Dubai: The New Breeze-Up Frontier

The horses will breeze on the Tapeta training track at Meydan | Emma Berry


Never afraid to explore different avenues, Goffs brings an international flair to this year's breeze-up circuit with the launch of a 2-year-old sale in Dubai.

Hosted by the Dubai Racing Club (DRC) in association with the sales company at Meydan racecourse during Dubai World Cup week on March 23, the Goffs Dubai Breeze-Up Sale represents an audacious move that involves the shipment of 69 horses to Dubai from Europe. This is done with the aspiration that exposure of the European breeze-up product to an international audience will be rewarded with enthusiastic trade.

The European breeze-up scene, of course, is basking in the afterglow of an outstanding season on the track highlighted by the unbeaten champion 2-year-old Native Trail (Fr) (Oasis Dream {GB}), G1 Middle Park S. and G1 Prix Morny winner Perfect Power (Ire) (Ardad {Ire}), and top stayer Trueshan (Fr) (Planteur {Ire}).

In addition, there remains a steady presence by graduates in the Middle East, particularly in Dubai, where the likes of Al Tariq (Fr) (Oasis Dream {GB}), Haqeeqy (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}), Midnight Sands (Speightstown) and Summer Romance (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) have each won stakes races in the past 14 months. Indeed, rarely does a meeting pass in Dubai without the European breeze-up circuit being represented by a winner. Take for example the meeting on March 25 at Meydan, at which the progressive Summer Front colt Summer Is Tomorrow, purchased for £120,000 by Tadhg O'Shea and Michael Burke from MC Thoroughbreds at the Arqana Breeze-up Sale, ran out the wide-margin winner of the Al Karama S. Two days later at Jebel Ali, Al Habash (Arrogate), sold by Star Bloodstock for 130,000gns to Ed Sackville at the Tattersalls Craven Sale, broke his maiden for Bhupat Seemar.

However, it's not all about Dubai. European breezers are also racing with distinction in Saudi Arabia, a good example being Street Boy (Street Boss), a Tattersalls Craven graduate who won his first two races just months after his purchase last year. Factor in additional potential interest from Bahrain, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, North America and Europe and it's easy to understand the hopes of Goffs to establish this sale as a high-flying event on the sales calendar.

“It's hugely exciting,” says Tom Taaffe, Dubai Sale co-ordinator. “It appears to have caught the imagination.

“Henry Beeby [Goffs CEO] has always given me an open hand to explore different avenues for Goffs. It was suggested to me a few years ago that this was something that might work, so we followed it up back then, put some work into it and ended up by putting a proposal together.”

Nothing came of those early efforts but the groundwork had been laid, and so when the idea was revisited last year upon the interest of Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmook Al Maktoum, chairman of the Dubai Racing Club, the sales house didn't need much encouragement to set the wheels in motion.

“Sheikh Rashid rang me to ask if we could look at it again,” says Taaffe. “So I travelled out to Dubai, had various meetings, and we pulled it all together. The contract was signed on the day of the Prix Morny [Aug. 22] and we were able to announce it later that evening.”

The timing of the announcement ensured that the Goffs UK Premier Sale, held that week in Doncaster, was awash with Dubai breeze-up chatter. It also ensured that the breeze-up community had plenty of time to digest the idea ahead of the sales season, in particular the Kentucky yearling sales, an area of the market that is traditionally attacked by European pinhookers.

And attack it they did. With the idea in mind that plenty of Dubai's racing is staged on dirt, the catalogue features 30 American-breds, among them those by top Kentucky sires such as Into Mischief, Curlin, Gun Runner, Kitten's Joy, More Than Ready, Speightstown and Uncle Mo. Justify is also among the first-crop sires represented. 

The other half of the catalogue understandably offers a more European slant and is similarly impressive, boasting representation from Dubawi (Ire), Frankel (GB), Kingman (GB), Kodiac (GB), Lope De Vega (Ire) and Oasis Dream (GB). Also of interest is a colt by top Japanese sire Daiwa Major (Jpn) (Sunday Silence) bred by Coolmore out of champion Peeping Fawn (Ire) (Danehill) (Lot 31).

“At the outset, we were hoping to produce a catalogue that was half and half–half turf and half dirt,” says Taaffe. “Dirt and turf both work well in all those countries. 

“There is always going to be a bit of scepticism when something new is launched and we respect that. But the consignors, who are a seasoned, hardy bunch of guys and extremely professional, have really backed this and given us some of their best horses. We started off with over 200 entries and we have ended up with an excellent group of horses–I think people will be amazed at the quality on offer.”

The catalogue consists of 72 lots but three are reserves, meaning that 69 will go under the hammer from 34 British- and Irish-based individual consignors.

Willie Browne's Mocklershill is numerically the strongest with nine, among them the aforementioned Daiwa Major colt and a Kingman colt out of Listed winner Snowy Winter (Elusive Quality) (Lot 48).

Church Farm and Horse Park Stud send through a Frankel half-brother to G3 winner Lily's Angel (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) (Lot 30) while Malcolm Bastard breezes a Dubawi daughter of Listed winner Joyful Hope (GB) (Shamardal) (Lot 24), herself a sister to champion Crackerjack King (Ire) (Shamardal). Mark Grant's trio includes a Dark Angel (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) colt who is closely related to champion Tarnawa (Ire) (Shamardal) (Lot 57).

Those with American Grade I connections include two from Meadowview Stables in a Maclean's Music half-brother to Grade I winners Majestic Harbor (Rockport Harbor) and Danza (Street Boss) (Lot 8) and a Mendelssohn colt out of the Grade I-placed Maybellene (Lookin At Lucky) (lot 28). 

The trio catalogued by American Pharoah are also unsurprisingly well-related, among them Grangecoor Farm's colt out of G3 UAE Oaks heroine Polar River (Congrats) (Lot 36), herself a half-sister to another UAE Oaks winner (and former European breezer) in Down On Da Bayou (Super Saver).

Justify is represented by a filly out of G2 Pocahontas S. winner Dothraki Queen (Pure Prize) from Aguiar Bloodstock (Lot 13) and a colt out of Listed winner Sarrocchi (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) (Lot 44) from Diego Dias.

When it comes to sire power, Micky Cleere's MC Thoroughbreds draft also takes the eye as vendor of a colt by Gun Runner (Lot 1) and a filly by Into Mischief (Lot 67), both sires who are carrying all before them in the U.S. Cleere, who will breeze the horses himself, went shopping last year with this sale in mind.

“It's exciting and something to look forward to,” he says. “It's nice to bring the horses to these buyers for a change. We had this sale in mind when we were buying last year, certainly when it came to the Gun Runner–that was the plan when we looked at him.”

The Gun Runner colt is out of Grade II winner Bank Audit (Wild Event) while the Into Mischief filly is out of Grade III scorer Ageless (Successful Appeal). The draft is rounded out by a Raven's Pass (Elusive Quality) colt from a black-type American family (Lot 5).

Gun Runner looks a serious sire,” says Cleere. “And this colt is the only one by him in the catalogue. He's a good-sized colt and a good mover. Donal Keane was out looking at Keeneland for us and we liked this horse but he didn't sell in the ring, so we followed him down and got it done. And I'm glad we did as he's a lovely horse.

“The Into Mischief filly is very strong and she's fast. She's generous in her work and improving with every week. And the Raven's Pass is a good solid horse who is also very genuine.”

American influences also make up the draft belonging to Brendan Holland's Grove Stud, which offers a colt by Hard Spun (Lot 3) and a filly by Speightstown (Lot 54).

“Goffs and Tom Taaffe have worked extremely hard to make this sale happen and hard to promote it,” he says. “I've got two nice horses–both are good-sized, good-looking, square horses by respectable sires. Hopefully they'll come up the track with a bit of style.”

The Hard Spun colt, who cost $80,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, is a three-parts brother to Hawthorne Derby winner Mohs (Hard Spun) while the Speightstown filly, who cost $50,000, is the second foal out of the winning Union Rags mare Surprising Twist.

“We were looking to get three tiers of horses,” says Taaffe. “We have catalogued some upper-league horses. Then there are ones which will be more affordable and a solid middle group in between. And I'm confident some of those middle-market horses will pull up into the upper league.”

So how will it work?

“Sheikh Mohammed's vision is incredible and he has been very generous,” says Taaffe. “A lot of it is at his own cost, the staff expenses and the plane taking the horses out for example. So it's very important from Goffs' perspective that we have a catalogue with the right horses, and that was one of the reasons for having the horses vetted beforehand [chosen entries were only confirmed once they had passed a vetting examination during the early weeks of February].

“They fly in on 17 March on a temporary quarantine pass. The jet goes out of London Stansted with the British-based horses and flies into Shannon to collect the Irish horses. They will load up straight away and then go straight on to Dubai. 

“They should all be in their stables in Dubai by 9.30 p.m. that night. Then they spend two days in the NOFA quarantine facility at the track. They have excellent facilities; they'll be able to make use of a hacking track and lunge rings among other things. Then on the Sunday morning, they will be able to use the training track if they want and again in the evening as well. And they can repeat that again on the Monday. For those wanting to watch them train, they'll all be wearing cloths carrying their lot numbers.”

Prospective purchasers will be able to view the horses on Sunday between 4 and 8 p.m. and again on Monday within the same time slot. The breeze takes place from 7:45 a.m. onwards on Tuesday, Mar. 22 on Meydan's Tapeta training track and, in a departure from the norm, horses will be required to turn in a gentle two-furlong breeze, allowing them to be judged for their movement rather than by the clock.

“It's early in the year and a lot of these horses won't be running until November at the earliest,” says Taaffe. “They'll have to be let down afterwards and acclimatise for a few months before going into pre-training. So there'll be no timing and no stride pattern figures, it'll be all about allowing prospective purchasers to see that the horses can move well.

“When it comes to selling them, the horses will come up to the receiving barns at the track and we'll have five walking in the parade ring at the time of the sale while one is being sold in the winner's enclosure.”

The sale kicks off at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 23 and the bidding will be conducted in Emirati Dirham.

While the expectation is that many will be bought to race in Dubai, Goffs have received intentions of interest from buyers based worldwide. Indeed, given that the horses are coming in on a temporary quarantine pass, it's not inconceivable that several will make the return trip to Europe.

“We've had interest from Europe, Australia, Japan and Turkey, alongside all the Gulf Cooperation Council countries,” says Taaffe. “The Saudi Arabian race programme in particular is becoming a lot larger [the Saudi Jockey Club will host 90 meetings at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh this season, up from 64 in 2020-21]. There is another racetrack near Mecca called Taif that they're looking to make more use of during the summer months. So they'll be racing 12 months of the year and they need horses to fill that programme.”

He adds: “It's exciting. The whole team at Goffs have put a lot of hard work into it. Nick Nugent [Goffs executive director] has worked hard with me on the logistics. 

“We're delighted in the way it's been embraced and supported worldwide. If you have proper horses and proper people, then you will have a proper sale. 

“We're very pleased with the catalogue and I'm confident that the consignors will be well rewarded. But this sale will also be judged on what happens afterwards on the track. We want to be selling good horses and also sustainable horses that run year after year, that is the ethos behind it.”

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