Good Horses, Good Oysters, Good Vibrations: It Must Be Deauville!

Fernando Laffon and John Sadler at Arqana | Emma Berry

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DEAUVILLE, France–It would seem that Arqana has pulled off the impossible. Ask ten different people at the sales a certain question and you'd usually end up with ten different opinions. But there is one thing on which everyone patrolling the sales grounds in Deauville can apparently agree, and that is that a pretty stellar line-up of horses has been assembled for the Arqana Breeze-up Sale.

The only thing they can't agree on is which horse is likely to top the sale. We'll know that by Saturday evening, and it is every sales reporter's prayer that it will not be the last lot into the ring, with apologies to Eddie O'Leary, who has that honour this time with his Calyx (GB) wild card.

Nerves can jangle among the consignors, and who can blame them? After all, the investment in yearlings from the breeze-up set has increased significantly in recent years, and for that to continue, a decent return on investment must be found somewhere along the way. But with some gains elsewhere this season, notably at a strong Goffs UK sale in Doncaster, a more relaxed vibe has settled on Deauville and the mood is generally positive. 

Some new faces are in attendance. John Sadler, the man behind the sensational Flightline, is at Arqana for the first time, and his fellow Californian trainer Simon Callaghan has made a temporary return closer to his former homeland of Britain. Also assembled are Terry Henderson of Australian-based OTI Racing, various members of the Saudi racing fraternity, as well as Satish and Bhupat Seemar and Fawzi Nass, the latter trio now all regular attendees at the European breeze-up sales.
Drawing a large contingent of people around his boxes was Tom Whitehead of Powerstown Stud. That may have had something to do with the generous hospitality offering of oysters, paté, cheese and a rather cheeky little Muscadet, though Whitehead will be hoping that it is more to do with his draft of horses, which includes an imposing Uncle Mo colt (lot 51) who was barely in his stable all day.

Each new person who appeared at the Glending Stables draft asked the same question first: “Can I see your Kodiac, please?” Roderick Kavanagh clocked up some miles jogging to and fro the breeze track on Thursday, but then his extra long legs mean that he takes one step to a regular person's three, so his exertions hadn't worn him out. Indeed, by Friday, he was still bearing the broad grin of a consignor who has had a jolly good season so far.

“We've just landed on a good vein of horses and we've been very lucky,” said Kavanagh. “They've all trained well, got here well, and it's just been a good run. When things are bouncing in your favour, it's amazing. 

“It all has to come together, the people have to get here and it's not done until it's done, but there's definitely a very positive vibe.”

The in-demand Kodiac filly (lot 164) was a €90,000 Goffs foal purchase and she has plenty to recommend her on the page along with clocking one of the fastest times of the breeze. Her dam Leyburn (GB) (Shamardal) is a half-sister to the Group 2 winner Centennial (Ire) (Dalakhani {Ire}) with an extended family that includes Classic heroine Sleepytime (Ire) and Saudi Cup winner Panthalassa (Jpn).

Kavanagh continued, “The ground was beautiful for the breeze. You've no excuses out there. The star of the show for us is probably the Kodiac filly. She certainly looks the part and is bred on a very successful cross. But we've got a lovely Invincible Spirit (Ire) filly with an interesting pedigree, inbred to Eljazzi (GB) [dam of Rafha (GB)], and then a French-bred Galiway (GB) filly who should appeal to the domestic market. We've also got two lovely colts by Wootton Bassett (GB) and New Bay (GB) and it takes a lot to get a bunch like this together. That stallion power gives you a great chance.”

There's a strong Irish background to the main breeze-up gang and only three French-based consignors appear in the catalogue, with nine horses between them. Among the trio is Jennifer Pardanaud, who, with husband Ronan, has been selling through her Ecurie La Frenée for the past five years.

“I ride them all myself, both at home and in the breeze,” says Pardanaud, who is offering fillies by Zarak (Fr) and Dark Angel (Ire) and a colt by Sioux Nation. 

“I like to let them gallop easily within themselves and not push them too hard. I'm really happy with how the breezes went yesterday.”

Her Sioux Nation colt (lot 54) traces right back to the influential broodmare and German Classic winner Anna Paola (Ger), but closer up on the page, his grand-dam is the Listed winner and Group 2-placed Sugar Baby Love (Ger) (Second Empire {Ire}).

During a short coffee break at the Zinc bar, agents Ted Durcan and Colm Sharkey were hard pressed to pick just one favourite horse at the sale. “There's a whole fleet of them,” said Durcan.

Another agent, BBA Ireland's Michael Donohoe agreed with this assessment and praised the Arqana team for the organisation of the most crucial part of the sale.

“The breeze was so well run,” he said. “It took two hours and 15 minutes for 180 horses. You can really get a good view of them, close up and on the screens, and the ground looked good. It's very user-friendly.”

Donohoe added, “It's been quite a good season so far. The Craven was probably a bit disappointing for some, but the Guineas sale was excellent and Doncaster was excellent. This sale has had some good horses in recent years and it's been lucky for me, so when you're lucky you want to come back.”

Yeomanstown Stud's consignment may be missing from the catalogue's index but its draft of five in B yard was drawing plenty of attention nonetheless. On paper, the quintet appears to offer something to suit most tastes: from a colt by the champion sire Dubawi (Ire), a filly by his son Night Of Thunder (Ire), colts by American speedster Speightstown and the Derby winner Masar (Ire), and of course one by Yeomanstown's dependable flagship stallion Dark Angel.

“There's good traffic around and when people come down they are all picking different horses, which is good, to see them landing on different horses,” said Yeomanstown's David O'Callaghan. “Hopefully they all have a good chance and a few will sell well. There are lot of well-bred horses here.”

Elaborating on how he decides which of his team of breezers will head to which sale, he added, “They kind of pick themselves up to a point. You assess them on pedigree and physique and, to a lesser degree, on price bracket. The Craven horses need to be early, sharp horses because the Rowley Mile is hard to breeze for a bigger horse; they need to be very together. And Donny, again, people are focussing on an early two-year-old. But from there on they broaden their spectrum a little bit so you can send a slightly less precocious horse to the later sales.”

The headline horses from the Arqana breeze-up in recent years have included British and American Classic winners in Eldar Eldarov (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and War Of Will (War Front), both of whom were consigned by Norman Williamson's Oak Tree Farm, as well as the smart juveniles from last year's event, Sakheer (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) and Lezoo (GB) (Zoustar {Aus}). It is a range which pulls in major names from the training ranks even in the midst of important Classic trials at Chester and Lingfield, and at Arqana by Friday were Charlie Appleby, Roger Varian, Simon Crisford, Thady Gosden, Donnacha O'Brien, and Tom Clover among others, while the home guard included Andre Fabre, Francis Graffard, Jean-Claude Rouget, Christophe Ferland and Pia Brandt.

Such apparent interest on the ground during Friday's viewing session was balm for Arqana's Freddy Powell, who has been flying around the world to spread the word. 

“The breeze was very smooth, so that's the first jump that's been jumped,” he noted. “France Galop has a great team here in Deauville and they really embrace the whole thing because it's a great advertisement for their racecourse. 

“There are a lot of people here, some new faces. It's interesting; I was in Ocala a few weeks ago and a lot of Americans are thinking about this sale, and not trying to buy American horses especially but trying to get some horses for the turf, too.”

By the time withdrawals have been taken into account, around 170 horses will be offered on Saturday, making this the biggest breeze-up held at Arqana. 

“We do have to limit the numbers as there's only a certain amount of time people can stand next to the track watching the breezes,” he explained. “At the same time, we had to increase the number because we don't want to turn away the really nice horses that we are offered but we also need to keep a group of horses that are accessible to everyone. Our July sale has some breezers, but that's much later, so for French clients, we need horses who, on paper, who are not looking like €200,000 horses. So we have increased the numbers, but this is probably really the most we can take. There's only is much the track can take, and also the people too.”

The sales commences at Arqana at 11am, by which stage the vast pallet of oysters may all have been consumed at Powerstown Stud, perhaps to be replaced later in the day by Champagne.

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