Craven Breeze-Up Sale: 'The Cream Will Rise To The Top – It Usually Does Here'

Mick Murphy: “I think he's the best colt I have had for a very long time.” Tattersalls

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The search for the next Vandeek (GB) (Havana Grey {GB}) just became a whole lot tougher. That's not to say that separating potential Group 1 winners apart from the near-200 horses who breeze up the Rowley Mile is an easy task to start with. 

However, the howling wind, vertical hailstorm and torrential rain added a whole new dimension to the breeze at this year's Tattersalls Craven Breeze-Up Sale. 

They tell us year after year that the times don't matter. That they only serve as just another piece of the jigsaw to be factored in when scoping out talent at the breeze-ups. Well, bloodstock agents Ted Durcan and Martin Buick agreed that times really did go out the window to a certain degree here given how the weather played a significant factor with the breeze. 

Durcan explained, “I find that you'd nearly glean as much information from the practice breeze as the breeze itself. The times are obviously helpful but, standing out on the track there today, with the weather so in and out, it was probably a little bit unfair on some horses. If you were in the wrong half hour there, you were at a huge disadvantage. I think you need to take the times with a pinch of salt on a day like today.”

Nobody knows that better than Con Marnane. It was around 11am when a torrential hailstorm hit the track. So bad was the weather, that lot 177 from Bansha House Stables, a filly by Blue Point (Ire), was not picked up by the cameras. Marnane had no other option but to send the filly back up a second time later in the session. Far from ideal. 

The weather, which ultimately delayed the start of the breeze by half an hour, also wreaked havoc with some of the lasers tasked with timing the session, resulting in some lots not featuring in the time sheets that were circulated later in the afternoon. 

But agents as good as Durcan, who unearthed a potential gem in Bracken's Laugh (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) at the Guineas Breeze-Up Sale here last year, don't get the results they do by simply going off a timesheet.

He said, “With the wind, some horses ran a bit greener than they usually would, and everyone can see that. You have all the information there in front of you and you just have to make up your own mind. Sometimes you're wrong, sometimes you're right. It was marvellous to find a horse like Bracken's Laugh last year but you have to have the owner behind you and thankfully Richard Hughes and Sean and Bernardine Mulryan were brave enough. Thankfully, the horse seems to have worked out and he's hugely exciting.”

Asked what he was looking for this week, Durcan added, “We have a mixture of clients. Some people are looking for sharp two-year-olds who are ready to rock and roll while others are looking for more of a project. You just have to do as much work as you can and hope for some luck in the ring. But getting back to the clock, I think you have to be a little bit mindful and take everything with a pinch of salt. There were some horses walking down at the start for a half an hour in the middle of a storm. That's unfair. So all of that has to be factored in.”

One horse that seemed to be pretty high on most timesheets was the Blue Point (Ire) colt [147] of Charlie Poste's Station Yard. The Craven represents the first chapter of a new breeze-up venture for Poste, who described himself as being immensely proud of how his horses coped with the conditions. 

Poste said, “The problem is, a lot of the lasers kept falling over, so it's all a bit hit and miss. We've been told that our Blue Point colt was rapid and that our Blue Point filly is supposed to have clocked very well as well. I'm so proud of our team. It's a puff-your-chest-out moment.  They are two lovely Blue Points and, coming to our first breeze-up sale and for them to match up to what we have been seeing from them at home-considering the weather-it's unbelievable. We're pretty speechless about it all.”

Buick, who works closely with bloodstock agent Hubie de Burgh, explained how he was hoping to recruit horses for the Hong Kong and Scandinavian markets this week. He was also keen to point out that it wasn't just on breeze day that the weather hasn't been kind to the vendors.

He said, “The majority of these horses are probably a gallop or two short. Some of them have never been on grass before because of the wet winter and spring we have been having in Britain and Ireland. The Rowley Mile can be a difficult enough test for three-year-olds, never mind inexperienced two-year-olds. They have to be somewhat forgiven for making mistakes given the conditions out there today.”

Along with the weather, the one thing that everyone at Tattersalls was unanimous about was that Mick and Sarah Murphy of Longway Stables brought a pretty smart American Pharoah colt to the sale. 

Asked how to sum up running a busy operation in such demanding conditions, Murphy quipped, “Tough. Although, the weather has been very similar to what we have been facing into at home these past six or seven months!”

He added, “Sunday was a beautiful day here in Newmarket but today was tough on both man and beast. It was probably more difficult for the clock men to get their ducks in a row because, at one stage, there were hailstones and gale force winds out there. 

“It's been a tough day but, overall, I am very happy with our draft. We have been pretty busy after the breeze and footfall seems good.”

The American Pharoah colt is the only horse by the stallion in the sale. He's clearly always been a looker, given Durcan and Longways Stables went to $225,000 to secure him at the September Yearling Sale at Keeneland.

Murphy said, “We definitely brought some nice horses here but the Pharaoh is the standout. He's very, very popular but, then again, he's one of the most expensive yearlings we bought last year. I think he's the best colt I have had for a very long time. We have been very lucky to have had two Royal Ascot winners but he's the best we've had in a while. He's just a very good horse and has the looks to go with it.”

Buick went on to rightly point out that, if there was anyone who was at an advantage on Monday, it could only be Con Marnane. Granted the Bansha boss had some misfortune earlier in the day with his Blue Point filly but, lest we forget, Con's Craven horses wrestled their way through similar conditions at his hugely successful open morning last week. 

Buick concluded, “This should all be a walk in the park for Con's horses compared to what they came through at his open morning. But the cream will rise to the top. It usually does here.”

The two-day sale gets underway after racing at Newmarket on Tuesday at 5.45 pm.

 

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