Goffs Aiming To Maintain Power Surge

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Richard Brown and Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum | Emma Berry

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DONCASTER, UK—Having seen their rivals open up with two booming aces—graduates of the Tattersalls Craven Sale won both the big Classic trials at Newmarket last week—the Goffs UK Doncaster Breeze-Up returned serve at the weekend with an equally timely advertisement for the auction staged here on Thursday.

First and foremost, of course, the G3 Greenham S. success of Perfect Power (Ire) (Ardad {Ire}) was another win for the whole breeze-up sector, reiterating consignors' ability not just to showcase precocity and professionalism, but to lay a foundation for continued development. At the same time, this colt had long ago served the principal agenda of a sale that unabashedly aims to corral stock ready to roll for Royal Ascot.

So while he went on to win Group 1 prizes at Deauville and Newmarket, it was Perfect Power's success in the G2 Norfolk S.—by a satisfying head from Craven alumnus Go Bears Go (Ire) (Kodi Bear {Ire})—that has made the cover of this catalogue. He is, after all, the third winner of that race found here in the past six runnings; and the sixth overall at the royal meeting since 2016.

Perfect Power was brought here by breeders Tally-Ho Stud, who had another stellar sale at Newmarket last week. Having been retained as a Book 2 yearling, at 16,000gns, he was instead sold here to Richard Brown of Blandford Bloodstock for £110,000. For the agent, a lightbulb had come on: he had bought the sire here, also from Tally-Ho, in 2016.

“There were a lot of similarities with his father,” Brown said. “Not just physically but in temperament. It was definitely something Sheikh Rashid [Dalmook Al Maktoum, owner] and I spoke about at length before he decided to pull the trigger.”

Brown is unsurprised by the serial endorsements of breeze-up stock on the track this spring.

“These guys do an extraordinary job,” he said. “They're exceptional judges, exceptional at getting horses to show us what they can do over two furlongs, while also going on. The proof of the pudding is that two of the top four in the 2000 Guineas betting are breeze-up horses. That's hugely to the credit of the guys that prepare these horses.

“I'm actually a big believer that the whole process can make a good horse: the grounding they have, the hoops they have to jump through to get to the point of the hammer coming down, it's a huge test of a young horse. The fact is that you not only have horses that can come out and run early, you've also had Gold Cup winners, and now we're talking about genuine Classic horses.”

Horses acquired at this sale, with Ascot in mind, do tend to be “oven-ready” and go straight into training.

“But we only ever give them a chance to show whether or not they can be an Ascot horse,” Brown said. “If they say they're not ready, you back off immediately. And we will buy horses at the breeze-ups for the summer or back-end, and they'll always get turned out for three weeks.”

In the case of Perfect Power, however, trainer Richard Fahey received an unequivocal response.

“Richard sent me the video, there was what has now become quite a well-known piece of work,” Brown said with a smile. “He'd sent eight or 10 2-year-olds away for a piece of work on the grass and, out of nowhere, this colt came to the front and galloped three lengths clear of the whole bunch. I'm very cynical, I thought rest of them must be useless—but as it turned out, it was obviously pretty unfair on the rest of them to have to gallop with him.”

What's so heartening about the maturing profile of breeze-up stock is that they are plainly progressing in the round. There was a time, as prices started to rise, that many consignors were feeling uncomfortable with the slavish obedience of some investors to their stopwatches. But Brown argues that the European environment remains geared towards a fuller package.

“I'm vehemently against official times,” he stressed. “I think if we went down that route, we'd very quickly find ourselves in an American situation where it would become very hard for us sell a horse to client if it hadn't done one of the top breezes. Perfect Power wasn't in the top 10 times, nor was Ardad. Here everybody gets their own times and disseminates them in their own way. And it works. You can see that in the clearance rates here, compared with America. If we went down the route of official times, I'm absolutely convinced that clearance rates would reduce by probably 25%.

“Remember there are also plenty of guys out there buying good horses that don't use times. Everyone does it in a different way. Yes, we use times—but we use lots of other things as well. And if you asked me what the number one factor is, for me it would still be temperament. And there's no better test of temperament than this.”

Certainly the emergence of Perfect Power has enabled Henry Beeby and Tim Kent, respectively chairman and managing director of Goffs UK, to introduce this catalogue with due pride. “Facts are facts and spin is spin,” they write, before wryly conceding themselves to be “well capable of the latter”. But here, they continue, “Facts need no spin. Whatever you may have heard elsewhere and whatever gimmicks may have been rolled out, the fact is that the Doncaster Breeze-Up Sale's record at the royal meeting is simply second to none.”

No need, plainly, to specify which “gimmicks” they might have in mind. This was transparently an aside directed at the lucrative bonus schemes nowadays enhancing the Craven Sale, including one expressly focused on juvenile races at Ascot.

But just as the whole market prospers from the success of breeze-up graduates on the track, so the extremely strong performance of the Craven Sale sets an auspicious tone for this one. The breeze-up sector, after all, was viciously exposed to the economic tempests of the pandemic and even new tremors in the geopolitical environment do not discourage the hope that consignors may finally be back on something like an even keel.

In 2020 this auction found itself one of the first canaries in the mine for the bloodstock industry. A diminished catalogue was eventually offered alongside one for Arqana in July—hardly an ideal date, for a sale with Royal Ascot as its avowed priority—and actually gave some early hint of the remarkable resilience that emerged from the overall market that year. Sure enough, last year a record £48,590 average outstripped even the £45,750 peak of what had become a sustained bull run, at this sale, in 2019.

Simply keeping the show on the road over the past couple of years often required competing sales companies to co-operate for the greater good of a traumatised industry. So just to be removing the gloves again, with a little friendly jousting, actually feels quite heartening.

“In troubled times, of course we pulled together,” Beeby remarked. “We live in very small world, a very insular world, and of course we're competitive. Some people have said in the past that we shouldn't fight so much, but I don't think we do at all. Yes, we are competitive—but that's what creates such a strong and vibrant market, the fact that we all work so hard, try so hard. And when people have been saying over the past couple of years how well we were getting on with Edmond Mahony [of Tattersalls] and Eric Hoyeau [Arqana], I said, 'We always have: we're roughly the same age, we've been doing exactly the same thing for 30 or 40 years, we understand each other intricately.' As I've always said, I want our sales to go really well—and everyone else's to go… okay! I don't want anybody to get hurt, I just want ours to be the best. And I'm sure everyone else is the same.”

That said, nothing ever stays quite the same for these restlessly ambitious rivals. This time round, Goffs has already staged a breeze-up sale, meeting the exotic challenge of hosting an auction in Dubai during World Cup week.

“That was wonderful,” Beeby said. “It was a huge learning curve, both for ourselves and the vendors. Going forward, a particular type of horse will be required. But it was a massive success. The vendors were wonderful, stepping into the unknown; and the Dubai Racing Club were fantastic. To use the vulgar phrase, they put their money where their mouth is, flying the horses out, and they were just so proactive and encouraging.”

A less welcome break from business as usual came in a fatal injury suffered during Tuesday's breeze session. However innocuous the tasks assigned to a Thoroughbred, there will always be some perennial element of hazard at the gallop.

“It was just one of those terribly unfortunate things, a freak accident,” Beeby said. “But we had everything in place, just as if it was raceday, and I've heard a lot of praise today for the speed and professionalism of the teams that had to deal with what was a deeply upsetting situation for everybody.”

There were poignant moments later on for Beeby himself, in presiding in the sale ring over a celebration of his late father Harry, formerly managing director and chairman of DBS and president of Goffs UK. The family having observed its private grief in November, this was an apt opportunity to honour the memory of the much-loved figure who had, besides many other accomplishments, been pivotal to the inauguration of this market.

“Yes, he was the one who pioneered breeze-ups in Europe in 1977,” Beeby reflected before taking to the rostrum. “If he hadn't done it, none of this would have happened. He wasn't just my father: he was also my teacher and mentor, my inspiration. He was my hero. He was everything I wanted to be. He allowed me to be that, but also to be my own person. And that was very important.

“At 60 he decided, of his own volition, that the time had come for him step back and for me to take a step forward. And the great thing was that still he was young and vibrant enough to be this absolutely reassuring presence, while also strong enough to give me my head and say, 'Kick on, I'm with you.' We worked together 35 years, two very strong personalities, but we hardly ever had a cross word.

“In the hundreds of letters and emails and messages we received, the one word that recurred most was 'gentleman.' That's not just somebody who opens doors to ladies and doffs his cap. It's somebody who acts with decency and integrity. It means someone who treats people the right way. There are a lot of people in this industry who've been kind enough to say they would never have made it but for him. In fact, there's a breeze-up consignor who calls his home 'the house that Harry built'. And he brought a great sense of joy. Everybody loved seeing Harry. He had a welcome for everybody, and looked after big men and the little man in the exact same way.”

It's not just on the racetrack, then, that this environment is producing a model for everyone to emulate.

The sale, in a single session, opens at 10 a.m.

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