G1 Preakness S., these colts have been well travelled. Graduates of Keeneland’s November and September sales respectively, like an increasing number of horses seen at the European breeze-ups in recent years, they left Kentucky to be prepped at farms in Ireland before heading back to the sales in France and then returning to America. Greta Thunberg might have something to say about such carbon hoofprints, but in a global business, equine long-distance travel is now the norm.

The pinhooker behind Mr Monomoy may as well be known as Mr Breeze-up. Willie Browne, one of the pioneers of the 2-year-old sales through his Mocklershill outfit, has stood the test of time in this precarious arena in the manner of a beloved old stayer, but it is predominantly fast, precocious horses that occupy his time in Co Tipperary. In the case of Mr Monomoy, he was not a yearling purchase, but was picked up as a weanling for $60,000 the November before his half-sister Monomoy Girl (Tapizar) sailed through a 3-year-old season that saw her notch five Grade 1 victories.

“We’re all very excited about Mr Monomoy and of course he has a very good pedigree now because the mare has proved to be a good breeder,” says Browne. “I bought him as a foal and then I had this great result of Monomoy Girl winning everything the next year, but when I brought him to Keeneland as a yearling he was backward-looking and they didn’t go for him. I was kind of shocked because I thought there was a chance of a home run with a big update in the pedigree.”

A failed ‘Plan A’ led to Browne falling back on the discipline for which he is best known, and the backward Palace Malice colt was entered for Arqana’s Breeze-up Sale the following May.

He recalls, “He gave me niggly problems, sore shins and the little bits of stuff you can get early in the 2-year-old career. I was quite despairing about him in February to March time and I didn’t think he’d make it, but then things started to go really right. It was only the last three or four weeks before the sale that the penny dropped and I was very happy with him going to France, even though I ideally I could have done with another month. By then though I felt he was certain to go the right way and we got a good price for him without getting a wow price. He still looked a little backward there but it’s a good story now. I’m not saying he’ll win the Kentucky Derby but that’s his goal at the moment as far as I can gather. The dream is still well alive.”

Browne adds, “At the time we were taking a chance on Palace Malice but in fairness to him he was a very good racehorse. But you have to say there is a huge amount of luck involved sometimes. I’m not trying to say this was skill, it just all came together and was a magic result.”

Mr Monomoy, who was sold for €180,000 to Nicolas de Watrigant’s Mandore International Agency, may not be the only one of the Mocklershill-consigned Arqana graduates with Classic aspirations this season as Browne’s team also sold Brentford Hope (GB) (Camelot {GB}) to trainer Richard Hughes. A five-length Newmarket maiden winner on his sole start last term, he now holds an entry for the Irish Derby.

“The breeze-ups are going from strength to strength and there was an exceptionally strong crop last year, particularly at Arqana,” says Browne. “It’s been a good sale for me.”

With a Beyer figure of 95 to Mr Monomoy’s 92 comes the dual winner Ete Indien. An $80,000 September yearling, the son of the War Front stallion Summer Front was bought by Tom Whitehead of Powerstown Stud and resold in Deauville for €240,000, putting him just outside the top ten most expensive horses of the sale. Whitehead’s determined perusal of the later books at Keeneland’s major yearling sale has reaped dividends in the past and he says that there can be too much snobbery attached to certain sales.

“We buy about 25 or 30 horses every year for the breeze-ups and my view is that you have to go to every sale because you never know where you’re going to find a good horse. They come from everywhere, any part of the world,” Whitehead states.

A case in point is his purchase, through Geoffrey Howson, of Quiet Reflection (GB) (Showcasing {GB}) from the Goffs UK Silver Sale for £32,000. As a £44,000 breezer, Whitehead’s profit margin was small but his opinion was vindicated when the filly went on to win two Group 1 sprints and later sell for 2.1 million gns as a broodmare prospect.

He says, “You just have to work, look at the horses, do a list, vet them, and hope that you get to buy them. We just can’t give the figures that some of the end-users give, so you hope that some of these horses are missed. Ete Indien was a fabulous yearling and it took no genius to buy him. He was very good-looking but he was down in Book Four or Five in Keeneland and he had an ordinary pedigree. He was a very good individual and vetted very well but I suppose he was a Summer Front in a later book and he just got missed. They come in very fast to the ring there.”

Reflecting on his decision to sell him at Arqana, Whitehead adds, “He was a big horse, not weak, but big and strong. Ludovic [Cornuel of Arqana] came around Christmas time and said to me ‘I want that horse for our sale’. I was probably thinking of Newmarket and other places but he kept asking me and I suppose the squeakiest door gets the oil first, so he got the horse.”

He continues, “Everybody loved him in France and he was vetted by lots of good judges but I’d say when they went back to their clients and said he’s a Summer Front they probably weren’t prepared to go the extra mile for one of those when they could have had an American Pharoah or an Invincible Spirit for that kind of money. I think that’s what maybe held him back a bit as a 2-year old.”

American-based Frenchman Patrick Biancone certainly wasn’t put off by the colt who hails from a family which includes Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass (Elusive Quality) and may yet take him to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Whitehead says, “There was good word about the horse and even though he hadn’t run by the time of the September Sale last year I decided I would try to find another one by Summer Front, which I did, and he will go to Arqana this year.”

Of the “eight or nine” horses in the Powerstown Stud draft heading for Deauville this May is an Orb half-brother to Thursday’s facile G3 UAE Oaks winner Down On Da Bayou (Super Saver). The Salem bin Ghadayer-trained filly was also a graduate of last year’s Arqana Breeze-up, where she was sold by the O’Callaghan family’s Tally-Ho Stud for €190,000 to Jono Mills of Rabbah Bloodstock.

“She was a very nice filly with loads of quality but she was very buzzy,” recalls Roger O’Callaghan, who bought Down On Da Bayou, a half-sister to fellow UAE Oaks winner Polar River (Congrats), at Keeneland for $150,000. “I begged the vendor to qualify her for the EBF for me as a bit of luck after spending all that money but he wouldn’t do it. She was in a muck sweat when she came up to the ring but I thought she was a very attractive filly.”

He continues, “When she came home she was quite busy in the box, not a box-walker but she took a lot longer to get on top of, so it worked out well to go to a later sale. Jono Mills was very keen on her at Arqana and well done to him.”

Along with Down On Da Bayou, Thursday’s Meydan card provided a good advertisement for the 2-year-old sales sector, with four of the seven races falling to former breezers. Midnight Sands (Speightstown) and Epic Hero (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) both sprang from Arqana’s 2018 auction, pinhooked by Johnny Collins and Willie Browne respectively. Meanwhile 8-year-old Waady (Ire) (Approve {Ire}), a graduate of the 2014 Tattersalls Craven Sale when offered by Mick Fitzpatrick’s Kilminfoyle House Stud, is a testament to durability, winning the G2 Meydan Sprint to record his ninth win from 32 starts.

And of course it’s not just Arqana who will be hoping for further Classic success this season. Another former Keeneland September yearling, Kenzai Warrior (Karakontie), looked a major steal by Chad Schumer and Johnny Collins at $6,000 when winning the G3 Horris Hill S. last November. Collins prepared him through his Brown Island Stables for the Goffs UK Breeze-up Sale, where he was sold to trainer Roger Teal for £45,000. Owned by Rae and Carol Borras, Kenzai Warrior is now being aimed at the 2000 Guineas. He may have had a lowly sales tag but he was bred and raised by John Gunther at the same farm as Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy) and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso (Curlin).

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