Record-Breaking Rebound At Doncaster

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The joint sale-topping colt by Twilight Son | Goffs UK

DONCASTER, UK–Look, we all know to refrain from any bold pronouncements in such an uncertain world. But the same market that was last year first to be broadsided by the pandemic has now made consecutive statements: first one of cautious optimism and now, remarkably, one of record-breaking confidence. For if we left Newmarket last week reminding ourselves that a single swallow does not a summer make, then flight after flight seemed to fill the air at the Goffs UK Breeze-Up Sale.

Whatever the ups and downs that inevitably still await, make no mistake. This was a huge day not just for the breeze-up sector, not just for the auction house, but for the whole bloodstock industry in Europe. Even in the absence of important recent investors, the prospect of a return to the racetrack appears to have opened the sluice gates on pent-up demand for one of the great joys of the life we all want to retrieve: the Thoroughbred racehorse.

Of course, there has never in history been a horse sale where every single vendor skipped away like Morecambe and Wise at the end of the show, and there were duly one or two consignors still grumbling about their fortunes. As prospectors and vendors basked in glorious spring sunshine, however, only the deserted benches around the sales ring told of the lingering impact of Covid. For if obliged to keep their distance indoors, then bidders were found themselves frantically congested in terms of competition.

Comparisons with the auction salvaged here last July (amalgamated with Arqana) would be pretty pointless, but the fact is that this sale outpunched even the buoyant returns of the preceding couple of years, when the sector overall had been riding a sustained bull run.

Perhaps most heartening of all, as at the Tattersalls Craven Sale which last week opened the European calendar, was the median. There really was a solid spread of business, and those perennial complaints about the soft centre of the market were silenced here. A median of £34,000 compared with £26,000 in 2019, and £25,500 the year before. The £48,590 average, equally, exceeded £45,750 two years ago and £40,058 in 2018. And if it's the home run you're after, then the 15 six-figure sales notched on Thursday compared with 11 in 2019 and 13 the year before. Overall business of £6,219,500 represented a 22% gain on 2019 while the clearance rate, as has become commonplace in the Covid economy, was again very purposeful at 89%.

Goffs UK Managing Director Tim Kent was rightly ecstatic. “This is an incredible business and today has been an amazing day,” he said. “To have the ability to hold the sale on its original date and at its intended location was the first success. To then smash all records is something that we couldn't have envisaged in the lead-up to this sale, and the results are very positive for the industry and for our loyal vendors who really backed us with some very nice horses.

“This sale has a brilliant record on the track and has produced five Royal Ascot winners since 2016, a fact that was not lost on buyers at any point today. We would like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who purchased today, and we are sure that we will see many of them at Royal Ascot in eight weeks' time. In 2016, we saw two colts who shared the sale topping price–Prince Of Lir (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) and Ardad (Ire) (Kodiac {GB})–who went on to win the G2 Norfolk S. and Listed Windsor Castle S. that year.

“We hope that that is a good omen for this sale and we would also like to extend a big thank you to our vendors, who provided us with a catalogue of real depth to market to our international audience, whilst we would also like to thank Doncaster Racecourse who produced superb ground to show our breezers to maximum effect.”

Tally Ho Splits Top Lots

Horses run no faster or slower because of their price, as we know, and the petrified 2020 market here duly produced a £28,000 winner of the G3 Molecomb S. And it was the man responsible for that coup, Michael O'Callaghan, who for a long time topped proceedings here with the £210,000 he gave for lot 118, a colt by Twilight Son (GB) presented by Tally Ho Stud.

But the consignors, who had a remarkable day even by their standards, had an equivalent trick up their sleeves with the very last animal into the ring: a son of Galileo Gold (GB) who joined his draft companion at the head of the day's business with a £210,000 docket signed by Armando Duarte.

Both were apt measures of the Tally Ho genius. The Twilight Son colt was picked up for just €28,000 from Olive O'Connor Bloodstock as a short yearling at the Goffs February Sale of 2020. If you think about everything that has happened since, this really was a “touch” that seemed to bring things full circle.

“He was my pick of the sale, by a long way,” said Michael O'Callaghan, who credited namesake Roger for his endorsement of the colt. “He's from a great hotel that we've been extremely lucky with. I saw him at home three weeks ago, loved him, and he couldn't have come more highly recommended. He took the preliminaries so well, he walked round the parade ring like an old handicapper. Though hopefully that's the last time he looks like one of those.”

The Curragh trainer, back on a happy hunting ground, laid out over £500,000 for six purchases in all, including a £140,000 Footstepsinthesand (GB) colt presented as lot 151 by Woodtown House Stud. He had failed to meet his reserve at €29,000 at Goffs only last autumn. “He's a lovely horse, I saw him at the Curragh three weeks ago and have been admiring him since the online sale at Goffs,” O'Callaghan said. “I probably should have bought him then. But he did an excellent breeze here.”

Duarte, for his part, had saved his best until last. His purchase will be staying in England, but no more could be disclosed at this point. Though he conceded that Galileo Gold has achieved limited commercial traction, this lad belongs to his first crop and he clearly retains every right to make himself fashionable where it counts.

“And the mare has produced quite a good stakes horse,” he noted, referring to Acklam Express (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}), who had actually supplied a Group 1 update when placed in the Al Quoz Sprint since the publication of the catalogue. “He breezed very well, looks ready to run, and fits the bill as one that might have Ascot potential.”

Through the card Tally Ho sold 15 animals for £985,000 at an average £65,667.

McGivern Deserves Pinhook Of The Day

It's not hard to see where the Kodiac (GB) filly who came here from Derryconnor Stud might have found the resources to punch above her wait. Consignor Katie McGivern has been in the wars this spring but her fighting spirit evidently rubbed off on lot 154, who she bought for just £13,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Yearling Sale and turned into the fastest of all the breezers clocked here on Tuesday. That earned her a £180,000 docket signed by Oliver St. Lawrence on behalf of KHK Racing.

“I'm speechless, even though I can't stop talking,” said McGivern with an excited laugh. “I couldn't believe it when they kept going after £100,000. This is a life-changing result. I had no-one call and ask me for a half, so I actually own her outright. We're desperate for a straight gallop, so I suppose it'll have to go towards that.

“I love a Kodiac filly anyway and the first dam was two-for-two, one rated 90 and one rated 80, so she was a no-brainer if nobody wanted her on looks. She was a little small, and I had her vetted–which I never do–just to know that it was only her size that would be against her. Her homework has always been very good and consistent, but you still need luck on the day, you need them to keep straight and so on, and the rider did a great job.”

She may be indebted to the wit of auctioneer Nick Nugent for goading an extra bid or two as the impetus began to slow. “Come on,” he chided from the rostrum. “Do you want to be Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin?”

Mission control will now be the yard of Robert Cowell, whose brief was intimidatingly simple. “A fast, sharp Ascot 2-year-old,” St Lawrence said. “Katie says five or six furlongs, so we have a choice between the Queen Mary and the Albany. She's not the biggest but she's built like the proverbial brick 'outhouse', looks like a colt, and Robert loved her the moment he saw her. Times are important but I couldn't care whether they're first or 20th, you're only talking hundredths and what counts is that they look the business when they're doing it.”

Nay, Not Too Bad

An opening bid of £150,000 appeared to suggest that all the pre-sale talk about lot 74, a No Nay Never colt presented by Willie Browne, was going to be matched by ringside deeds. In the event, then, Browne permitted himself mild disappointment when Richard Brown of Blandford Bloodstock was able to secure an animal he prized so highly for 'just' £200,000.

“A little bit of an anti-climax, with all the action I had on him,” admitted the Mocklershill maestro, who presented the colt for breeders Meadowcourt Stud. “In a real strong market maybe he could have made a bit more. Listen, it's a fine price, but he's potentially very good. I haven't had one as good for a couple of years. Hopefully he's the real deal: he has lots of speed, but he'll stay too.”

If he's right, then what kind of bargain did Paul Nataf strike when acquiring the dam, an unraced daughter of Mastercraftsman (Ire), for just €11,000 through Baroda Stud at Goffs last November? Besides this colt she has just a yearling filly by Gleneagles (Ire), and she was sold with a Ten Sovereigns (Ire) cover.

“He's for a new owner who asked for one good colt out of the breeze-ups,” explained Brown, before putting in a call to John Gosden. “I thought he did a phenomenal breeze. There are some nice horses here, very forward, and for me he was the pick. Because while I think he can be a good summer 2-year-old, he has plenty of scope and I think he can train on as well. To be fair to Willie, he saw me drooling over the horse on Monday and he was very high on him.”

Cowell Sticking To Royal Formula

Robert Cowell is hoping that history will repeat itself after giving £170,000 for a Kodiac colt consigned as lot 52 by Bansha House Stables. That is precisely what he did here five years ago, virtually to the day, and two months later he had won the G2 Norfolk S. with Prince Of Lir (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}).

The Newmarket trainer signed for the colt in the company of Tim Palin of Middleham Park, who will race him in partnership with another client, Tom Morley. Whether or not he can emulate Prince Of Lir at Ascot, the hope is that he will prove a longer-term project.

“Ascot is the dream, but it's not the be-all and end-all,” Cowell said. “He has plenty of size and substance. He's not just a little 2-year-old, I hope he would have a lot more to him than that. We were looking for a nice fast horse that can hopefully repeat the kind of success we had with Prince Of Lir. We know he comes from a very good outfit, and he's a lovely specimen, with a good walk on him, and a great action. So all the stars aligned.”

It's certainly a brisk pedigree. The dam, a daughter of sale graduate Dream Ahead, has made a good start with her only runner to date being Operatic (Ire) (Showcasing {GB}), a dual winner at two last year; while the second dam is dual Group-winning sprinter Lidanna (GB) (Nicholas)–who holds down the same spot in the pedigree of G1 Prix de l'Abbaye winner Wizz Kid (Ire) (Whipper).

Con Marnane was delighted by the dividend on his £46,000 investment in the same ring last September.

“Over the moon,” the Bansha House consignor said. “We bought him off Plantation Stud and he's turned into a gorgeous horse, and it's a proper page. The sister is very talented, she was impressive in her two wins and the ground was very heavy when she was well beaten in the listed race at Newmarket after that. She could still be a very nice filly this year.”

As one of the stalwarts of the sector, Marnane was relieved by the buoyancy of trade, having candidly drawn in his horns in restocking.

“We're way down [in numbers],” he said. “We were just too scared and said we would only buy really nice yearlings. And thank God we did. I must thank our regular customers, because it's them that are coming back to us again and again. England is going to be back to normal way before other countries, so it's a pleasure to be here. In Ireland we've hardly sharpened the needles yet.”

Dance Continues Comeback Spree

The same family produced a good yield on lot 96, a May colt by New Bay (GB) who made £120,000 for Gaybrook Lodge Stud having been found by M.C. Bloodstock in Book 1 at Tattersalls last October for just 40,000gns. He's a half-brother to Wizz Kid, whose relationship to Robert Cowell's new Kodiac is noted above, and joins the team of breeze-up recruits being dynamically assembled by Manor House Stud.

That historic Middleham farm, freshly acquired for the revamped John Dance operation, was the top buyer at the Craven Sale last week with eight lots for an aggregate 1,035,000gns. The Classic quality of this colt's sire obviously balances out the family speed and the purchasing strategy duly looked consistent with the £140,000 acquisition of lot 76, who was certainly not a standardised, sharp-and-early type off the “Donny” conveyor belt.

This was a colt by Kingman (GB) out of a sister to Group 1 winner Jan Vermeer (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}), therefore a half-sister to another Ballydoyle high achiever in Together (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). He was pinhooked by Mags O'Toole out of Book 2 last October for 87,000gns.

“He was just very young-looking,” explained Oak Tree's Norman Williamson. “But he's a May foal and it's very hard to get your hands on a Kingman. He took his prep extremely well. He'll be a horse for later, maybe you'd see him September time, but to me he has a big future: we can all see how well-bred he is, and he's a tall, beautiful horse that should grow into something special.”

Manor House Stud ended the day with half a dozen new recuits at an aggregate £690,000, and the others did fit the traditional profile for this sale: a £120,000 Kodiac (GB) filly consigned by Powerstown Stud as lot 140, great work on a £33,000 punt here last year; a £100,000 Dark Angel colt from Malcolm Bastard, lot 166, found at the Orby for £45,000 by Richard Ryan; and, within the space of five minutes, £120,000 and £90,000 for two sons of the ubiquitous Mehmas (Ire) respectively consigned as Lots 124 and 126.

Mehmas is a prolific young stallion in every sense, duly the most represented in the catalogue with 17 entries. The market's pick at £150,000 turned out to be lot 41, the first foal of a Shamardal half-sister to Signoff (Ire) (Authorized {Ire}), a dual group winner in Australia, the pair out of another group winner in Circle Of Gold (Ire) (Royal Academy). This is the family of G1 St Leger winner Rule Of Law (Kingmambo), and Tom Goff duly hopes that this filly, presented by Glending Stables, will have more in her favour than the trademark precocity of her sire.

“She's from an extremely good farm,” the Blandford agent stressed. “And I thought her the best filly here by a country mile. She did a lovely breeze and I'd be very hopeful that besides having the class and speed to be a good 2-year-old, she would also have the scope and quality to go on next year. So I hope she won't just be one of those one-hit wonders, while I also hope she can be precocious enough too. The sire's obviously on fire, and she's out of a Shamardal mare, and goes back to a lovely Robert Sangster family.”

Goff could be no more specific of her destination than to say that she would be trained in Newmarket.

Roderick Kavanagh, her delighted consignor, has expanded to a draft of 14 breezers in his fifth year since inaugurating the Glending wing of his family's Kildaragh Stud. “She had great motion,” he said of a filly recruited via the Sportsman's Sale here for £25,000, signed for by Peter and Ross Doyle. “And she has been a joy ever since, straightforward all the way through. The Shamardal mare has been a great help and, though you dream of it, this was beyond all expectation.”

Collins Glad To Take The Blame

Pinhooking from the American market continues to yield great results for those of sufficient enterprise and this was an especially good day for Johnny Collins of Brown Island Stables.

He pulled off one of the touches of the day with a colt by Blame signed for by Chad Schumer at Keeneland last September for just $14,000. Here he realised £175,000 from Rabbah Bloodstock, who had earlier given £78,000 for a filly (lot 90) by the same sire in the same draft. Rabbah have proved a conspicuous inconvenience to anyone trying for nice American types at both the breeze-up sales in Europe so far.

“This was the last horse into the ring in Book 3,” Collins remembered of lot 172. “Travel was obviously difficult last year, but maybe that meant there weren't quite as many people going. But I've been going a long time and could hardly miss it, could I? I have sold two G2 Norfolk winners from America, Bapak Chinta (Speightstown) and South Central (Forest Camp). This was a nice square horse when I bought him and he's a nice square horse now.”

One of the best judges in the business had marked out the Jimmy Creed colt in the same draft as his pick, and Edgar Byrne was of like mind in giving $135,000 for lot 158, a $30,000 yearling at Keeneland. The colt will be joining Soren Jensen in Denmark.

“I've waited all day for him, so on a nice sunny day I've been walking my box,” said Byrne. “He's an extremely nice horse that came highly recommended by Johnny. They will have the dirt option out there if they need it, because Malmo is only down the road, but he obviously breezed very well on the turf here.”

Another transatlantic success, albeit in a much lower register, was a colt from the fourth crop of Carpe Diem picked up by Jim McCartan of Gaybrook Lodge for just $3,000 at Fasig-Tipton in Lexington last October. True, this was scarcely in the league of McCartan's legendary coup with Willie Browne at Arqana four years ago, when a $15,000 Street Sense colt evolved into a €1.4-million juvenile. But $52,000 from David Redvers for lot 21 still represented a fine percentage yield.

“It cost more to get him home than to buy him,” McCartan said. “I bought him at the end-of-year sale there and he was just a little bit backward, he needed to furnish a little. But he took his preparation very well and developed all the way through and turned out a very nice horse who could gallop well.”

Bringing American pedigrees into a notoriously parochial market has its obvious dangers, but the devotion of so many prospectors to breeze data means that the way the model functions can redeem any uncertainty even about dirt stallions. But then Carpe Diem is the only son of Giant's Causeway to have won a Grade I on dirt, and damsire More Than Ready resembles that legend in having established his versatility in different racing environments.

“He was a very good individual, to be fair, with a lot of More Than Ready about him-and I've been lucky with that horse,” McCartan said. “Most of the time you do need a [familiar] sire but there are an awful lot of horses to choose from, 4,000 or so at Keeneland, and if you're prepared to work hard you might come across one or two.”

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