Slow Start to Tattersalls Autumn Horses-in-Training Sale

Lot 323, Asiaaf, topped the sale | Tattersalls


NEWMARKET, UK–A sale like this will always be rather a law unto itself. The quality on offer won't be as consistent, year to year, as a cross-section selected from each new crop for graded catalogues of younger stock. And the distribution of such quality as does appear, across a four-session auction, will be no less variable.

So let's not leap to any premature conclusions about a steep decline in returns from the opening day of the Autumn Horses-in-Training at Tattersalls. The coveted Juddmonte draft, for one thing, has this time been moved back from Monday to Wednesday–when the agenda will also include the small matter of the horse that started favourite for the Derby.

In this same ring, of course, the yearling market disclosed stunning resilience through all tiers of the October Sale. By the same token, if trainers are somehow managing to keep their patrons in the game, then a recycling facility like this may well, in many cases, serve to reduce commitments and so fund the next phase.

An unbroken yearling, after all, is always an act of faith. Who knows? You might even dare to picture them winning in front of teeming stands, and celebrating in unhindered conviviality. But time is seldom on the side of these prospects. If you're lucky, you might be looking at a work in progress; and 2020 is hardly the most propitious year for a horse to be heading the other way.

Equally, it would be no surprise if some good horses have been retained, rather than cashed in at such a precarious moment.

The one thing we do know to expect, in 2020, is a business-like clearance rate: sure enough, 84% percent found a new home, down only slightly from what had been a very brisk 87% last year.

Business totalled 4,138,500gns, a 46% slump from 7,696,700gns last year–a figure, as remarked, that included 1,577,000gns of Juddmonte bluebloods. With a pretty similar number into the ring (292, compared with 305), that translated into an average down 42% to 16,961gns from 29,044gns; and a median similarly sliding all the way down to 9,000gns from 13,500gns (-33%).

Durcan Sees Fast Track to Asiaaf's Future

One of the best angles for prospectors at a sale like this is the filly that might attract more competition as a broodmare prospect at the December Sale. That might conceivably have been the case for Asiaaf (GB) (New Approach {Ire}), given that the Shadwell 3-year-old is out of a sister to Dunboyne Express (Ire) (Shamardal), a dual Group 1 winner in Hong Kong and Singapore; and that their dam, in turn, is a half-sister to Classic winner and producer Love Divine (GB) (Diesis {GB}).

But nobody was missing the fact that lot 323, in racing terms, still has plenty of miles on the clock. She has so far made just five starts for Marcus Tregoning, reaching a rating of 86 via a Goodwood maiden success and a couple of strong runner-up finishes in handicap company. Sure enough, Ted Durcan was forced to top the session at 165,000gns to land her.

“I've been watching her all summer,” the astute jockey-turned-agent said. “She was my pick of the sale, especially filly-wise, and she'll have a future whatever. But my thinking is that her only average run was on soft ground, and she'll be a lovely filly for a faster surface next spring and summer. She's a lovely model, big and scopey, and she'll improve. It's a big plus that she's come from Marcus's hotel. He is such a marvellous horseman and brings them all along so well.”

Beyond confirming that she will be staying in England, Durcan was not yet in a position to divulge either her new owner or trainer.

Channon Serves up Another Ace

When you think how many yearlings will have been bought for similar money this autumn, with an aspiration to plenty of good sprint action, it's hard to imagine that many will achieve the “oven-ready” level represented by Nastase (GB) (Sixties Icon {GB}) (lot 302), who realized 120,000gns from Will Douglass of Charlie Gordon-Watson Bloodstock. He will be joining Gassim Mohammed Ghazali in Qatar.

Only two days earlier Nastase had backed up his recent listed success at York with a solid fourth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, in the G3 Horris Hill S. at Newbury-his first attempt beyond six furlongs. That was already his eighth start since mid-July for trainer Mick Channon, who bred the youngster himself using a stallion who has served him splendidly well over the years.

“A very consistent, honest, straightforward horse,” enthused Douglass. “And sound as a pound. He was on the radar after York and ran a nice race on Saturday. He just keeps doing it, and hopefully there is plenty more to come.”

Ghazali is a regular visit to this sale but was confined to online observation this time. Douglass noted that Ghazali made a fruitful purchase here last year when giving 88,000gns for Sir Arthur Dayne (Ire) (Sir Prancealot {Ire}). Another typically hardy West Ilsley sort, he had racked up 11 juvenile starts and has since won a valuable local prize for Ghazali.

Gordon-Watson himself applauded Channon's choice of name for the colt, who is out of Rough Courte (Ire) (Clodovil {Ire}), albeit strictly Ilie Nastase was more of a Seventies Icon.

Another youngster named after a glamorous sportsman is Coulthard (Ire) Coulsty (Ire). He, too, has already met standards for Michael O'Callaghan that will arguably elude many a yearling purchased for more than the 90,000gns he made here (as lot 276) from Meah Lloyd Bloodstock. Though still a maiden after five starts, he has already soared to a mark of 98 in pursuit of some classy rivals, notably when third in the G3 Round Tower S.

Nicholls Makes a Wise Choice

Horse people are as flexible as their horses and a switch of codes for Wise Glory (Ire) (Muhaarar {GB}) (lot 263) will match the youthful versatility of Megan Nicholls, who signed a 135,000gns docket on behalf of her father, multiple champion jumps trainer Paul.

Nicholls, whose riding career on the Flat will this winter dovetail with a resumed jumps licence, thanked agents Tom Malone, Alex Elliott and Stephen Hillen for mentoring her as she has honed her eye through the yearling sales season.

“It's something that massively interests me, and Dad has been very encouraging,” she explained. “Hopefully between myself, Dad and Buffy [Shirley-Beavan, vet], we can keep learning and have a bit of success.”

Here she had picked out a 3-year-old rated 86 for Simon and Ed Crisford, having added a handicap on the July Course to his maiden success at Leicester in June.

“Obviously he'll be going back to Dad with the idea of going juvenile hurdling,” Nicholls said. “He has a lovely big frame to fill, and the more time we can give him, the better, because you'd think there's plenty more in the engine.”

Having ridden out for the Crisfords last year, Nicholls has always had an eye on the horse. “He only ran once at two, but he was a big horse and they looked after him well,” she said. “They're never too hard on their horses, which I like. He's already a gelding, which is a plus, as he won't need time for that. But he stays a mile and a half and goes in soft ground, and just has the right profile for us.”

De Seroux Hopes to Build on Best of Foundations

One of the paradoxes of this market is that it will set a premium on horses presented by perceived under-achievers. Conversely, those respected for realizing every ounce of potential sometimes pay a price for their skill.

It has become a great help to the Ballydoyle draft, then, that a number of the record-breaking stable's graduates have actually gone on to do well elsewhere. Indeed, Sir Dragonet (Ire) (Camelot {GB})–sold privately to a group put together by Ozzie Kheir–had won the G1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate just a couple of days before the sale.

So Emmanuel de Seroux of Narvick International could permit himself corresponding optimism in signing the first six-figure docket of the day, at 110,000gns, for a colt as well-bred and lightly-raced as Numen (Ire) (Galileo {GB}).

The 3-year-old, offered as lot 223, entered Ballydoyle in a program of collaboration between the stable's owners and breeder Flaxman Stables, and looked a useful prospect winning a Leopardstown maiden in June. He then chased home his flourishing stablemate Delphi (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) in a listed race at the same track, only to disappoint in a Gowran handicap on his only subsequent start. But it is still early days, and Seroux was able to point at the depth of his page to support the hope that there could still be plenty to come: Numen's dam is none other than the Niarchos family's dual Classic winner Divine Proportions (Kingmambo). Her previous foals include group winner Eightfold Path (Giant's Causeway), while this is also the family of contrasting achievers in Whipper (Miesque's Son) and Shirley Heights (GB) (Mill Reef).

“He would have cost ten times more as a yearling,” De Seroux reasoned with a smile. “He's not over-raced, and we hope he has a future. I don't know where, my client has not decided, but it will be on the Flat-possibly here, possibly North America. We'll give him a little time and hope he can come back strongly. He's a very good mover and has all the options.”

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