New Dawn In The Desert Illuminates Record Trade

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Grocer Jack | Tattersalls

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NEWMARKET, UK–Everyone in this business understands that complacency is prohibited with Thoroughbreds. But it must be said that a year which began with the global economy clinging by its fingertips to the development of vaccines, and this particular industry chilled by the consecutive loss of two of the greatest investors in its history, has entered autumn with heartening buoyancy.

Tuesday's second session of the Tattersalls Autumn Horses-in-Training Sale, complementing the remarkable energy of the international yearling market, was another to bounce right back from tepid trade last year–not only overshadowing its pre-pandemic performance, in 2019, but also setting an outright record for a single day at this auction.

And, while these remain very early days in terms of the overnight flowering of the world's richest race, there was no mistaking the sense of purpose animating fresh investment from the Middle East. For a sport that owed so much to the passion and commensurate resources of Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum and Prince Khalid Abdullah is now registering the impact not only of the Saudi Cup, but of the developing programme and infrastructure clearly intended to volunteer the host nation as a new centre of gravity for the global Turf.

As Saad bin Mishraf remarked, after the Tattersalls arena had been stunned by his 700,000gns bid on behalf of Najd Stud for the dual group winner from Germany, Grocer Jack (Ger) (Oasis Dream {GB}) (lot 738), he suspected that he had only been forced so high by competition from the same part of the world. (Underbidder Michael Donohoe has been very active for Middle Eastern interests through the first two sessions.)

“With his rating, this horse should definitely be accepted for the Saudi Cup,” bin Mishraf said. “We hoped we might get him for 400,000gns, it was tough competition–I think from people with the same target. Hopefully he will act on the dirt. The Saudi Cup is driving up the market for the right horses, but it's not just the prizemoney for that race, there are many others making Saudi racing very important internationally, very quickly.”

It was wonderful to see bin Mishraf fall gratefully to his knees, in the presumed direction of Mecca, after finally ending a tense duel for the 4-year-old colt–and also to hear how he grasps the abiding mystery of the racehorse.

“With horses, it is always the same: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't,” he said with a smile. “You can spend three million on a yearling and it won't necessarily break its maiden, and that is the same everywhere.”

At least this was an investment in a horse of proven class, indeed with stallion potential already: besides his group wins, Grocer Jack has run second at the highest level for Waldemar Hickst. Homebred by Dr. Christoph Berglar, and an €85,000 RNA as a Baden-Baden yearling, he was consigned by Ronald Rauscher–switching hats after himself being so busy recruiting for Australian Thoroughbreds over the first couple of days.

“That was, by a long margin, more than I expected,” Rauscher admitted. “I thought he might make between 300,000gns and 500,000gns. But obviously we had a situation of two people at loggerheads, and that makes a big difference.

“I bought the mare Good Donna (Ger) (Doyen {Ire}) for Dr. Berglar, in-foal to Solider Hollow (GB). That foal became a stakes winner, and then we followed up with Jack. The mare is by Doyen, but he was underrated, he had a very good average on ratings, especially for his fillies. This horse hasn't put a foot wrong, and I hope that continues for his new connections: he's a very fluent mover, and I think prefers fast ground.”

Indeed, connections had considered setting up a satellite yard to race him in California. “But it wasn't really tenable, and in the end the time was right [to sell],” Rauscher said. “Prizemoney in Germany is fairly low, and you don't get the going we think he needs. Waldemar has done a fabulous job. He has really looked after him, and delivered him here in top condition. The horse is a credit to him and his team.”

This remarkable transaction crowned another session too vibrant to require the usual caveats about historic comparisons in a market somewhat dependent on the variable calibre of a catalogue. As already noted, the indices not only soared dizzily above last year's “fire sale”–turnover up a staggering 71% to 11,262,500gns for 256 sales, up from 6,570,700gns for 241 (clearance rate here no less than 93%, up from 86%); yielding an average up 61% to 43,994gns from 27,264gns; and a median leaping to 20,500gns from 12,000gns–but far outstripped the equivalent session in 2019, when 260 horses had sold for 8,134,300gns, yielding an average 31,286gns and median of 18,000gns.

 

Sangster And Meehan Conquer With Hannibal

Timing is everything. On the face of it, that had worked against Sam Sangster and Brian Meehan last year, when the pandemic prohibited potential purchasers access to Manton to inspect a Zoffany (Ire) colt acquired for €55,000 at the Orby Sale. It looked like they were being left to hold the baby. Sheer bad timing.

But then Hannibal Barca (Ire), carrying Sangster's silks, made a promising debut when third at Ascot last month, and they put him in this catalogue. He added one auspicious update when winning at Salisbury three weeks later, and then rolled the dice in no less a race than the G1 Vertem Futurity at Doncaster last Saturday. He ran a stormer, beaten a couple of lengths in fourth behind Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), a neon advertisement just four days before his appearance here as lot 577. Great timing.

And Michael Donohoe of BBA Ireland was duly forced to 500,000gns to land the colt for an unnamed client with horses spread between Britain, Ireland and France. “He may stay in training here, we're not sure, the first thing was to get him bought and we can make the plan after,” the agent said. “He could obviously be a horse for the Classics next year, he could have the speed for a mile but I think in time he could stay a mile and a half.

“I thought it was a superb run in that ground at the weekend. I don't think he may have handled it all that well, but he was gutsy and it was his determination that got him through it. He's still quite green, and a lovely, big, scopey horse, 16.1hh, we think he's very progressive. We're very happy to get him, he's very clean, he has a lovely attitude and temperament, and didn't turn a hair the couple of times we saw him or in the pre-parade ring. You never know, by next May or June today's price could look good value.”

For the time being, however, it stands as a mighty coup for his vendors.

“Still buzzing,” declared Sangster with a grin, reflecting on the drama a few minutes afterwards. “It was quite emotional, really. Brian and I buy a lot of horses together on spec, and we put them in the shop window. He was one of them, we loved him as a yearling, but in the year of Covid we struggled to get people to the yard and he was one of the horses we couldn't get sold. But we have a lot of confidence in the horses we buy, and full credit to Brian who believed in the horse enough to target the Doncaster race. We're obviously gutted to see him go, he has such a bright future, but it was good business. Michael rang this morning and I told him I couldn't recommend this horse more, he has such a lovely temperament, a lovely stride. I think he's going to be a serious horse for next year.”

Of his discovery at the Orby Sale, Sangster recalled: “As a yearling, he was exactly what you saw in the ring there today: a gorgeous, free-moving horse, on a beautiful, proven cross. At the time I thought we'd bought him very well. But did I believe he'd go and make half a million at Tattersalls? No.

“I'm delighted for Brian, and everyone in the yard. Brian has done it many times before, and it just shows you have to back your trainer. We've been working together for seven years, and it shows the confidence we have in the horses–that we buy to race them. We've bought 17 yearlings this time round, and attended a few more sales, so hopefully people can come down and see them, and we'll have a bit of marketing material on the back of this.”

Hannibal Barca's late sire has produced an Oaks runner-up out of a Fasliyev mare, and his first three dams are by Galileo (Ire), The Minstrel and Le Fabuleux (Fr), so he's perfectly entitled to test the water for more than one Classic. There's plenty of quality along the bottom line, too, his dam being a dual listed winner (at seven and 10 furlongs) bought from Juddmonte by his late breeder Peter Magnier, from the family of Proportional (GB) (Beat Hollow {GB}) and Folk Opera (Ire) (Singspiel {Ire}).

 

Respect For 'Respectful' Training

One of the themes of the day was the value some trainers can provide patrons in getting the best out of their horses on the racetrack, while still retaining residual value on leaving their care. Take a bow, among others, Roger Charlton.

“Roger really respects his horses,” stressed Stuart Boman, regarding the latter, after giving 340,000gns for the Beckhampton graduate Makram (Ire) (Make Believe {GB}) (lot 721) on behalf of undisclosed Australian clients. “And that's really important.”

This was a model project of its type. A €90,000 Goffs Orby purchase by Hugo Merry, Makram has been carefully brought along initially to break his maiden at three, then a first handicap off 76, and two more as a maturing 4-year-old off 90 and 97.

“He's been beautifully handled by Roger and his team,” said the Blandford Bloodstock agent. “We've paid a lot for him, but from an Australian perspective he has just the right profile: he's done everything, all distance ranges, all goings, and he's a beautiful, muscular horse to look at, too. He looked like he could step into group company in England, next year, he's up to 108 [Timeform] and looks like he could be better than that.

“Obviously to be talking about Melbourne Cups would be making a big statement at this point. But it's a pretty obvious thing by this point, the Australians have been breeding for speed for generations, Chris Waller made coming here very popular, and the results keep on coming.”

Precisely that impetus in the market has made this a very difficult sale for the National Hunt investor in recent years, but Tom Malone managed to stretch to 175,000gns moments later on behalf of Paul Nicholls to secure the 3-year-old Pleasant Man (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) (lot 724), who won his third race at York last month off 93.

Malone was also full of praise for the Beckhampton grounding. “I've bought plenty of good horses from them,” he said. “And you get a very honest appraisal. I loved the horse, and while some people won't have Galileo for jumping, we had Celestial Halo (Ire) who was obviously very good.”

Typical Bargain Rewarded For Typical Industry

Boman was back late in the session to give 380,000gns for Dancing King (Ire) (Free Eagle {Ire}) (lot 778) to go “abroad for an established client.” This 3-year-old gelding has been thriving on the dynamic campaigning of Mark Johnston: after running up a four-timer in the spring, starting off a mark of 73, he raised the bar with a first group success at Goodwood last time and arrived with a mark of 103.

The most prolific stable in Britain has developed its own way of doing things and this was a wonderful dividend on Johnston's trademark discovery of a yearling reject, picking him out of Book 2 for a Kingsley Park syndicate at just 18,000gns.

“I have to congratulate Mark for finding a horse of this quality as cheaply as he did,” Boman said. “His name is Dancing King and he really has danced every dance; he showed up every time and always puts it in. And Mark has presented him in immaculate condition. He hasn't run for over five weeks, you can see that they've prepared him for this sale and they've brought him here in fantastic condition.”

All Part Of The Service

William Haggas is another who reliably strikes that elusive balance between getting the best yield on the racetrack for his patrons while maintaining a sound enough base for continued progress. His draft duly included three consecutive lots that figured among the highest of the day.

First came Titian (Ire) (Iffraaj {GB}) (lot 622), who had won for the second time in a light career only four days before the sale and made 155,000gns from Tom Malone to join David Pipe as a juvenile hurdler.

“William Frewen, who owned [high-class staying hurdler] Lough Derg (Fr) (Apple Tree {Fr}) with David, came on the blower wanting to get involved and this horse came highly recommended by William,” the agent explained. “The beauty is that he's been gelded already. In my experience, that process can go very right or very wrong, but someone else has been through the torture of finding out. We also bought Kolisi (Ire) (Harzand {Ire}) a couple of lots back [659, for 55,000gns], he finished second to this one at Doncaster, they both look ideal for the job.”

Next up was another 3-year-old gelding, Wink Of An Eye (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) (lot 663), a homebred from the royal stable who will now be heading to the desert after Michael Donohoe of BBA Ireland, having a very busy couple of days, signed a 230,000gns docket. This lad had been placed with typical dexterity by Haggas to run up a four-timer in handicaps this summer, in the process advancing his rating from 70 to 91.

“He just fits the profile we're looking for, for the Middle East,” Donhoe explained. “For some reason the Dubawis do very well out there, they seem to improve a few pounds out in those sunny climes for some reason. He's a very good-looking horse who'll go on any surface.”

The Somerville Lodge draft was crowned, however, by the juvenile Maglev (Ire) (Galileo Gold {GB}) (lot 664), a £210,000 Doncaster breezer this spring who has meanwhile reached a rating of 102 by a creditable fifth in the G2 Mill Reef S. That rather showed his hand, but he will have more options in California after a 300,000gns transfer to Red Baron's Barn & Rancho Temescal, whose Tim Cohen found subsequent Grade I winner River Boyne (Ire) (Dandy Man {Ire}) at this sale in 2017 for 70,000gns.

“Towards the end of the year there are a couple of stakes races in California, but it's the 3-year-old that we are looking forward to,” Cohen said. “His form is excellent, he vetted well, and we thought him one of the better 2-year-olds in this sale. I would think he'll be the first Galileo Gold to go to the States, and definitely the most expensive! But we've had good success with the horses we've taken back from here; horses who can handle firm ground, that's what we're keen on.”

The Haggas draft was preceded by graduates of Pegasus Stables, who benefit so hugely from the patience with which James Fanshawe develops talent–and, once again, there was corresponding confidence in the export market. Two consecutive lots heading to Australia were Bonneval (GB) (Siyouni {Fr}) (lot 640), who brought 170,000gns from Trent Busuttin Racing, and Turn On The Charm (Fr) (Charm Spirit {Ire}) (lot 641), who realised 135,000gns from Australian Bloodstock/Ronald Rauscher. (The latter, incidentally, also gave 150,000gns minutes later for Kettle Hill (GB) (Gleneagles {Ire}), as lot 655 in the Haggas draft.)

The next draft, from Fanshawe's mentor Sir Michael Stoute, was crowned by a horse that condensed the mysteries of our business, My Frankel (GB) (Frankel {GB}) (lot 680).

A 380,000gns Book I purchase at the October Sale by Charlie Gordon-Watson, My Frankel has won just £26,415 in prizemoney across three seasons, despite winning three times while settling on a rating to 95. On his last start, tried in a tongue-tie, he earned £1,411.05 in finishing third under 10 stone at Lingfield. And yet here, at 310,000gns, he proved one of the most valuable commodities of the sale so far–albeit not quite retrieving his yearling value.

How gratifying for the viability of the British sport, then, to see his form so highly esteemed by his purchasers, Najd Stud (co-signed, like the top lot, by Peter and Ross Doyle Bloodstock).

“This horse is by Frankel, so that is very good; and we like the dirt breeding on his dam side,” said Saad bin Mishraf, referring to the first two dams by Harlan's Holiday and Deputy Minister. “Hopefully he will suit our racing in Saudi Arabia very well, and might be one for the King's Cup.”

Shadwell Juveniles Chance Of A Lifetime

The distribution of the Shadwell cull at intervals through this catalogue is maintaining the quality much as streetlamps are posted to merge one pool of light with the next. Buyers are particularly animated by the chance to buy its younger horses, as was the case when Rupert Pritchard-Gordon gave 220,000gns for Ikhtiraaq (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) as lot 624–and not demurring, when it was suggested that his client might be identified by his baseball cap, promoting Romanised (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}), who raced for Robert Ng and has just started out at Haras de Bouquetot.

“As I said to Mr. Ng, in 40 years it has never happened, no-one has been able to buy a decent winning 2-year-old of Sheikh Hamdan's,” the agent said. “So we're having a go. Mr. Ng was very interested in the dispersal. I was at my last bid, the market's strong, but it's just so rare: how many times in the past could you buy a winning 2-year-old of Sheikh Hamdan's? There are lot of people for whom this is what it is all about: dreaming that one of these horses, whether this fellow or another one, will develop into a smart 3-year-old. You always have a chance when you are buying from these farms.”

Second on his first two starts for Owen Burrows, Ikhtiraaq had broken his maiden at Leicester a fortnight previously. And he represents Shadwell family silver, his second dam being a full sister to Bahhare (Woodman) and half-sister to the top-class Bahri (Riverman), their dam Wasnah (Nijinsky) having been acquired as a foundation mare from Nelson Bunker Hunt in 1986.

“He'll stay in Europe,” confirmed Pritchard-Gordon. “We just liked his profile, he's still learning and beat a couple of nice horses the other day. With a bit of luck there'll be more from him next year: he looks like he is going to grow a far bit more, he's still quite up behind, hopefully with another winter on his back he will grow into a nice 3-year-old. There's always a chance with one with a pedigree like that, and he's a really nice mover.”

Pritchard-Gordon returned late in the session to give precisely the same sum for another Shadwell youngster, Qitaal (GB) (Iffraaj {GB}) (lot 754). He broke his maiden for Mark Johnston at the third attempt at Nottingham a couple of weeks ago, and certainly brings some of the Shadwell family silver in his genes: this is the family of Mehthaaf (Nureyev) and Elnadim (Danzig), and also of his sire's star Ribchester (GB).

De Foy Another Digging For Shadwell Gold

A fertile first year with a licence for Kevin Philippart de Foy, clocking 30 winners at 18%, has not gone unnoticed, and he was rewarded with the backing to secure both six-figure transactions of a quiet pre-lunch session, in each case also from the Shadwell cull.

First came the homebred juvenile Elsals (GB) (Havana Gold {Ire}), who had made a highly promising debut for Richard Hannon since the publication of the catalogue, beaten half a length for third in a York novice. That prompted Alex Elliott to go to 140,000gns for lot 444 on behalf of a new client, who will transfer the colt to the care of de Foy.

“My man is very strong on his stats, and Kevin's have come out pretty good,” reasoned the agent. “It's good to see support for young trainers who are doing well. And the only way is up for this horse, the sky really is the limit, so it's quite exciting. He'll be put away now for this year, hopefully he can come out, win his maiden and go on from there.

“These Shadwell horse are coming at a premium, we actually valued him at a little less but they're tough to buy. But we've been up against some very sharp fellows, so you know you are on the right horses. I think you are better off paying a little more for a horse you really want.”

Alrehb (War Front) was a different kettle of fish, as a castrated 4-year-old who only made his debut for Charlie Hills last month. But this half-brother to the stable's champion sprinter Muhaarar (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) looks competent to make up for lost time, having built on a debut second at Newcastle with success over a mile at Lingfield, and de Foy was duly forced to 120,000gns to secure him as lot 527.

“He won very well, and is from a family who improve with age,” said de Foy. “He's an exciting prospect, we'll give him some time and work out a programme for him.”

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