Predictably Hesitant Start to Yearling Sales

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Lot 165 topped the first day of selling | Goffs UK

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DONCASTER, UK—Well, at least that ordeal is out of the way. It was never going to be fun, but it could have been worse. Horses were sold, some of them even sold well; and other vendors, with an 83% clearance rate, were evidently ready to cut losses. And soon everybody will at least be able to start figuring out how venturesome they can afford to be, once finally bidding good riddance to 2020.

Embarking on the European yearling circuit was always going to be extremely challenging for an industry so exposed to catastrophic loss of momentum in a global economy reeling under the pandemic. Sure enough, as an auction that had been on a tremendous roll in recent years, the opening session of the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale registered some sobering returns—and a very sobering absence, too, with no sign of Shadwell after a five-year streak as leading buyers.

An average of £36,687 was down from £49,202 on the opening session last year—but should perhaps be less randomly measured against the £46,519 average across both days. The £30,000 median compared with £38,000 on day one (and £35,000 overall) last year. Turnover was down by one-third to £6,970,500, from £10,578,500. But perhaps the most instructive index was the number of six-figure sales. In last year's opening session, there were 19—topped by the £440,000 Kingman colt who set a new record for this auction. This time round there were nine, with the session topped at £170,000.

Certainly the most conspicuous keynote from these opening skirmishes was the fact that Shadwell appeared to have taken “social distancing” to an unwelcome extreme. Needless to say, the absence of Sheikh Hamdan's buying team caused alarm among those consignors whose perennial and pervasive debt to the Maktoum family had been measured, at this particular auction in 2019, by 17 yearlings at an aggregate just shy of £2 million.

It would be premature for those preparing yearlings for elite sales to leap to conclusions about the broader intentions of the various Maktoum concerns. Yes, the industry finds itself in grievous need of its greatest benefactors. But if we have learned anything from the travails of 2020, it is to repent of our complacency in so much that we have always taken for granted.

But things could always be worse. As Guy O'Callaghan of Grangemore Stud wisely remarked, after selling a Dark Angel (Ire) colt well towards the end of the session, “Obviously it isn't as strong a market as in recent years but the world's in a different place compared with six months ago. We're lucky to have a market at all. Isn't it good that at least we're able to turn up and trade?”

Speaking to TDN on the eve of the sale, Goffs Group Chief Executive Henry Beeby had said that planning for a financial year that opened with the start of the coronavirus lockdown was predicated on the firm's lowest turnover in recent years. In the case of its British sales, that was 2013—when turnover at the Premier Sale stalled at £13,310,250 for an average of £32,464 and median of $25,000. Some breathing space, there, if day two maintains Tuesday's levels of business.

So not only could things be worse; they have been, not so long ago. We all know that plenty of very productive racehorses will be picked up cheaply this week. And so, however painfully, the next cycle begins.

Another Banner Sale for Coulonces with £170k Star

When signing a £115,000 docket for lot 160, an Acclamation (Ire) colt, Richard Ryan found himself responsible for the top price of the day to that point. Nonetheless he promised that somebody would be spending a good deal more within the next few minutes. Sure enough, Ryan himself promptly gave £170,000 for lot 165, a January colt by Starspangledbanner (Aus) imported over the Channel by Anna Sundstrom of Coulonces Sales.

This was a happy reunion for vendor and purchaser alike, Ryan having been forced to £280,000 in last year's buoyant market for the Wootton Bassett (GB) colt now known as Legion Of Honour (GB). Trained for Teme Valley 2 by Roger Varian, he was a promising second on his Haydock debut this summer. Both of these colts were bought in the same interest and will likewise head to Varian.

“He was the star of the show,” Ryan enthused of the session-topper. “The best in the sale in our opinion, and in the opinion of the trainer. We also bought a very nice horse here last year from the same vendor, for whom we have high hopes. Starspangledbanner gets winners out of all sorts of mares and all sorts of pages, but only very rarely will they have that kind of look at this age: that scope and quality, backed up by a top-class pedigree. It's a beautiful family.”

It certainly is, with a distinct stamp of Classic quality for a catalogue that typically majors in speed and precocity. The colt's Classic-placed third dam Agathe (Manila), herself a half-sister to GI Breeders' Cup Classic winner Arcangues (Sagace {Fr}), is the dam of two elite winners in Artiste Royal (Danehill) (dual Grade I scorer in the U.S.) and Aquarelliste (Fr) (Danehill), who won the G1 Prix de Diane and chased home Sakhee (Bahri) in the Arc.

Sundstrom was ecstatic that her Doncaster migrations had once again proved so lucrative. This colt was co-bred with Charlotte Hutchinson as the first foal of a Dalakhani half-sister to G2 Grand Prix de Deauville winner Ziyad (GB) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}), cheaply culled by the Wertheimer brothers at the Arqana Autumn Sale of 2017.

“Charlotte is my head girl and was leading him up,” said an emotional Sundstrom. “She bought the mare out of training, she only cost €16,000. We love Starspangledbanner, we've had a lot of luck with him, so he was an obvious choice for Dalakania.

“It's the most fantastic thing that he's going to Roger Varian. And a fantastic result in a market like this. It just shows that there are people there for good horses. It's difficult to know when things are like this, we knew he had a lot of people interested, but I didn't think he could make this much. It's incredible.

“Goffs has been very good to us. The results on the track from horses we sold here include Laurens (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) and Nickajack Cave (Ire) (Kendargent {Fr}), so it's easy to come back.”

Laurens was the top filly of this sale in 2016, at £220,000, and went on to become one of its all-time poster girls with multiple Group 1 success; while Nickajack Cave made £65,000 the following year and last month won his first group race at The Curragh.

Equally delighted was Dermot Cantillon of Tinnakill House after selling the Acclamation colt so well—due reward for his breeders (Tinnakill Bloodstock and Ian Thompson) holding their nerve when he was bought in for 40,000gns as a foal at Tattersalls last December.

“That's our first horse through and a really good start at a difficult time,” said Cantillon. “He just did really well, foal to yearling, and Acclamation has had a very good year—including with [G2 Prix Robert Papin winner] Ventura Tormenta (Ire), who we sold here last year.”

Ryan described this as “the best Acclamation I've seen in the ring in recent times: a very tidy, well presented colt.”

4,000gns Mare Proves a Hidden Bounty

The first lot to break six figures represented a splendid dividend for Ken Carroll and Tom Wallace, of Lewinstown Farm and Lemongrove Stud, respectively. Their Kodi Bear (Ire) colt (lot 30), who made £110,000 online from Phil Cunningham, was acquired in utero with his dam, an unraced Bahamian Bounty (GB) mare named Usem (GB), when she changed hands for just 4,000gns at Tattersalls December in 2018.

Two Sayif (Ire) fillies she had previously delivered both did well, one winning four times and the other listed-placed in France, and the quality of this colt had meanwhile persuaded her new owners to upgrade her coverings.

“She has a Galileo Gold (GB) filly who's a queen, and she's in foal to Invincible Spirit (Ire)—so what would you say we think of her?” said Carroll, who has “12 to 15” mares on his farm. “To be fair, Invincible Spirit was a Kodi Bear once upon a time.”

Carroll learned the ropes with Eddie O'Leary at Lynn Lodge, up the road from his base in Co. Westmeath, while Wallace has experience both in the United States and at another highly astute outfit in Tally Ho.

“It's the centre of racing, is Westmeath,” Carroll said with a smile. “But he was one of the easy ones. He had six or seven vettings. Good horses sell, don't they?”

Doyles Trust in Happy Fortunes with Redpender

One team that wasn't missing the competition from Shadwell was Peter and Ross Doyle, always purposeful participants at this sale. They stuck to a tried-and-trusted formula when giving £105,000 for lot 49, an Acclamation (GB) colt presented by Redpender Stud—both in terms of his Co Kilkenny origins and his breeding.

“We've had a wonderful relationship with Redpender over the years,” Ross Doyle observed. “Jimmy [Murphy] and his family do a wonderful job and have sold us two champions in Canford Cliffs (Ire) (Tagula {Ire}) and Toormore (Ire) (Arakan), as well as Estidhkaar (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}). And last year they sold us Happy Romance (Ire) (Dandy Man {Ire}) here.”

That filly cost just £25,000 at this sale and won her second valuable prize in the associated Goffs UK Premier Yearling S. at York, taking her earnings past £175,000 already. She now seeks some black-type in the G3 Dick Poole S. at Salisbury on Thursday.

Doyle's interest was further stimulated by his team's record with the sire of this colt, who actually achieved only a marginal gain having been pinhooked for €94,000 as a foal at Goffs November. “We've been very lucky with him with our clients and the Hannons, with Mehmas (Ire) and Harbour Watch (Ire),” he said. “Oh This Is Us (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) is under the second dam, so they're closely related, and this one reminded us very much of him.”

Oh This Is Us, who includes two listed prizes among his 13 wins for the Hannon stable, is out of the Group 3 winner Shamwari Lodge (Ire), herself out of a half-sister to that flying filly Pipalong (Ire) (Pips Pride {GB}).

Doyle signed another six-figure docket minutes later when giving £100,000 for lot 56, a filly by another “Donny” standing dish in Kodiac (GB). Bred and consigned by Loughtown Stud, she was acquired in utero when her stakes-placed dam Zvarkhova (Ire) (Makfi {GB}) made 125,000gns through Emerald Bloodstock at Tattersalls December in 2018. Zvarkhova's granddam is an unraced sister to champion Mark Of Esteem (Ire) (Darshaan {GB}).

Alice's Looking Class

For someone who speaks so modestly of an operation confined to “mornings, evenings and weekends”, Alice Fitzgerald is producing horses of which any 24/7 professional would be proud. Previous sales through this ring include Hey Jonesy (Ire) (Excelebration {Ire}), who won the Wokingham H. at Royal Ascot this summer; star hurdler My Tent Or Yours (Ire) (Desert Prince {Ire}); and Weatherbys Super Sprint winner Ginger Nut (Ire) (Sir Prancealot {Ire}).

And Jake Warren was in no doubt that the Mehmas (Ire) half-sister to Ginger Nut he bought for £100,000 as lot 78 has the potential to emulate their example. “We're thrilled with her,” the agent said. “She has a very nice pedigree and is a real athlete, a wonderful mover, and looks a real summer 2-year-old. She's for a private client and likely to go to Richard Fahey.”

Fitzgerald, known to many in the Co Tipperary racing and breeding fraternity through her day job in advertising, has three yearlings in this sale; two in the Orby; and one in Book III at Tattersalls. “We thought this was a very nice filly, but couldn't have hoped that she would do quite so well,” she said. “But the sire is flying, of course, and she's a half-sister to a very fast filly.”

Fitzgerald emphasized the role of partner Michael Doyle; and also deserving a mention is Royal Applause, who is not only sire of this filly's unraced dam but also grandsire of Mehmas.

Warren, meanwhile, was acting for the same client when giving £140,000 late in the session for a Dark Angel (Ire) colt (lot 219) bred and presented by Guy O'Callaghan of Grangemore Stud in Co Kildare.

“Cracker of a horse,” Warren said. “A terrific mover with a lot of substance who should make a cracking 2-year-old. I would think he'll stay in the U.K.”

He is the first foal of Futoon (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}), purchased by O'Callaghan for 100,000gns at Tattersalls December in 2017 after she had achieved serial stakes placings for Kevin Ryan. With 19 yearlings spread across a variety of sales, O'Callaghan has his biggest draft of yearlings to date—a tough year to be growing your business, but we have already cited his admirable breadth of perspective and he saluted this as “a champion of a horse.” Here, plainly, is another young talent worthy of a remarkable dynasty of horsemen.

Sackville Shows Faith in Fast Families

Tom Dascombe is to welcome a couple of brisk-looking colts picked out by SackvilleDonald: one by Dark Angel (Ire) for £105,000, offered as lot 162 by Yeomanstown Stud; and one by Acclamation (GB) for £120,000, presented by Eugene Daly of Longview Stud as lot 186. Both are related to star sprinters. The Acclamation colt's dam is a full-sister to Slade Power (Ire) (Dutch Art {GB}); and the Dark Angel is out of a Verglas (Ire) half-sister to champion Pipalong (Ire) (Pips Pride {GB}).

He is also a full brother to G2 Robert Papin runner-up Frozen Angel (Ire). “He was a very good horse for us and was sold on to Hong Kong for 335,000gns,” Ed Sackville said. “We thought this one was a very similar type. So it's not only a stallion we've been lucky with, but also a family.

“Acclamation is another sire we've been very lucky with, including with a nice 2-year-old called Lauded (GB), who runs in the G3 Unibet Sirenia S. this weekend. This looked a similar model: strong and precocious-looking. He's from a very good farm that we know well, just down the road in Chasire, and we hope to have a lot of luck with him.”

As for trading conditions, Sackville gave a shrug. “It's a typical Donny catalogue and there are nice horses here,” he said. “We just haven't been as strong as in recent years—for the obvious reasons.”

Undaunted, most people will be back for another go when the sale concludes on Wednesday. Selling opens at 10 a.m.

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