“They're Brave As Lions” – Pinhookers Go Strong At Goffs November Foal Sale

Breeder Tony Cosgrave with his Phoenix Of Spain colt | Goffs


Pa Doyle of Galbertstown Stables labelled the pinhookers who were out in force at the Goffs November Foal Sale “as brave as lions” with the popular consignor capping off a memorable week by topping the Thursday session with a €90,000 Phoenix Of Spain (Ire) colt. 

The Thursday sale-topper was bred by Tony Cosgrave, who Doyle described as one of the best show people in the business, and it played a part in Galbertstown ending the week as one of the top consignors with 17 horses selling for €632,000.

The Phoenix Of Spain colt (lot 881) came after Galbertstown netted €115,000 for an Earthlight (Ire) colt bred by Mary, John and Orla Donworth, earlier in a week where some of the key figures took a hit compared to this sale 12 months ago. 

Of the 902 horses offered this week, 714 were sold at a clearance rate of 79%, which was down by 2% on last year. The turnover also dropped 12% to €25,950,500 and the average fell 9% to €36,346 but there were plenty of positives to take from the figures as well. For example, the median stayed the same at €24,000 while the top lot of €700,000 usurped last year's figure of €550,000.

Despite the dip, Doyle provided nothing but positive feedback on what he said was a good week of trade.

“We can't get over the footfall that has been here at Goffs since Saturday. We rocked in here and started showing first thing. We didn't expect it to be as busy as it has been, to be honest. It has been sustained right throughout the week. Now, we had good foals to sell, and that did help. But, overall, the footfall here has been incredible and breeders got very well paid across the board. If you had a nice foal by a good sire, it was very straightforward. If you landed on a list it was so easy.”

Doyle added, “This is probably the biggest consignment I have ever had at this sale and the majority of them ticked the boxes and the owners got well paid. There were no complaints and everyone got paid what they deserved to. Any sire who had a chance of going forward, their foals proved very popular.”

The strength of the pinhookers played a massive role in the market remaining buoyant. Top operator Laurence Gleeson of Aughamore Stud joked on Wednesday that he may be suffering from amnesia about how hard it was to sell yearlings at some points this year after he bought a Lope De Vega filly for €200,000. 

However, Doyle explained why he felt many pinhookers took a decision to invest at Goffs this week in a bid to keep some of the costs that come with travelling horses home from Britain to a minimum.

Doyle said, “Another reason why trade seemed to be so strong is, because there was such a nice bunch of foals here, people probably felt it was better to get them bought here at Goffs this week rather than going to England. But the work that Goffs have done, even with the National Hunt horses recently, is savage. They have upped their game over the past few years and it's working.

“The pinhookers are as brave as lions. Listen, you have to be in this game, but the pinhookers take it to a new level. They really are brave as lions. We have breeders there and, you know yourself, not every one of their mares is going to breed a star. But this week has been brilliant. From the Donworths' Earthlight colt who made €115,000 right up to this Pheonix Of Spain, it's been a great week.”

He added, “This is the icing on the cake, really, because the breeder works for me. His name is Tony Cosgrave and he's very hard to get as he has a full-time job working with horses but, I promise you, he's as good a show man as you will get. He's absolutely brilliant. He's landed on his feet here and, to be honest with you, I'm absolutely delighted for him.”

Breeding may not be Cosgrave's day job but he's certainly proved himself a dab hand at the game. It was just over a decade ago when he netted himself a tidy profit with a Frozen Power (Ire) filly and he couldn't hide his delight after recording his latest touch. 

“This lad was a belter and I loved him from day one,” he said outside the Phoenix Of Spain colt's box in Barn E. “I have never had a foal like him. He was some walker but had an even better temperament. When you start walking foals to start with, some of them take a bit of time to get up to speed, but he was a natural from day one. There was never any issue with him all year. The only issues were keeping a lid on my nerves trying to get him here!

“I topped day one of this sale before with a Frozen Power filly. I only have the two mares and I bought Almarada (Fr) a couple of years ago. She was in a sale at Fairyhouse and I bought her privately.”

Asked why he went to Phoenix Of Spain, “Well, I better give Paul McCartan a bit of credit because I asked him what he thought of the sire and he told me that he thought he could work. That is, what you might describe as a politician's answer, but it was good enough for me! A big thanks to everyone at the Irish National Stud as they have been very helpful.

“Another reason why I went to Phoenix Of Spain is that the mare has done well with French Navy (GB) before so Phoenix was the closest thing I could get to Shamardal. Phoenix was also a very good horse himself. The mare is not in foal but we have the whole winter to dream. A big thanks as well to everyone in Galbertstown, especially Pa. It's a great result.”

Kent confirmed that, rather than being reoffered at a yearling sale next year, that the Phoenix Of Spain colt was likely to race for Almarada Prince's trainer Craig Lidster. 

Kent said, “Almarada Prince is an improving horse for Craig Lidster so it made sense to buy the brother. I didn't think we had to pay that much, to be honest, but the owner was quite keen and we didn't want to leave him behind. I don't think he'll be reoffered as a yearling. I think he'll be for racing and could go to Craig Lidster for the same owner.”

Henry Beeby: 'More Positives Than Negatives' At Goffs This Week

Goffs chief Henry Beeby acknowledged that there was “a degree of trepidation” heading into the foal sales this week but was keen to concentrate on the positives to emerge from the week of trade. 

He said, “The world's highest-priced foal this autumn at €700,000 has topped four days of lively trade at Goffs as, once again, pinhookers and end users alike battled for the cream of the Irish foal crop.

“It is fair to say that the week was approached with a degree of trepidation as some of the later yearling sales were far from easy, but we have been delighted to welcome a huge group of buyers who set off with enthusiasm and determination on Monday and continued right through to the close of business today. Several first- and second-season sires really caught the imagination and those established names that deliver every year were highly sought after provoking a number of serious bidding duels on each day. Some of those led to very happy breeders and we are just so pleased to deliver for them as we are nothing without their beautiful foals.”

Beeby added, “Alongside a vibrant atmosphere it must also be noted that this year's figures do not match last year's which we described as “sensational” 12 months ago. Indeed, there is no doubt that there is a degree of correction in the market and it was not all good news for some. “That said, this year's numbers come in on a par with 2021, a strong sale in its own right, and there are definitely more positives than negatives to take away from the four sessions, not least a median that equals last year's record with the number of six figure and €50,000 plus lots only falling short of last year but ahead of 24 months ago. 

“As we eagerly anticipate tomorrow's Breeding Stock Sale we extend our thanks to all our vendors and purchasers for their support over the last four days and for the next 48 hours. Goffs exists to provide the ultimate marketplace for Irish breeders to sell to the world and the November Sale epitomises that aspiration.”

Talking Points

  • It seems as though buyers have put a bit of weight in what Pheonix Of Spain achieved with his two-year-olds given 13 foals sold this week for an average of €29,667. Compare that to this sale 12 months ago where nine sold for an average of €8,723. Things are certainly looking up for the Irish National Stud-based sire who will stand next year for €10,000.
  • How early is too early to draw a definitive line on how well a young sire is being received by the market? This week provided a decent gauge and Supremacy (Ire), Lucky Vega (Ire) and Starman (GB) performed with credit. Lucky Vega had the distinction of posting an average of just under €40,000 for 24 foals sold this week but Supremacy hit the headlines when a colt of his made €180,000. Starman managed to break the six-figure mark twice, when colts of his made €120,000 and €115,000 respectively.
  • It would also appear as though big things are expected from Earthlight (Ire) with his first runners next season. The popularity of the Kildangan-based stallion has been one of the stories of the week with 14 foals selling for €750,000 at an average of €53,572, which helped place him in the top 10 sires for the week. 
  • The strength of the Darley roster was once again evident. Not only has Earthlight gone down well this week, but Blue Point (Ire) and Ghaiyyath (Ire) ended as first and second–in that order–in terms of aggregates and averages posted. 
  • The Lucky Vega team were out in force with Yulong Investment's Yuesheng Zhang signing for seven foals to the tune of €1,047,000. It will be interesting to see how involved the operation is at Goffs over the next two days for the eagerly-anticipated breeding stock sale which features the Niarchos draft.

Thought for the Day

So what did Pa Doyle mean when he said that Goffs have upped their game in the past few years and how exactly does a sales complex do their bit to get close to 1,000 foals sold in four days? 

It was in these pages earlier this week where it was acknowledged that, as well as the top pinhookers–your Aughamores, Tally-Hos and Yeomanstowns–there was a notable cohort of young people trying to get their foot on the ladder. 

Perhaps the recent pinhooking panel, reported to be very well-attended and organised by the ITBA Next Generation, may well have played a role. 

If that did light the touch paper for just a fraction of the young people getting involved in trade this week, then fair play to Goffs for playing their part in staging the pinhooking panel here last week. A job well done by all concerned.

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