Tattersalls Autumn Horses-In Training Sale Off To A Strong Start

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Michael Donohoe signed for Monday's two top-priced lots | Tattersalls

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NEWMARKET, UK–Well, if the astounding yearling market is to make any kind of sense, then this one needs to prove every bit as strong. And the early signs, after the opening session of the Tattersalls Horses-in-Training Sale, are that those who invested so heavily in new stock at the October Sale can pin their hopes on other dividends beyond the notorious limits to domestic prizemoney.

Year-on-year comparisons at an auction like this must carry a caveat, granted the random element in the calibre and distribution of the best stock. But in the context of the overall market, which has absorbed the shock of the pandemic with such buoyancy, it seems reasonable to accept at face value a return the levels achieved in the first session in 2019. For while this sector did suffer more than most in 2020–when the surprising resilience of the yearling market was perhaps complemented by a “fire sale” mentality with horses that had shown their hand–the recovery in values appears to form a fairly perfect 'V'.

So even if we set aside a giddy elevation in Monday's trade compared with last year–condensed by leaps of 72% in turnover (7,126,000gns for 263 sales from 4,138,500gns for 244); 60% in average (27,095gns from 16,961gns); and 78% in median (16,000 from 9,000gns)–then the session performed pretty well in step with the equivalent one in 2019, where turnover of 7,696,700gns for 265 sales yielded an average of 29,044gns and median of 13,500gns. The median, key to that critical middle market, performed exceptionally well and the clearance rate also attested to demand, up to 88% from 84%.

Who can say how long racetrack competition in this country can sustain international credibility when prizemoney so clearly does not? It's a precarious and paradoxical foundation for viability, but once again conspicuous overseas investment–notably from the Middle East–testified to enduring faith, for now, that the priceless heritage of British racing guarantees the quality that purse money cannot.

Horoscope Retains Bright Future

Another conundrum, and one unique to this market, is that the best stables sometimes pay a price for their own excellence, purchasers being sceptical of their own ability to eke out further improvement. But the way Horoscope (Ire) (No Nay Never) has continued to thrive on a busy campaign for the peerless Aidan O'Brien prompted hectic demand as soon as he entered the ring as lot 302. Indeed, someone tried to hit the ball out of the park with an opening bid of 100,000gns, but that bold flourish was soon placed in perspective and it ultimately took a single intervention from BBA Ireland, at 325,000gns, to land the colt for undisclosed Middle Eastern clients.

Horoscope admittedly disappointed in the G2 Challenge S. on his latest start, but had been progressing markedly before that, with a listed success at Killarney setting up a storming finish for a close third (and an official rating of 110) in Group 2 company at Leopardstown. He has a pedigree to support his improvement, too, with none other than Sonic Lady (Nureyev) as third dam and a plethora of black-type performers and producers under her unraced daughter Lady Icarus (GB) (Rainbow Quest).

“He's a good-looking horse with the pedigree to be a stallion down the road,” said Michael Donohoe after signing the docket. “With that rating he can run in all those top races in the Emirates, he goes on quick ground, and he's versatile.”

Investment from the Gulf drove much of the day's trade and the very next lot in the draft, Lough Derg (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) (lot 307), was another case in point. Having been just run out of a group prize at Dundalk last month, he brought 120,000gns from Peter Doyle and Najd Stud.

On the face of it, two other sons of Galileo (Ire) offered by Coolmore earlier in proceedings had achieved pretty much what they were bred to do, having respectively finished third in the Derby and St Leger.

Amhran Na Bhfiann (Ire) (lot 237) made the podium at 66-1 behind stablemate Serpentine (Ire) at Epsom last year, in one of the more mystifying races in Derby history. This summer he confirmed sufficient ability to romp away with the G2 Curragh Cup, but he has since been beaten an aggregate 71 lengths in three starts and CUB Bloodstock, bidding online, was able to land him for 78,000gns.

The Mediterranean (Ire) (lot 238), in contrast, was third in the oldest Classic only last month, and runner-up in the G2 Great Voltigeur S. before that. He may not have absorbed his Doncaster effort when stepped up to two miles in a couple of subsequent outings, and it will be interesting to monitor his future endeavours for Domeland, whose 100,000gns bid was also made remotely.

Magic Still Casting A Spell

Donohoe had earlier ensured that I Am Magic (Ire) (Magician {Ire}) remains well named, sealing a second lucrative pinhook cycle.

Found as a yearling by Aguiar Bloodstock for just 14,000gns at the Ascot Yearling Sale, he breezed at the Craven Sale here with sufficient dash to advance his value to 95,000gns. That has in turn proved to be a good investment for Michael O'Callaghan, whose stable has developed an astute niche as a trading nursery. A maiden winner at the Galway Festival, he had appeared to struggle with a rise in grade on his next two starts and was duly sent off at 66-1 for the G3 Killavullan S. at Leopardstown just nine days before the sale. But he really put himself in the shop window there, worn down only in the closing stages to be beaten a length in third, in the process hoisting his rating to 101.

That persuaded Donohoe to go to 200,000gns for lot 257, again on behalf of an unnamed client in the Middle East. “The immediate plan would be the Saudi Derby,” the agent explained. “He should get into the race with the rating he has, and should get the trip well. I've been following his career all the way through, I saw him breeze and was at Leopardstown last week when he ran so well. He has plenty of size and scope, and looks the type that will keep getting better as a 3-year-old.”

Blueberry's Fruitful Investment

Touch of the day was completed when Atalis Bay (GB) (Cable Bay {Ire}) entered the ring as lot 358. Picked up as a short yearling by Scuderia Blueberry SRL for just 800gns at the February Sale here in 2019, he has since won five races in 12 starts for Marco Botti, including a listed sprint at Sandown–and here advanced his value to 130,000gns from Tom Morley and Middleham Park to join Robert Cowell.

“We're setting up a little syndicate between Middleham and Tom,” said Cowell. “They had a nice 2-year-old this year [Dynamic Force (Ire) (Kodiac {GB})], so we're trying to stay lucky. He looks like something we can do well with.”

“He's a very fast horse, he was second to Winter Power (Ire) (Bungle Inthejungle {GB}) at York and that's pretty decent form,” reasoned Tim Palin of Middleham Park. “He's still a colt, so the dream is very much alive that he could be a superstar. The way he won at Sandown was brilliant, and I can see him winning heritage handicaps or maybe even better.”

In the meantime, all credit to his previous owners for a terrific investment–and to Botti for his skilled contribution to a real rags-to-riches tale.

Opportunity In Shadwell Draft

The Shadwell cull that dominates this catalogue has created an unusual opportunity in the release of many horses that remain “work in progress.” A group of juveniles in this session, for instance, included Majalh (Ire) (Siyouni {Fr}) (lot 191). Earlier this month, fitted in a tongue-tie for his third start, he had won a Brighton maiden by four lengths for William Haggas. With a granddam so closely related to Fame And Glory (GB) (Montjeu {Ire}), further progress seems likely and that drove Jassim Mohamed Al Ghazali, bidding remotely online, to 155,000gns.

The Qatari trainer, usually such a reliable presence at this sale, was regretfully unable to travel this time owing to ongoing Covid restrictions. But Will Douglass, who assists his shopping here, said: “This horse was very well presented and produced by Shadwell, and ticks all the boxes: by Siyouni out of a Sea The Stars (Ire) mare, he's just a 2-year-old and it looks as though there's more to come from him.”

While Majalh will be continuing his career in the desert, the previous lot into the ring was a case of cutting to the chase for Paul McCartan of Ballyphilip Stud, who will retire Falaj (GB) (Kodiac {GB}) (lot 190) unraced. In giving 100,000gns for this half-sister to group-placed sprinter Fashion Queen (GB) (Aqlaam {GB}), after all, McCartan was only matching what she had cost Shadwell in the same ring as a foal. Besides throwing two years' keep into the package, Falaj has meanwhile been distinguished by her half-sister's son Asymmetric (Ire) (Showcasing {GB}), winner of the G2 Richmond S. and placed in the G1 Prix Morny this summer for Alan King.

Ballyphilip famously gave us Battaash (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) and Harry Angel (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) and more of the same seems possible from a family replete with stakes sprinters including G2 Flying Childers and G3 Molecomb winner Wunders Dream (Ire) (Averti {Ire}), a half-sister to Falaj's dam. The dam of Battaash, remember, was bought at this auction nine years ago for just 14,000gns.

“This sale has been lucky for us,” McCartan said. “And we loved her pedigree: Asymmetric is a good horse and his half-brother was stabled next to us this year, a Gleneagles (Ire) colt from Redpender, and he's a beautiful-looking horse. We have a breeding right in Showcasing (GB) so she may go to him.”

There was the customary interest in older Shadwell stock, too. Montather (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), for instance, brought 140,000gns as lot 280 from Stuart Boman of Blandford Bloodstock on behalf of Ciaron Maher Racing. The 4-year-old has needed patience, mustering just three starts across his first two seasons, but has settled on a mark of 94 and the agent said he considers him tailormade for Australia.

“Roger has handled the horse beautifully,” Boman said. “We've had a bit of luck at this sale over the years, and I think this is a very talented horse who will appreciate the faster pace in Australia, because he can get a little bit keen, and he loves firm ground too.”

Hoping For Another Mishriff

Seeing is believing, and while few would have viewed Make Believe (GB) as an obvious dirt influence before his son Mishriff (Ire) took to the surface with such lucrative effect in the Saudi Cup, then compatriots of his owner Prince A.A. Faisal were clearly inspired in giving 135,000gns for the homebred 3-year-old Third Kingdom (GB) (lot 201).

Assumptions about the versatility of bloodlines do tend to be self-fulfilling, being so rarely tested. Regardless, this colt responded to blinkers in spectacular fashion for John and Thady Gosden at York last month, winning a handicap by eight and a half lengths. That performance belatedly renewed the promise he had shown with a similarly emphatic maiden success last year, and secured a new rating of 103.

In fairness, unlike Mishriff, Third Kingdom's maternal family contains a number of blatant clues that dirt might prove congenial, notably a second dam whose half-brother Tejano Run (Tejano) ran second in the GI Kentucky Derby. (Dam Spring In The Air {Spring At Last} did win the GI Alcibiades S. but that was during Keeneland's synthetic experiment.)

So it'll be interesting to see how he fares for Najd Stud, who were represented here by Peter Doyle and Saad Bin Mashraf, who confirmed: “We like the breeding for the dirt, especially on the dam's side, we think he will improve on that surface.”

Descent Taking Off

Increasing competition from Australian and Saudi Arabian investors has made this sale much tougher going for jumps trainers than was the case a few years ago, but Anthony Bromley secured a nice staying prospect for Warren Greatrex in Line Of Descent (Ire) (Nathaniel {Ire}), who made 135,000gns as lot 269.

Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum's homebred gelding, unraced at two, has been brought along to a rating in the mid-80s in the expert care of Simon and Ed Crisford, while remaining unexposed and with obvious scope for his new career.

“He's been bought for my new landlords, Jim and Claire Bryce,” said Greatrex. “We've bought a few nice horses for them recently and they wanted a juvenile, and this horse fitted the bill. We know the Nathaniels jump, and they improve with age. Time will tell but he looks the part so fingers crossed.”

Greatrex has sent out three winners from his new base in Lambourn, Rhonehurst, and hopes that this horse can emulate one of his first flagbearers, Barwell Bridge (GB) (Red Ransom), bought at this auction for 80,000gns before running fifth in the Triumph Hurdle. “But it's a hard sale,” he admitted. “You need a good budget to buy a good one here.”

If At First You Don't Succeed…

Perseverance paid off for breeders Hunscote Stud with Cairn Gorm (GB) (Bated Breath {GB}), who failed to reach his reserve here as a foal, at just 19,000gns, and again at Doncaster as a yearling, at £35,000. Retained to race in partnership, he won his first three for Mick Channon as a juvenile, including a group race in France, before stabilising on a mark in the mid-90s with a solid handicap campaign this time round. That qualified him to meet the brief of James Couldwell of Value Racing Club, operating on behalf of a shareholder who could now afford to raise his sights to 105,000gns for lot 252.

“Richard Sanderson has been a member with the racing club for some time, but recently sold his business and wanted a horse of his own who could run at the top weekend meetings,” Couldwell said. “The budget was 100,000gns, but we weren't to lose out for an extra bid. That's how it worked out, but we couldn't have gone again. We're usually spending around 30,000gns, so it was a bit nerve-wracking.

“He'll be going to Mick Appleby, who has done so well for us, and hopefully he can target the Wokingham. He did brilliantly as a very forward 2-year-old, but then the others maybe caught up with him a bit at three: he's been running under big weights and not beaten far, so we're hoping that Mick has done the work for us and got him handicapped.”

Still being an entire, moreover, Cairn Gorm gives his new connections the option of rendering him, in the traditional formula, “two stone lighter.”

Fresh Start For Dirtyoldtown

After a breakout season, with 44 winners at a 21% strike-rate, Grant Tuer will face the challenge of consolidation with a promising new recruit in Dirtyoldtown (Ire) (No Nay Never), a runaway maiden winner at Chepstow for George Boughey before failing to cope with a rise in class in the G3 Autumn S. Offered as lot 324, he was knocked down to Alex Elliott at 100,000gns.

“I think he was probably just a bit free the other day, but I know George well and he's very sorry to see the horse go,” the agent remarked. “We've been waiting on him all day, didn't bid for two or three others because this was the one we wanted, but the way the market has heated up we were a bit worried whether we'd get him. So Grant is over the moon. He's had a wonderful season and this one is for a new client of the stable.”

It was Elliott, incidentally, who found Raadobarg (Ire) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) at Doncaster as a yearling for £200,000, and he was handsomely vindicated when that colt ran up a hat-trick in the spring for Roger Varian in the silks of Amo Racing, culminating in a Class 2 Handicap at Haydock. It feels like a depressing commentary on the curious economics of our business that the colt's earnings nonetheless remain short of £40,000; and nor, even as one of the top lots of the day, could he quite retrieve his original value. Offered as lot 344 through Aguiar Bloodstock, he made 150,000gns from Hamish Macauley Bloodstock and will now transfer to the yard of Johnny Murtagh.

“I'm delighted to get such a high-class horse,” Murtagh said. “His form looks solid and hopefully he can improve from three to four.”

Of course, it's hard to put a price on the sheer pleasure of owning a decent racehorse and there is surely plenty more of that to come for those partners in Ace Rothstein (More Than Ready) who bought out those who sent him into the ring as wildcard lot 364C. He was late resurfacing this season but has looked highly progressive in winning two of three starts since, and returns to Fitzroy House after Nick Bell signed a 125,000gns docket on behalf of his father Michael. He'll be looking to Dubai or Bahrain this winter.

Annandale Following Glen Trail

One stayer who eluded both the export and jumping markets was Annandale (Ire) (Australia {GB}), who topped the quieter morning trade in fetching 82,000gns as lot 88. Mind you, he will be crossing what remains (for now) an internal frontier, as befits one named after a region of the glorious Scottish Borders.

Winner of four races in the care of Mark Johnston for Ayrshire owner-breeder William Johnstone, Annandale will now join Jim Goldie outside Glasgow–at stables already housing Johnstone's evergreen Euchen Glen (GB) (Authorized), better than ever this year at the age of eight. Goldie hopes that he, too, can progress out of handicap grade as he matures.

“He's obviously from a breeder I know well,” Goldie said. “I'm hoping he will turn into a Cup horse. He's a nice horse, a typical Mark Johnston horse, and I think he'll progress. He might have a break, but he has won at Newcastle and with the All-Weather Finals moving there we might have a think about that.”

Johnstone is a believer in close inbreeding. Euchen Glen's dam Jabbara (Ire), picked up for just €25,000, was out of a Nureyev mare–just like her sire Kingmambo. And Johnstone mated her with a grandson of Nureyev's three-parts brother Sadler's Wells. Annandale, for his part, is out of a mare by Sadler's Wells–who is also his great-grandsire.

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