Record-Breaking Justify Colt Stars At Arqana – But Middle Market Still Tricky

Norman Williamson congratulates Anthony Stroud | Zuzanna Lupa


Norman Williamson set a new record for the highest-priced horse sold at the Arqana Breeze-Up Sale when his Justify colt was knocked down to Anthony Stroud on behalf of Godolphin for €2.3 million on what was a banner day for the stallion. 

The result came less than an hour after Eddie O'Leary broke his own personal record for the highest priced achieved at a breeze-up sale when his Lynn Lodge Stud-consigned Justify colt went the way of Alex Elliott on behalf of Amo Racing for €1 million before the same outfit sold a filly by the stallion to Coolmore deep into the session for €800,000. 

However, while such sales exemplify the booming trade at the top, the theory that Brexit was to blame for the shakey underbelly to the market at the breeze-up sales in Britain this year was kicked to the curb with just a 76% [down from 83% last year] clearance rate posted on Saturday after a significant number of private sales. The aggregate did climb 3.5% to €21,836,500 while the average was up by 9% to €165,428 and the median fell by €10,000 to €100,000. 

Williamson is no stranger to big-ticket results, and can point to Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Native Trail (GB) as being the most high-profile horse that has charted a path from his renowned Oak Tree Farm to Godolphin, but even he admitted to feeling the pressure this breeze-up season. 

The visibly emotional consignor said shortly after the sale, “It's been a stressful week to say the least. He pulled a shoe after the practice breeze and stood on the nail so we have been minding that for a few days. But then he breezed exceptionally well. His breeze was out of this world-as we all know, he did the fastest time here. 

“It's been fabulous-I couldn't have dreamed of a result like that. I knew all the right players were on him but I didn't think he'd go to that. But he is by the right sire and he is very good-looking. Godolphin has been lucky with me on Native Trail.”

Williamson added, “It's very emotional because so much work goes in behind the scenes. It's probably worse for me because I ride them all myself and know what they are capable of. It's a tough business but it's a great business when it works. It's tougher than ever. They [the buyers] are gone very particular on times and other things. You need the good horses to pay for the others.”

The Justify colt represents an outstanding piece of pinhooking from Williamson. Sourced at the Keeneland September Sale for just $150,000, the colt out of black-type High Chaparral (Ire) mare Inchargeofme (GB) looks very well bought now. 

Williamson said, “He looked like a turf horse when we bought him whereas the Justifys in America are big, dirt horses. Like, Eddie's horse who made a million earlier, he's a big, strong horse and I think that's what the Americans like. I think this lad will suit Europe and there's a lot of High Chaparral to him. I liked that about him. I had a very good horse by High Chaparral called Contributer (Ire) so everything was right for me anyway.”

And everything was right for Godolphin, too. Lot 110 is now set to be trained by Charlie Appleby with Stroud left tipping his hat once again to the consignor for coming up trumps with another high-class prospect. 

He said, “He's a very nice horse and we loved his breeze. The consignor sold us Native Trail so he was one horse we wanted to take home to Moulton Paddocks. It's early days yet but Justify is truly a remarkable stallion.”

Asked if he was expecting Coolmore to stage such a staunch counter effort to Stroud's bidding, he replied, “I wish it hadn't [gone to such a level]. Coolmore are fantastic judges so you were going to be bidding against them because he was an outstanding horse.”

On the market, he added, “At breeze-ups, there is a percentage who perform very well, so they will be in demand. There is a percentage who don't hit the chart so it is very polarised. 

“For the consignor, it's a very difficult discipline to get right but, when it does go right, it's a big payday for them. They deserve everything that they achieve and a lot of good horses have come out of the breeze-ups. Vandeek (GB) (Havana Grey {GB}) came out of the breeze-ups last year and Native Trail came before him. Over the years, a lot of very good horses have come out of these sales.”



O'Leary: 'He Could Be A Freak – We'll Never Be Able To Afford Another Justify'

O'Leary was left thanking his lucky stars about the fact that he was able to get in on Justify before the share price sky-rocketed. Bought for $135,000 at the September Yearling Sale at Keeneland, lot 62 is out of Galileo (Ire) mare Curlylocks (Ire), herself a full-sister to Churchill (Ire), and the colt certainly lived up to his billing when going the way of Amo Racing. 

“I was expecting him to sell well as he was very popular and the right guys were on him,” O'Leary said. “It was a magic result. I hope he is seriously lucky for Amo and I thank them very much. He's a double of his Dad. I even have a photograph of his Dad as a yearling to show people how alike they are. Listen, Justify is an unbelievable stallion and we won't be able to buy them again. It's great to be able to sell two of them this week and hopefully they go on to be lucky.”

Asked if he was expecting Justify to take off in the way that he has over the past six months, O'Leary added, “No, but I was watching. You could buy a Justify at Keeneland last September. We'll never be able to buy them again. It's magic, but it won't happen again, so we better enjoy it.”

Lynn Lodge Stud has sold horses for more than a million before but never at a breeze-up sale meaning even O'Leary could admit that Saturday's result was a special one. 



He concluded, “Sure it's great-I'll take a million anywhere! It's a fantastic result but what they all make put together is what counts. I've never got this sort of money for a breezer. I got 760,000gns for Great White Eagle (Elusive Quality) and 800,000gns for a Kingman (GB) filly at the Craven but never got a million for a breezer before this. Breezers don't make that sort of money so it's just fantastic. 

“For a big horse to do what he did, he must be an unnatural talent. He could be a freak-he's so big but yet he's so agile and he knows where his feet are. His knees are closed and his joints are like steel. He found me, I didn't find him.”

The Justify colt headlined a strong afternoon's buying by Amo boss Kia Joorabchian. As well as that lot, which was signed for by Elliott, the team also struck early in the session for a Too Darn Hot (GB) filly from Yeomanstown Stud for €800,000.



On the Justify colt, Elliott commented, “He's a standout horse for us. What can you say about a horse you think has everything? For the way the stallion has gone, even since September when this horse was bought, he's been doing unbelievable things. He's been bought for Amo Racing and we're trying to buy the best we can. Hopefully he's one of them. 

“We've got a very big horse in the stable called King Of Steel (Wootton Bassett {GB}). If we can get this horse anywhere near emulating what he's done then we'll all be very happy. He's got size, scope, strength, pedigree, his dam's a sister to Churchill. When you give that money for a horse you need to be pretty sure you're buying the right article and we're all hoping, but, and it's an awful cliche, he's ticked all the boxes.”

He added, “Kia is very keen to buy the best he can and hopefully that's what we're doing as a team. You never know what these horses might make, it's just a case of whose appetite is there for the horse. You never really know where they're going to fall but that was what we were thinking he'd cost. If he's good, he could look cheap.”

Meanwhile, it was Robson Aguiar who signed for the Too Darn Hot filly, with the Brazilian native revealing that lot 19 would likely be trained by Dominic Ffrench Davis.

Coolmore had to be patient to sign for a Justify of their own, but Lynn Lodge Stud's filly [lot 187] by the stallion may have been worth the wait. 

It was Elliott again who signed for the daughter of GI Canadian International winner Sarah Lynx (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}), bought by Mags O'Toole at Keeneland in September for $110,000. 

“There's a little bit of deja vu from earlier in the day,” said Elliott. “She's a beautiful filly by Justify out of a Grade I winner. She breezed exceptionally well but I think she'll take a bit of time as she's more of a three-year-old type. For her to show that pace and balance and poise in the breeze, she's got the potential to be an exceptional filly.”

He added, “We did well here last year buying a filly called Classical Song who ran fourth in the Fillies' Mile. Hopefully this filly can win her maiden and go along the same lines as a two-year-old, but I see her being a Classic type of filly at three. She's been acquired by Coolmore and everyone was keen to get her, but no trainer has been decided yet.”



Talking Points

  • Blandford Bloodstock was out on its own as the leading buyer after signing for 11 horses to the tune of €2,775,000. Richard Brown was responsible for the headline acts–a €650,000 McKinzie colt (lot 40) from Malcom Bastard, a Blue Point (Ire) colt (lot 138) for €550,000 from Willie Browne and Jim McCartan's Not This Time colt (lot 55) for €460,000. 
  • Justify was the dominant force with four lots by the stallion selling for €4,390,000. Not only that, but it was fascinating to see that American-based stallions made up six of the top 10 slots on aggregate and average.
  • It wasn't just the American-bred horses that played a prominent role at Arqana. Owner Mike Repole was a familiar name on the buyers' sheet after snapping up colts by Siyouni (Fr) (lot 165) and Too Darn Hot (lot 10) for €360,000 and €250,000, respectively. 
  • Anna Calder of Leamore Horses opened up to TDN Europe this week about what has been her toughest year yet in the consignment ranks. After breaking her leg in January, Calder called on the likes of John Cullinan, Blarney Holland and Roger Marley to help get the horses prepared for the sales. It clearly worked a treat with her Bolt D'Oro colt (lot 158), bought for $95,000 back in September, selling to Anthony Stroud for €400,000.

Up And Down Week For Hassett

Some days you are the dog, the next, you are the lamppost. Nobody knows that better than Johnny Hassett who, after suffering a broken leg when holding one of his own horses ahead of the breeze on Thursday, watched on from his hospital bed in France as his Bloodstock Connection cleared over €1 million.

Heading that seven-strong draft for Hassett was a Sea The Stars (Ire) colt (lot 15) to Anthony Stroud for €430,000. The profit in that colt wasn't insignificant, either, given he was purchased for €160,000 at Orby Book 2.

Hassett also enjoyed a fine result with his Too Darn Hot filly–a €100,000 Orby Book 1 purchase–selling to trainer Fabrice Chappet for €400,000. 

Recalling how he ended up watching the breeze-up sale from a hospital bed, Hassett said, “I was bringing the Too Darn Hot [filly] [lot 143] over and sometimes these horses can get a bit excited at the start. She jumped forward, got in front of me a little bit and kicked out. 

“She kicked me just below the knee at the top of the tibia. The bone is shaped like a funnel and it broke off half the funnel, so he's broken the tibia and part of the knee joint, which makes it quite sore, I can tell you!”

The consignor added, “I got taken away in an ambulance but I'm lucky that I have a really good team. I couldn't really talk for the first day or two and I didn't have reception or Whatsapp so they just had to do their thing. They came and met me every night and we went through the lists and then we had a morning meeting between seven and eight.”



Bargary Pays Emotional Tribute To Jockey Michael Byrne

After selling his Invincible Spirit (Ire) filly (lot 15) for €145,000, Colin Bargary paid an emotional tribute to Michael Byrne, the former jockey who died at the age of 36 last week.

A €45,000 yearling purchase at Tattersalls Ireland, the sale to agent Eric Libaud represented one of the best pinhooks to date for Drumonna House, but there was no cheering afterwards at Barn C given the Byrne family were closely in Bargary's thoughts. 

He said, “She was a quality filly and we're delighted by how she breezed. It's a good result for everyone involved and the team at home but, to be honest, we're all thinking about the Byrne family over here. It's been a very tough week for everyone and things like that just puts things into perspective.”

Brother to prominent breeze-up handler Stephen, and son of the former high-class National Hunt jockey turned trainer Michael snr, Michael was best known for his successful spell riding in England. 

Golden Touch

Lot 137
Earthlight (Ire) colt out of Macrame (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire})
Consigned by Shanaville Stables
Bought by Hubert Guy Bloodstock for €170,000 having been sourced for just €37,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland September Yearling Sale
Take a bow Eoin McDonagh. The man behind Shanaville Stables recorded a sale to remember when his €37,000 Earthlight colt rocked into €170,000. Out of an unraced Montjeu mare, lot 137 recorded an eye-catching breeze and certainly wasn't missed by the market to deliver a notable result for the first-season sire and vendor. 

Thought For The Day

There could have been some serious value going begging at Arqana on Saturday. Many of the top vendors and buyers were in agreement that the catalogue of horses assembled was completely up to scratch but the figures  tell you everything you need to know about the trade. The middle market remains in a tricky place and it would make you question whether there is a need for two extra breeze-up sales in Ireland next year.

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