Budget-Busting Isaac Shelby Repays Sangster's Faith

Sam Sangster | Tattersalls/Laura Green


One of the most cheering aspects of an excellent three days of racing for Newmarket's July Meeting was seeing the famous Sangster silks returning to the winner's enclosure aboard a group winner. For racing fans of a certain vintage it is impossible to see those colours originally registered to the late Robert Sangster and not conjure up memories of some of the famous horses to have raced in them, not least the great Sadler's Wells.

How far into the league of great horses Isaac Shelby (GB) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) will venture is unknown at this stage, but he has certainly created a favourable impression to date. His two wins from two runs, including the G2 Superlative S. at Newmarket, led his trainer Brian Meehan to describe him as “the business”, and for the man whose business it was to buy him in the first place and keep the share-holders of his syndicate Manton Thoroughbreds happy, that early success comes as much as a relief as a delight. 

Sam Sangster, one of five sons of Robert, is the man in question, and the bloodstock agent-cum-syndicate manager had belief in the horse ever since seeing him as a yearling at the Goffs UK Premier Sale last August. So much so that he broke his own golden rule while attempting to buy him.

“When it comes to buying, you are very much led by the budget,” says Sangster, whose surname naturally conjures up those heady days of the Keeneland yearling sales of the 1970s, when his father, along with MV O'Brien and John Magnier, would light up the bid board well into seven figures, notably in pursuit of the best offspring of Northern Dancer. Sam, however, has enjoyed success selecting decent horses for relatively reasonable sums.

“We have our budgets and we do stick to them. I'd like to say I did that with 'Isaac' but I didn't; I fell madly in love with him and the partnership budget is usually between £50-60,000, so buying him for £92,000 put us on the back foot from the off because we buy six horses every year for the partnership and he was the first one we bought. I was definitely pinched a few times while I was doing the bidding.”

Whether or not it was Meehan doing the pinching is unknown, but the pair work the yearling sales closely together, and the trainer is unlikely to have any financial regrets at this stage when it comes to the promising colt. 

Sangster continues, “As with anyone we start with pedigrees, and there are certain types of pedigrees that we like. Older mares we feel are a bit more risky. Brian and I have had a lot of success with the offspring of stallions that have kind of gone past their sexy status but are real workmen's stallions and trainers' stallions. We've managed to identify those over the years and I kind of know the type that Brian likes to buy and train.”

Barraquero (Ire) would be a case in point, a colt from the fourth crop of Zebedee (GB) who ended up being his sire's fourth-top-rated performer following his win in the G2 Richmond S. of 2017. Also trained by Meehan, who now owns part of the Manton estate which has been synonymous with the Sangster family for decades, he was bought from the same sale as Isaac Shelby five years earlier but at a third of the price. 

“I hadn't even met Brian when he started at Manton but we had an immediate bond and when I came back from Australia I had a couple of smaller syndicates which Johnny McKeever bought for. A good horse called Faithful Creek got us off the mark, and he was in training for a syndicate called Decadent Racing, which was a bit of fun with a few friends based in and around London. We took him all over, to Deauville, Leopardstown, and then he went to the Breeder's Cup and Dubai after that. We had a lot of fun with him and it was from there that Brian and I decided to step up the syndicate.”

Manton Thoroughbreds, now in its seventh edition and with about 15 members in the partnership, was started in 2015. Smuggler's Moon (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}), who subsequently raced as Gold Land in Hong Kong, got the ball rolling with success in the Listed Surrey S. at Epsom on Oaks day the following year. 

“The partners hit the ground running really and were able to invest in the second partnership which had Barraquero, and we kind of got our confidence from there,” Sangster recalls. “The partnership with Isaac Shelby we named seven but we have another called Centurion so we've done eight now and have unearthed some nice horses along the way.”

Among the other horses Sangster and Meehan have teamed up with outside Manton Thoroughbreds is Raheen House (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}), who was bought for 35,000gns at Book 2 of the October Sale and sold on to race for Australian Bloodstock after showing himself to be a progressive stayer with wins in the G3 Bahrain Trophy and Listed Noel Murless S. For Kris Lees, once racing in Australia, he went on to win the G2 Schweppes Chairman's Quality H. at Randwick and finish third in the G1 Sydney Cup, the race which a year earlier had been won by his full-brother Shraaoh (Ire). 

The duo struck again last year with Hannibal Barca (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}), bought as a yearling for £55,000 at the Orby Sale and who, like Raheen House, finished fourth in the G1 Vertem Futurity Trophy. Three days after that run the colt became the second-top lot at the Tattersalls Horses-in-Training Sale when sold for 500,000gns. He has subsequently won the G3 Gallinule S. for Joseph O'Brien.

Sam Sangster Bloodstock was also the name on the docket when the Oasis Dream (GB) colt foal who would become known as Native Trail (GB) went through the Arqana December Sale for €50,000. The agent smiles at the memory of this and says, “If Isaac Shelby can follow Native Trail's footsteps I would be a very happy man, although he's not in the National [Stakes], but the Dewhurst is very much on our minds at the moment.

“We thought an awful lot of him going to Newmarket but I knew they also thought a lot of the Godolphin horse [the runner-up Victory Dance].”

Sangster continues, “I think we're going to sit tight. Between myself, Sean [Levey, jockey] and Brian we all came to the conclusion that the fewer miles we put on his clock this year the better he will be for next year, and Sean did make a comment that he does just feel that little bit weak still. I know this sounds a little bit silly about a horse who has won a Group 2 and saw out the race well but he could really improve with time. We'll let the horse tell us; you can see a campaign for those type of horses, like the Champagne [Stakes, G2], though he would carry a three-pound penalty there, but it could be a likely stepping stone on the way to the Dewhurst.”

With a horse named after a former governor of Kentucky, a trip to this year's Breeders' Cup at Keeneland would also be rather appropriate. 

As well as his association with Meehan at Manton, one of Sangster's older brothers, Ben, still has his own breeding operation on the estate, and it is one which was responsible for producing  Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), who finished two lengths ahead of Hannibal Barca when winning last year's Vertem Futurity. Another brother, Adam, runs the family's Swettenham Stud in Victoria, Australia.

“For me, when I was growing up in the industry, they were unbelievably helpful as a sounding board,” says Sangster of his half-siblings. “I lived in Australia for three years, so I spent a lot of time with Adam and he guided me in the direction of who I should learn from. Ben lives about ten minutes down the road from me, as does my brother Guy, and we speak a lot about what is going on, whether it's with our own horses or about the industry in general.”

He adds of Meehan, who runs one of two training establishments at Manton, as well as Martyn and Freddie Meade, “Brian is a fantastic trainer and he's got a fantastic team at Manton. I know he takes a lot of pride in what he does, and I'm very proud to be part of the team.”

Sangster's time in Australia was well spent with placements at Flemington and Randwick racecourses before a valuable stint working for bloodstock agent Peter Ford. “He's the one who took me under his wing. We travelled all around the sales, to Keeneland, Arqana, and obviously all the main Australian sales. It was really Peter that helped me get my eye in when analysing yearlings,” he says.

With the number of sales ever increasing, there's little time for let up, and even life with a young family has to be juggled. 

Sangster says, “We've just had a baby girl six weeks ago so the night-time feed has been spent with the Arqana catalogue on the iPad in a dark room, flicking through it. At least I'm a few steps ahead anyway.”

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.

Copy Article Link

Liked this article? Read more like this.

  1. Wathnan Chart Path Towards Gold Cup With Courage Mon Ami And Gregory
  2. Sangster, Sexton, Among Three New National Stud Board Members
  3. Zoffany's Jayarebe Powers to Feilden Triumph at HQ
  4. American Fingerprints on British-Trained Royal Ascot-Bound Inquisitively
  5. French 2,000 Guineas Fancy Isaac Shelby Sold To Wathnan Racing

Never miss another story from the TDN

Click Here to sign up for a free subscription.