Record Book Two Ends With No Half Measures

John Foley of Ballyvolane Stud | Tattersalls


NEWMARKET, UK–On both sides of the Atlantic, the yearling sector in 2021 has shown an especially heartening vigour in the middle market–and you can't get much closer to its centre of gravity, on this side of the water, than Book 2 of the October Yearling Sale at Tattersalls.

Despite losing the stimulus of Shadwell, which last year corralled 36 lots from this auction for 5,327,000gns, Wednesday's third and final session rounded off a quite astonishing performance overall.

Never mind its giddy elevation on last year's sale, which had itself rallied so much better than many feared after a seismic shock to the global economy. This time round Book 2 surpassed even the 2019 edition, which had achieved record turnover of 48,499,000gns for an average 78,224gns and median 55,500gns. Despite the obvious challenges of the domestic environment, notably chronic prizemoney issues and a volatile outlook in the broader economy, turnover soared to 54,512,000gns (up 13% on 48,362,500gns) for an average 83,865gns–up 10% on 75,992gns last year–and a median of 62,000gns, up fully 24% on 50,000gns. The clearance rate climbed in tandem to 88% from 85%.

Given how many sales, over the years, have ended with grumbles about “polarisation”–alleging a vacuum between the elite and bargain ends of the spectrum–such giddy trade through this middle tier appears particularly auspicious. Doubtless many factors remain to be analysed, once the dust settles, but Tattersalls chairman Edmond Mahony was rightly exultant over the final indices.

“At the end of Book 1 last week, we referenced the depth and diversity of the demand,” he said. “And the momentum established there has been very much sustained throughout a record-breaking Book 2.

“New record turnover at any sale is always an achievement–but for Europe's largest yearling sale to reach new levels, as we all strive to return to normality after 18 months of turmoil, is pretty extraordinary. Only ten years ago, Book 2 had turnover of a fraction over 25,000,000gns and an average price below 40,000gns. This year's has broken the 50,000,000gns mark for the first time, produced a record average, in excess of 80,000gns, and also an unprecedented median.

“Similar to Book 1, international buyers have again made a massive contribution to the market, with notable participation from American and Australian interests as well as from Hong Kong, Japan and throughout the Gulf region. But perhaps the most encouraging feature of the record-breaking sale has been the domestic demand. British and Irish trainers have been the backbone of the sale and to see such a voracious appetite for quality yearlings, not only at Books 1 and 2 but also at our Newmarket-based yearling sales last month, has been fantastic.

“As ever, we are hugely indebted to the consignors from Britain, Ireland and further afield, who make Books 1 and 2 of the October Yearling Sale the showcase for so many of the finest yearlings to be found in Europe. Consistent quality is the key to attracting the buyers in such numbers, and we now turn our attention to Book 3 where buyers will continue to find yearlings of the highest calibre.”

That catalogue opens on Thursday at 10 a.m.

All Power To Ballyvolane As Pinhook Passes Test

It felt like no coincidence that the author of one of the touches of the sale should also have placed it so aptly in context. For true horsemanship serves perspective, as well as profit.

“It's amazing to get a result like this, as we all work hard,” said John Foley after watching a Time Test colt (lot 1193), pinhooked for 56,000gns in the same ring last December, catapult his value to 400,000gns. “This is a very tough business, and there are more hard days than good days. We have great help at home. Donnacha Higgins gives me a hand with the yearlings, and my dad, who's 77, mucks out six or seven boxes every day. We have great staff with us here, too. Everyone is doing their best. It makes a huge difference when you have people who want it to do well, so when it works out it is great.”

It worked out here, all right, in quite spectacular fashion. Foley reckoned that the star of his Ballyvolane Stud draft had secured as many as 20 vettings, with Alastair Donald of SackvilleDonald ultimately seeing off the challenge of trainer Richard Hughes on behalf of King Power Racing. This was by a distance his sire's top price to date.

“But expectations are the biggest killer for stallions,” Foley said. “The slow burners are the best. Time Test is doing really well, his stats are very good. We were taking a gamble, but sons of Dubawi have done very well and this colt was very well prepared by the National Stud. He was the sire's dearest foal and there were reasons for that, but then he just kept improving. He's a 'wow' horse: such attitude and presence. Plenty of people told us that he was as nice a horse as there was in the sale. I do think he's special, the best yearling I ever had in 17, 18 years at it. He's obviously gone to a top firm and hopefully he becomes what we think he is.”

It is some tribute to Time Test that his son should have suddenly exalted the commercial prowess of a 20-year-old mare, Aurelia (GB) (Rainbow Quest), whose overall sales record has hitherto been relatively ordinary–despite producing Harlequeen (GB) (Canford Cliffs {Ire}) to make the Oaks podium at both Epsom and The Curragh. (And actually both the third and fourth dams also produced a daughter to finish second in the Epsom Classic.)

Though Foley is well established at his Co Limerick farm, this was a new pinhooking venture with a couple of friends. “We knew that this lad would be a fair throw as a foal,” he explained. “So if he didn't work out, we thought with three of us involved the pain wouldn't be too much. Now we'll go back to the foal sales and try it all over again.”

Donald, conversely, had put all his eggs in one basket. “He was my favourite horse of the week,” he explained. “Of a list of four that we put together, we decided to skip three and hold out for him. But it was a gamble worth taking. He's a beautiful horse, the stallion's on fire and the mare has produced a third in the Oaks. He's a proper Classic type.”

Residue Counts At The End Of The Day

A frantic closing hour heightened a sense that plenty of prospectors had been thwarted by the sheer intensity of demand. But the copper-bottomed residual value of lot 1279 would have stood out at any point over the previous two days.

The Zoffany (Ire) filly is out of Curtsy (Ire), a Galileo (Ire) half-sister to the dam of Mishriff (Ire), who bids to enhance a glittering CV at Ascot on Saturday; and their group-winning mother is a half-sister to Invincible Spirit (Ire) and Kodiac (GB), i.e. also out of the great Rafha (GB). So while Curtsy could not advance her rating past 59 in a barren career, she does have a most aristocratic pedigree and Kilcarn Park were alert in picking her up for 95,000gns with an Almanzor (Fr) cover at the 2018 December Sale.

The resulting filly nearly retrieved that entire outlay in Book 2 last year, and here her sibling brought no less than 350,000gns from Thady Gosden, lurking in the stairwell alongside his father John–two gentlemen, of course, intimately acquainted with the merit of Mishriff.

“She's a very good-moving filly, there's plenty of scope and class about her,” said Gosden Jr. “Obviously it's very much the happening pedigree at the moment, one we know a bit about: it would be nice if she can be the same as Mishriff on the track. She's for a new client, and hopefully will do well for them.”

Patrick Cosgrove of Kilcarn Park was ecstatic that their sole entry in the sale had so rewarded their investment in the mare.

“Mishriff wasn't on the page when we bought her, so it's been great watching him since,” he said. “She was just a nice mare, by Galileo of course, and came within our budget. We're not the sort that can pay 200,000gns or 300,000gns. We thought we'd use a proven sire, after Almanzor, and to come back here after being happy with the price we got for that filly last year. We knew this one was popular, but if she'd made half that we would have been extremely happy.”

The mare is now in foal to Make Believe (GB) and has a colt foal by Bated Breath (GB).

Just minutes later precisely the same sum was paid by Matt Coleman, on behalf of an unnamed client of absent colleague Anthony Stroud, for a glistening Wootton Bassett (GB) filly [lot 1285] consigned by that stallion's former farm, Haras D'Etreham. This full sister to seasoned stakes operator Dave (Fr) was sold to Canirola Bloodstock for €120,000 at Arqana last December, and that bold roll of the dice has now paid off very handsomely.

“She's just a great-moving filly and we thought her pretty much the filly of the sale,” Coleman said. “We bought [Breeders' Cup winner] Audarya (Fr), so Wootton Bassett fillies have been lucky for us, and obviously he's become a fantastic sire.”

Ribchester Touch Leaves Breeder Lost For Words

Ribchester (Ire) may be waiting for his first stakes winner but that won't concern anyone who remembers the way he thrived on racing; nor anyone who saw his knockout son consigned by Barton Stud as lot 1099. Mick Kinane finally gained the day on behalf of the Hong Kong Jockey Club at 350,000gns, a price that caused breeder Tim Bostwick of Biddestone Stud to check an impulse to express himself more colourfully when asked for his reaction.

“I'm shocked,” he admitted, settling for a more decorous formula. “He is a cracking colt, and I still have lots of faith in the stallion, but that was much better than we could have expected.”

Ribchester is actually maintaining a perfectly healthy median for his second crop, barely down on his first, and that was the case even before factoring in this son of Vitello (GB) (Raven's Pass), whose second foal Andreas Vesalius (Ire) (Caravaggio) was runner-up in the G2 Anglesey S. this summer. The mare was culled by Godolphin as a 3-year-old for €55,000 at Goffs November five years ago.

“Once again I have to pay credit to Tom Blain and his team at Barton Stud,” Bostwick added. “All our mares board there, they just do such a fantastic job. Unfortunately the mare is barren this year, but she has a really nice Ten Sovereigns at foot. I believe Andreas Vesalius has been purchased to go to Hong Kong, which doubtless attracted these guys.”

“He was a standout for us,” affirmed Kinane. “He is a gorgeous horse–but that is a gorgeous price, too.”

McElroy Goes Out In Style

Touring the European yearling sales has become a pivotal exercise in the career of Ben McElroy, who rounded off this year's raid by winning a purposeful exchange for one of the morning's very first lots–and, judging from his comments afterwards, the last shall be pretty close to first when he debriefs his clients back in the U.S. on the best value among his 2021 exports.

After signing a 285,000gns docket for a Kodiac (GB) colt presented by Croom House Stud as lot 1049, the agent admitted: “I was worried what he might cost, I could see him making 400,000gns or 500,000gns just as easily. For me, he's the best colt in the sale–if not maybe the best horse I've seen since I have been over here. That's my quintessential horse, right there: a great mover, plenty of scope, and I loved the way he behaved out the back. I'm delighted to get him, I really think he's special.”

McElroy's affinity to the sire was of course sealed by his discovery of dual Royal Ascot winner Campanelle (Ire) in Book I two years ago for 190,000gns, and he had gone to 340,000gns for a Kodiac filly (lot 961) the previous evening.

This April colt is out of a half-sister to G2 Norfolk S. winner Baitha Alga (Ire) (Fast Company {Ire}) but McElroy hopes that a second dam by Fantastic Light might draw out a little stamina, too, while the fourth dam is the significant runner and producer Icing (Ire) (Prince Tenderfoot).

If At First You Don't Succeed…

Ed Sackville had a fairly intense few minutes in the early afternoon when venturing past 200,000gns for consecutive lots. Having ultimately been seen off by a bid of 220,000gns from Stuart Boman of Blandford Bloodstock for a Frankel filly consigned as lot 1148 by Hazelwood Bloodstock, he was not going to be thwarted for the next into the ring and, signing jointly with Dermot Farrington, secured a No Nay Never colt (lot 1149) from Camas Park Stud for 260,000gns. He was bought for Fitri Hay, who has yet to decide a trainer.

“He's a very strong colt who looked a real 2-year-old,” the agent reasoned. “And obviously he's by an outstanding stallion who just gets better and better.”

Camas Park helped to get No Nay Never started as co-breeder of his flagship son Ten Sovereigns (Ire) and Timmy Hyde Sr. is delighted that his fidelity to the stallion is continuing to pay off. The previous day Camas Park had sold another No Nay Never colt (lot 944) for 450,000gns, while a third brought 180,000gns as lot 1200.

The one secured by Sackville is out of Aljaazya, an unraced daughter of Speightstown and G1 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Matiya (Ire) (Alzao), who has already produced a stakes performer in Magical Journey (Ire). She is back in foal to that filly's sire Night Of Thunder (Ire).

“We have had a good run with him,” Hyde said of No Nay Never. “He looks like being a top stallion, doesn't he, with a Classic winner and everything else. This colt was fairly typical of the others we've had: very well-made horses with powerful backsides on them. And he looks particularly fast.”

As for the Frankel filly that eluded Sackville, her price obviously had to be placed in the context of a £175,000 covering fee. The mare who had warranted that kind of investment was Alderry (SAf), a group winner in her native land and responsible for G1 South African Derby winner Al Sahem (SAf) as her first foal.

“I respect the South African mares,” Boman said. “I've done a lot of research on them and think they're undervalued. And I thought this an outstanding filly, Book 1 quality to look at: with a European pedigree I think she would have been a 600,000-700,000gns filly. And Frankel is almost turning into a better stallion than he was a racehorse, dare I say.”

Yeomanstown's Sharp Eye Pays Off Again

Just minutes after Time Test produced his breakout headliner, another young stallion registered his best yearling dividend to date, a filly [lot 1203] by rookie sensation Ardad (Ire) consigned by Norris Bloodstock realizing 190,000gns from Manor House Stud. Bred by the Countess of Rothes, she is the first foal of Be My Angel (GB) (Dark Angel {Ire}), a winner in a light career for Henry Candy.

The challenge for Ardad now is to slipstream the kind of consolidation achieved by the prolific Mehmas (Ire), whose son [lot 1236] out of C'Est Ma Soeur (Ire) (Oratorio {Ire}) achieved a wonderful transformation at 250,000gns, having been knocked down to Yeomanstown Stud for just 38,000gns when brought here from Kingsfield Stud last December. Characteristically astute business by Yeomanstown, that; and likewise the conspicuous branding of speed.

Certainly it was unsurprising to hear what had drawn purchaser Donnacha O'Brien to this colt. “He looks the type to be out early,” said the young trainer, who was representing patrons Atlantic Bloodstock. “He's a beautiful strong horse, a real 2-year-old, and Mehmas has had a great season.”

Third dam Palacegate Episode (Ire) was herself a prolific operator in Group sprints, and is granddam of the top-class juvenile Dutch Art (GB).

David O'Callaghan of Yeomanstown Stud said: “He's a belter, big and strong, a powerful mover with a great action and by a top-class stallion. When we bought him we thought he'd make a lot more, and he sold well today.”

Yeomanstown is getting aboard the Mehmas express with Supremacy (Ire), whose disappointing second campaign won't inhibit the commercial appeal of his scores in the G1 Middle Park S. and G2 Richmond S. last year. “He has an unbelievable temperament,” O'Callaghan said. “It's great to get a Group 1 winner back on the farm, the first since Dark Angel (Ire) joined us in 2007.”

Stewart Keeps Filly For His Collection

Shamardal mares will doubtless be at their usual premium at the December Sale, so it stands to reason that one of a diminishing number of his remaining fillies to come onto the market should make 210,000gns as lot 1165.

Having secured the Giant's Causeway line so early in his own sire's career, Shamardal died in April 2020 after covering 31 mares in his final spring. And this member of his penultimate crop would arguably be worth her price as a breeding prospect even if she happens to fail on the track–a remote contingency, given that she is heading across town to the peerless James Fanshawe. For her family tapers into undiluted quality: her granddam is a half-sister to Danehill's multiple Grade I-Group 1 winners Artiste Royal (Ire) and Aquarelliste (Fr), their dam in turn placed in two Classics and a sibling to Arcangues (Sagace {Fr}).

No surprise, then, to discover that successful bidder Suzanne Roberts was operating for the filly's co-breeder Trevor Stewart, who was buying out his partners here. “Shamardal fillies are obviously a bit of a collectors' item at the moment,” Roberts observed. “And this is a sweet filly with good limbs.”

The filly was another credit to Ballyhimikin Stud, whose James Hanly paid due tribute to Helen and Dermot Jones and the “wonderful” team they have assembled.

“Some of the horses are owned by my wife and myself, but also we have a couple of partners who are also great friends and supporters,” Hanly said. “They've supported us through the bad times, of which there has been plenty–and we are always aware that they are never too far away. As long as we can get up in the morning and get around, then we're going well. If we can manage to sell a few horses as well, then that's great.”

And so, whatever the ups and downs of the market, say all of us.

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