McGivern In Dreamland As Vandeek's Owners Spend 420k On Havana Grey Filly

Anthony Stroud: bought the top lot at the Goffs Breeze-Up Sale | Sarah Farnsworth


DONCASTER, UK–Royal Ascot dreams abound for the connections of Vandeek (GB) (Havana Grey {GB}), who not only have that unbeaten star to look forward to, but a host of high-class two-year-old prospects as well after Anthony Stroud snapped up speedy fillies by Havana Grey (GB) and Sioux Nation (lot 119) to the tune of £720,000 on behalf of the ownership group at the Goffs Breeze-Up Sale.

But Doncaster was dominated by the Derryconnor Stud-drafted diamond by Havana Grey, who led the way at £420,000 to provide top consignor Katie McGivern with her greatest result in the ring. She had previously made £50,000 as a yearling out of the Goffs UK Doncaster Premier Sale.

“We expected her to breeze well and then you just have to leave it up to the market to value her,” an ultra-cool McGivern said shortly after the sale.

“She had a squeaky clean vetting and it was all down to just who turned up for her. It's not a huge surprise that she made a bit of money. We loved her at home and all of her homework was exceptional. I'm delighted with the result.

“She deserved it and it's the most I have ever gotten for a horse so it's a big achievement for me. Fair dues to Jeremy [Mactaggart] because he really pushed for her. She was meant to go to Tattersalls but he made it very obvious how much he wanted her and rang me a good few times asking us to send her. Really happy.”

Stroud arrived at Doncaster off the back of a dominant showing at the Tattersalls Craven Breeze-Up Sale where he ended the two-day session as the leading buyer having come home with the six highest-priced two-year-olds under the banners of Godolphin and Stroud Coleman.

The leading agent wasn't to be beaten on lot 168 at Doncaster, either, and held off a strong rally from fellow agent Jason Kelly to secure the sale's top lot.

“Havana Grey is a very good stallion and this filly did a very good breeze,” Stroud said. “We liked the way she went. She's a very nice and very well-balanced filly. We thought she was one of the nicest fillies in the sale and was bought for KHK Racing.”

He added, “Havana Grey seems to be putting a lot of toughness and speed into his stock. He seems to be doing exceptionally well with all the mares that have been sent to him. He's really upping the game. He has a very bright future. Remarkable.”

Stroud also signed for Gary Bloodstock's Dandy Man (Ire) filly (lot 30) on behalf of an unnamed client for £100,000 as well as a £270,000 Starspangledbanner (Aus) filly from Kevin Coleman's Slievebrook House Stud.

“She's a nice filly who breezed very well and there could be a good update in the pedigree,” Stroud said of the half-sister to G1 Futurity Trophy fourth and recent winner Deira Mile (Ire) (Camelot {GB}).

“She'll go to Charlie Appleby. I think like all breeze-ups it's very selective. Either everyone is on the same horses or they're not. If you looked at my list and three other agent's, they wouldn't be dissimilar, that's how it feels to me.

“We bought Carla's Way (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) for Shaikh Duaij and True Cyan (Ire) (No Nay Never), who finished fourth in the Nell Gwyn, for KHK Racing last year, and a couple of years earlier we bought A'Ali (Ire) here, so it's a sale that's been good to us.”

Coleman might be best known as an emerging force in the training ranks but, as he outlined to TDN Europe on the eve of the sale, trading horses underpins his business. With that in mind, the selling of lot 145 will help fuel the County Tipperary operation for some time, especially as she cost just €36,000 as a Goffs Orby Book 2 yearling.

Speaking alongside his brother Aidan, whose decorated career in the saddle was cruelly cut short by injury recently, Coleman said, “We always thought a lot of her. She'd a good update on the page and is by the right sire. She did a very good breeze and she showed very well. All the right people were on her and I just hope to God that she turns up to Royal Ascot and is competitive.”

He added, “We were confident that she was going to do one of the top breezes because, the horses she has been working with at home, she has been all over them. She does her work in a good way–she does it in a rhythm. Obviously I train but you need to sell to make the whole thing work.”



Top End of the Market Remains Strong at Goffs

While turnover climbed by 3% to £10,359,700, it must be noted that there were 23 more lots offered at Goffs compared to last year. In many ways, the sale followed a similar trajectory to last week's Craven, with the top remaining strong but a certain level of shakiness to the middle and lower tiers. That was reflected in a 81% clearance rate compared to 86% in 2023. The average fell 1% to £62,035 while the median dropped 10% to £36,000.

Goffs UK Managing Director Tim Kent commented, “It was always going to be difficult to build on the massive advances made by this sale in 2023 and part way through the day, it was looking unlikely that we would achieve this feat. But the sale appeared to gather momentum as the day progressed and finished with a flourish to deliver a record turnover for the Doncaster Breeze-Up Sale. These results were aided by a top price of £420,000, 12 horses selling for £200,000 or more and 28 horses achieving a price of £100,000 or above.”

“We are the first to acknowledge that none of this could have been done without the loyal support of an incredible group of vendors. The inspection team were bullish when visiting the farms and we were heartened to read that the average purchase price of the yearlings had increased by 6% compared to 2023, but none of this matters when you get to the sale, and we were relieved to hear positive feedback from agents and purchasers who have been inspecting horses prior to today. We would therefore like to extend a heartfelt 'thank you' to everyone who trusted Goffs to sell their best early season breezers and we are delighted that we were able to deliver in style at Doncaster.”

He added, “Whilst we have much to celebrate today, it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge the fact that the market has been selective. There was a stark difference between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' and this has been very evident today. However, whilst some horses failed to find buyers in the ring some 50 private sales helped to drive an 81% clearance rate, and some have commented that's a true reflection of any breeze-up market–if they breeze well, they sell well.”

“Lastly, we must thank our buyers at all levels of the market. Whilst we can celebrate the fireworks at the top of the market, the strength of any market lies in what's below the top tier and we were delighted to have a strong domestic buying bench competing with a significant number of new visitors to the sales at Doncaster. Indeed, the Goffs team has worked tirelessly to deliver international buyers to this sale and this has been rewarded with horses selling throughout the day to race in America, Bahrain, Dubai, France, Italy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Scandinavia and elsewhere.

“Once again, we would like to thank everyone who has been part of today's success and we look forward to seeing these horses on the racecourse where we are confident that they will continue our unrivalled association with success at Royal Ascot.”

'We Come Here With Confidence' – Blandford Spends Over £2 Million At Doncaster

Richard Brown | Sarah Farnsworth


Richard Brown admitted to being left disappointed to have drawn a blank at last week's Tattersalls Craven Sale but the Blandford Bloodstock agent certainly made up for that at Doncaster by splashing out on a host of smart two-year-old prospects for over £2 million.

Towards the top of that list were Mehmas colts [lot 173 and 75] consigned by Willie Browne's Mocklershill and Tally-Ho Stud respectively for £380,000 and £350,000. The former went from a 52,000gns Tattersalls December foal to a 60,000gns Book 2 yearling at Tattersalls October. Lot 75 was knocked down for €50,000 at the Goffs Orby Sale Book 1 last year.

Speaking after snapping up lot 173, the first produce out of an unraced Hallowed Crown mare, Brown said, “Mehmas is one of the best sires of two-year-olds around and was prepared by one of the doyens of breeze-up consignors. I saw Willie on Sunday and he was very high on the horse. He turned up here and did a seriously good breeze. He's a low-actioned horse and looks forward. He'll get a short break and then we'll try and point him towards Royal Ascot.”

Asked what he thought of the market, Brown replied, “The top is very strong, it's patchy below that and then, after that, you drop into very choppy waters. It's polarised.”

Brown, who has some of the game's biggest clients on his books including Wathnan Racing and Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum, made a number of other notable purchases throughout the day. They featured lot 98, a colt by first-season sire Hello Youmzain (Fr) for £220,000 from Kilminfoyle House Stud, a Cotai Glory (GB) colt from Tally-Ho Stud for £190,000 and a £170,000 Ardad (Ire) colt from Con Marnane's Bansha House Stud earlier in the session.

But the agent still had some big bullets to fire later in the day and secured lot 220, a Starspangledbanner colt from Norman Williamson's renowned Oak Tree Farm outfit for £300,000 followed by another Mehmas [223] from Tally-Ho Stud for £360,000. This pair were a €60,000 Goffs Orby Book 2 yearling and a €52,000 Goffs November foal, respectively.

Reflecting on the sale as a whole, Brown said, “We're very lucky, we have bought good horses from all of the breeze-up sales, from the Craven, to here and Arqana. But we come up here with confidence. We have a big team and spend a huge amount of time analysing the horses. It has been a bit harder to judge the horses given there are so many more horses in the sale but I like it. It's better to say a horse is better than say 220 horses than it is 150. The more horses to grade your horse against, the better. From a buying perspective, I prefer it, but for the vendors, I don't know.”

Asked if he could be more confident buying out of the breeze-up sales compared to the yearling sale market, Brown added, “I think so. If you worked Desert Crown (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) over two furlongs, he would have shown pace. There is no doubt that a good horse will show pace over two furlongs. Even Kauto Star (Fr) would have shown pace over two furlongs. Good horses have pace. So, yes, you definitely can [have more confidence buying from the breeze-ups].”



Talking Points

  • There were 28 horses who made six figures or more compared to the 32 who cleared that figure 12 months ago. 
  • Tally-Ho Stud remained top dog in the consigning ranks with a £1,431,000 aggregate for 14 horses sold. Interestingly, the progeny of Tally-Ho-based stallions made up a fifth of the catalogue and Mehmas colts filled the second, third and fourth spots. 
  • Mehmas enjoyed a massive £1,505,000 aggregate for 10 horses sold but Starspangledbanner recorded a hugely impressive average of £187,000 for the five two-year-olds by him that sold on Wednesday.
  • Blandford Bloodstock was firing on all cylinders at Doncaster and ended the session as the leading buyer with 10 horses secured for £2,370,000.
O'Donovan Records Best Day In The Business With 580k Haul

Danny O'Donovan | Sarah Farnsworth

Danny O'Donovan put his name in lights by topping the Tattersalls Ireland Breeze-Up Sale last spring with a €270,000 Zelzal colt but the popular breeze-up handler described selling his fillies by King Of Change (GB) (lot 141) and Sioux Nation (lot 119)–who clocked the fastest and the second fastest on the unofficial times in that order–for a combined £580,000 as his best day on a sale ground.

This will be the Cork native's third year operating under his own Donovan Bloodstock and, in selling the speedy Sioux Nation to Anthony Stroud on behalf of KHK Racing for £300,000 after selecting her for a mere €45,000 out of the Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale, and then following up with £280,000 for the King Of Change filly to Alex Elliott on behalf of Amo Racing, the young handler was visibly delighted.

“It was a long day and a few sleepless nights before it but we got there in the end,” O'Donovan said afterwards. “I had the two fastest times yesterday and part of me was thinking it might be a bad thing. I'm just delighted to have sold Mr Stroud a horse. Fair play to Alex Elliott as well–he underbid the Sioux Nation filly and then went on to buy the King Of Change filly.”

Elliott was equally happy to have secured the King Of Change filly out of Dawn Approach (Ire) mare Evie Speed and described the competition for the higher end horses as stronger than ever.

Speaking about lot 141, a 20,000gns Tattersalls December weanling turned £39,000 Goffs UK Doncaster Premier yearling, he said, “She did a superb breeze, the fastest on a lot of clocks, so that's the first part of the jigsaw. The second part of the jigsaw is that she has the right physical, she was that for sure. She looks like a filly with a lot of speed but like she'll be able to carry it going seven furlongs or even a mile given the way she's bred and built. She's been bought for Amo Racing but a trainer is yet to be decided because Kia is in America at the minute. She's a beautiful filly so well done to Donovan Bloodstock.”

On the market, Elliott added, “It's like knocking your head against a brick wall half of the time. The selection process has gotten so good that everybody knows what the good horses are; there's no hiding in these sales. When you walk in to buy a good horse you've got to pay a black-type premium. When they breeze well, vet cleanly and the physique adds up, you've got to be prepared to pay.

“You've got Richard Brown, Anthony Stroud–if you walk in to bid against them you can't really beat them, so you've got to try and find other spots and that's hard because we're all falling on the same horses. Congrats to the sales company and the vendors for finding these horses and getting them through all the hoops. These horses, when they jump through so many hoops, they have such a good chance of being a good racehorse and that's been proven year after year. All power to the breeze-up community.”

Indeed, Elliott and O'Donovan have history together. Eagle-eyed observers might have spotted O'Donovan on the shank when Elliott branched out into consigning horses under his own Imperium Sales at Tattersalls last autumn. It's from that successful stint working together that the relationship has grown.

“I worked the Tattersalls Autumn Horses-In-Training Sale for Alex last year,” O'Donovan explained. “It was his first year consigning under Imperium and his assistant Lucy [Ryan] asked me if I would help out and I said 'why not?'.

“I've gotten to know Alex and have built up a bit of trust with him. I told him about these two fillies at the Craven. I told him I was bringing very nice horses to Doncaster–proper Royal Ascot types. In fairness, they breezed well and he turned up.”

He added, “It's brilliant for the whole team. From Adam Potts, who owned a good share of them, to Suzy Woods, who is manning the fort while we are away, and even my girlfriend Jess [Savage], who rode these fillies in their work at home. It's a big team effort. We topped Goresbridge last year with a Zelzal (Fr) colt who I am told is on course to run in the French Derby. I didn't think I'd ever have a day like that again but this has definitely topped it.”

Meanwhile, Stroud admitted that Royal Ascot was the ultimate aim for the Sioux Nation filly.

He said, “She has been bought for KHK Racing. She is a nice filly and did a good breeze–looks ready to go on with. We're not sure who will train her yet. KHK has done very well with the horses they have bought from the breeze-ups. Sioux Nation is a very solid stallion and can get you a very good horse. When you come here, that's [Royal Ascot] the aspiration.”

Golden Touch

Lot 26
Colt by Ardad out of Sand And Deliver (GB) (Royal Applause {GB})
Consigned by Bansha House Stables
Bought by Blandford Bloodstock for £170,000 
There would have been any number of worthy nominations for this prize but Con Marnane towers above all others for turning his 8,000gns Tattersalls Somerville Sale purchase by Ardad into a £170,000 Bansha bullet. That takes some doing.

Thought for the Day

What is the aversion to publishing times at the breeze-up sales? The unofficial times are widely shared following the breeze–and there are also live times available during the breeze–so surely it makes sense to make that information readily available to prospective buyers. 

Goffs recently announced that it would be staging a new breeze-up sale at Naas next year and the rumours are that Goresbridge is set to re-enter the market as well. 

Would that represent an opportunity for a new sale to set itself apart from the others by embracing times, data and the other metrics that go into buying a racehorse in this sphere? 

The obvious downside is that, by publishing times, it may create a stronger reliance on the clock. But plenty of good racehorses come out of the breeze-up sales that don't clock–Trueshan (Fr) being the most obvious example. 

A transparent and data-driven approach to the breeze-up sales might be a fanciful idea. Possibly even a foolish one. But it has to be at least worth having a conversation about. 

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