The Weekly Wrap: Positives To Be Found In Yearling Market

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MV Magnier and Henri Bozo at Arqana | Zuzanna Lupa

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September ushered in the early rounds of the yearling sales in Europe, with the Goffs UK Premier, BBAG, Tattersalls Ascot and Arqana Select sales all having taken place within the last fortnight. Three of that quartet have at least been able to take place in their intended venues, albeit Arqana’s flagship sale was three weeks later than usual. The one-day Tattersalls Ascot Yearling Sale was moved to Newmarket, and Park Paddocks will also host the Tattersalls Irelend September Sale next week, which has been reduced to two days from three, presumably because some vendors will be unable or unwilling to ship their horses to Newmarket at significant extra cost.

Of the sales to come, Tattersalls October has remained intact and in situ, as has the Arqana October sale which will also incorporate horses from the cancelled Osarus September Sale and will now be held over five days. Further relocations from Ireland will be faced by vendors at the Goffs Orby and Sportsman’s Sales, which will now be held in Doncaster from Sept. 24 to Oct. 1.

It is fair to say that this year has been a logistical nightmare for sales houses, vendors and buyers, with the need to weigh up varying travel and quarantine restrictions from country to country. A number of Irish pinhookers have made their way to Kentucky for the Keeneland September Sale, which is taking place across the next fortnight and has proved such a fertile source of material for the European breeze-ups in the last few years. But almost every trip now comes at the cost of another in a sales season which has become increasingly crowded. It will almost certainly contract somewhat in the coming years as the full economic force of the pandemic is felt and breeders fall by the wayside. One of the very few upsides to the current situation may be that breeders take a keener look at the quality of mare they cover, particularly if they have no intention of racing her offspring themselves.

So how have the yearling sales held up so far in Europe? Given the extraordinarily awful backdrop of 2020, the answer has to be not too badly, with positive indicators to be found at each.

At the Goffs UK Premier Sale, which has been notably upwardly mobile in recent years, a clearance rate of 84% has to be considered a success, even though average and median figures dropped by 29% and 25% respectively. This is a level of reduction that many in the industry had anticipated and which is generally being seen elsewhere.

The clearance rate at both BBAG and Arqana was lower, but that tends to be the norm for those sales, where the best of Germany’s and France’s yearling crops are offered and top-end breeders in those countries can be selective over whether to sell or not. In a difficult year, it is perhaps better to stick than to twist.

But it is worth reiterating that, despite pre-sale nerves from vendors, each of these auctions saw some decent action within the almost recession-proof top tier. At Baden-Baden, last year’s record price of €820,000 was matched, once again for a filly by Sea The Stars (Ire), though the number of six-figure lots was less than half of the 2019 tally of 21. Just as Goffs UK missed Sheikh Hamdan, so did BBAG miss Sheikh Mohammed, as well as the Australian buyers who have visited the sale in pursuit of staying-bred yearlings in recent years.

International participation is also a cornerstone of Arqana’s August Sale (which was renamed the Select Sale this year in its later slot). Three million-plus yearlings were sold, compared to two last year, and the two highest prices of €2.5 million and €2 million both surpassed last year’s top price, albeit for collector’s items. Of the seven-figure lots, Coolmore and Godolphin took home one each, but were otherwise very selective in their purchases, buying five yearlings between them. The same number was purchased by the sale’s emerging Bahraini force of the brothers Sheikh Khalid and Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, two of eight sons of the King of Bahrain. Sheikh Nasser owns Queen Daenerys (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), who helpfully won the listed Prix Joubert at Longchamp on Thursday just hours before the Dubawi (Ire) half-sister to Sistercharlie (Ire) (Myboycharlie {Ire}) and Sottsass (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) took to the ring. Through Fawzi Nass and Oliver St Lawrence, the sheikhs ended up outbidding Sheikh Mohammed for the sale-topper. Sheikh Khalid’s KHK Racing has also enjoyed some success lately with the unbeaten Bahrain Pride (GB) (Kodiac {GB}), winner of the listed EBF Ripon Champion Two Yrs Old Trophy.

Furthermore, the most expensive colt at the BBAG Sale, a €260,000 offering by Sea The Moon (Ger), was purchased by fellow Bahraini, Shaikh Duaij Al Khalifa, the owner of four-time Group 2-winning sprinter A’Ali (Ire) (Society Rock {Ire}), whose intention it is to buy some more middle-distance types at this year’s yearling sales.

The relatively new Tattersalls Ascot Yearling Sale, which has only been in existence for four years, continues to progress gradually, and it is no small feat in this year to have improved on both the average and the median at the same time as the catalogue has expanded. It is probably fair to say that this particular sale was introduced to provide an outlet for lower-tier yearlings, but some decent horses have emerged from the Ascot Yearling Sale since its inception, most recently the G2 Lowther S. winner Miss Amulet (Ire) (Sir Prancealot {Ire}). Again, a clearance rate of 81% was encouraging. However, when one considers that only around 25% of the yearlings sold will have covered their production costs, the precarious nature of breeding at this end of the market is all too apparent.

Believe In Ringfort
It was perhaps fitting that Derek and Gay Veitch’s Ringfort Stud topped the Ascot Yearling Sale with a first-crop daughter of Profitable (Ire). If any operation deserves to have a profitable year it is Ringfort. The Veitches must by now have a particular fondness for Yorkshire racecourses. During York’s Ebor meeting, Minzaal (Ire) (Mehmas {Ire}) became the farm’s second consecutive G2 Gimcrack S. winner, and that victory came a day after the aforementioned Miss Amulet had won the G2 Lowther S.

Ringfort’s good year was enhanced further on Friday by the G2 Flying Childers S. victory of another of the farm’s graduates, Ubettabelieveit (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}).

As has already been noted in this column, Miss Amulet was sold for just €1,000 as a foal before being brought to Ascot by Rockview Stables, who sold her for £7,500.

The good updates on the track this year led to Ringfort consigning two of the top four lots at Ascot. The sale-topper at 58,000gns was a filly out of Sassy Gal (Ire) (King’s Best), a half-sister to the dam of Minzaal, while Miss Amulet’s half-sister by another freshman sire, El Kabeir, sold for 45,000gns to Nick and Michael Bell.

There’s likely to be plenty of traffic to the boxes holding the 22 yearlings for the Ringfort Stud consignments at Goffs Orby and Tattersalls October.

Advance Australia Fair
There were 28 group races across Britain, Ireland, France and Germany in the last week, with nine of them falling to the offspring of Galileo (Ire) or two of his lesser-heralded sons Australia (GB) and Noble Mission. In fact, the weekend has to be viewed as a successful one for dual Derby winner Australia, who was represented by his first Classic winner, Galileo Chrome (Ire), in the St Leger, while Cayenne Pepper (Ire) saw off her run of seconds this season with victory in the G2 Moyglare ‘Jewels’ Blandford S. for Jessica Harrington. The latter races for American owner Sarah Kelly, whose husband Jon died in July and was a great supporter of the British and Irish bloodstock scene over a number of years.

The Harrington stable also sent out a promising juvenile by Australia, Oodnadatta (Ire), to be third in the G1 Moyglare Stud S. The three-parts sister to G3 Glorious S. winner Pablo Escobarr (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) races for Australian co-owner/breeder Bob Scarborough in partnership with Susan Magnier. Melbourne-based Scarborough has played a significant role in the story of another Coolmore stallion as the breeder of 2000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) as well as his half-brother St Mark’s Basilica (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}), who was third in the G1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National S. on Sunday. Their dam Cabaret (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) has a yearling full-brother to St Mark’s Basilica for sale through Norelands Stud in Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale.

Dreaming Of Autumn
Though the sun is still shining across much of Europe, there’s an autumnal chill to the mornings, which is good news for fans of Dream Ahead, as this appears to be the time of year for the 12-year-old stallion to shine. Last year his two Group 1 winners Glass Slippers (GB) and Donjuan Triumphant (Ire) came within weeks of each other at the Arc meeting and British Champions Day.

The 4-year-old Bearstone Stud homebred Glass Slippers found only Battaash too fast for her when second in the G2 King George S. at Goodwood and she bounced back to claim another international Group 1 win in Sunday’s Flying Five at the Curragh for Kevin Ryan, who reported that a return to Paris to defend her Prix de l’Abbaye title is very much on the cards. The filly’s win came just eight days after Dream Of Dreams (GB) landed the G1 Haydock Sprint Cup, while in Germany on Friday the hardy Dark Vision (Ire) gained his sixth victory, and second at Group 2 level, when winning the Kronimus Oettingen Rennen at Baden-Baden.

Having started his career at Ballylinch Stud, Dream Ahead has recently completed his third season at Haras de Grandcamp in Normandy. He remains in the ownership of his original syndicate, including Ballylinch, which is also enjoying a golden run with its Irish-based stallions. At the head of the roster, commanding a €100,000 service fee, is Lope De Vega (Ire), whose popularity extends beyond Europe to the southern hemisphere. He is also a stallion very much on the radar of American buyers following the success of his Grade 1-winning daughters Capla Temptress (Ire) and Newspaperofrecord (Ire), while another recent White Birch Farm purchase Editor At Large (Ire) was impressive in her debut at Saratoga last week.

Lope De Vega’s ten yearlings sold at the Arqana Select Sale returned an average of €226,500 and he appears to have another exciting juvenile on his books in Ireland in the form of G2 KPMG Champions Juvenile S. winner Cadillac (Ire). Yet another from the Harrington stable, the colt, bred by Sunderland Holdings, was a €40,000 Orby purchase by Patrick Cooper last year.

Lope De Vega’s younger stud-mates are also showing very promising signs. Make Believe (GB), with his first crop of 3-year-olds this year, has been represented by the Classic winner Mishriff (GB) as well as the G3 Musidora S. winner Rose Of Kildare (Ire), and is second in the second-crop sires’ table behind Night Of Thunder (Ire). Meanwhile freshman sire New Bay (GB), who boasts a near-50% strike-rate with his runners, notched a first stakes winner on Friday, New Mandate (Ire), in the listed Flying Scotsman S. at Doncaster.

Where Aigles Dare
The Duke of Devonshire’s memoir of his great mare Park Top carried the lovely title A Romance of the Turf, and it is one that could equally be applied to the story of Cirrus Des Aigles (Fr) and his trainer Corine Barande-Barbe.

An epilogue to the latter was started at Longchamp on Sunday when Air De Valse (Fr) became the first group winner for her late and little known sire Mesnil Des Aigles (Fr), a half-brother to Cirrus Des Aigles by the equally obscure stallion Neverneyev (Fr).

Barande-Barbe’s name is woven alongside a number of the names in the bottom half of the pedigree of Air De Valse, whom she bred, co-owns and trains. Sunday’s G3 Prix du Petit Couvert winner is from the largest crop of Mesnil Des Aigles, but that numbered just eight—precisely half the number of foals he left when he died in August 2015 at Haras de Saint Roch.

With her former husband Patrick Barbe, Barande-Barbe bred the filly’s dam Air Bag (Fr) (Poliglote {GB}), whom she trained to win four races in her own colours. She also trained Air Bag’s dam, Avrilana (Fr), a dual winner for Ecurie Muserolle, and that mare’s sire Deep Roots (Fr) was owned by Barande-Barbe and trained by Pascal Bary to win the G1 Prix Morny and G1 Prix de la Salamandre in only Bary’s second year with a training licence.

The front-running Air De Valse didn’t make her debut until last year as a 3-year-old and she has a long way to go to equal the 22 victories, including seven Group 1s, of her ‘uncle’ Cirrus Des Aigles. But she has already won seven of her 17 starts, and she will return to Longchamp for the G1 Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye on Oct. 4.

Her trainer described Air De Valse on Sunday by saying, “Like me, she’s a bit of a character.”

It would be folly to think that Air De Valse is not capable of taking the next step up to the top level. After all, all great stories need strong characters, and what better setting for a romantic tale than Paris?

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