Yearling Vendors Start Counting the Cost


Lot 303, a colt by Havana Gold topped Wednesday's session | Goffs UK


DONCASTER, UK–Having put on a brave enough face on the opening day, the first auction of an improvised European yearling sales calendar hastened to its conclusion on Wednesday as though downing a necessary but deeply unpleasant medicine.

Horses were ushered through the ring at the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale with a briskness that spoke of a pragmatic willingness, among vendors, to clarify the extent of the damage. The clearance rate for the session was duly maintained at 84% across the two days. Albeit trading a marginally smaller catalogue, it says everything that this session finished well over two hours earlier than had the previous one. As Macbeath says: “If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly.”

Everyone knew it was going to be tough, and that nobody is to blame. All we can do is hope that the tempest in the global economy, in a pandemic year, abates sooner rather than later. As things stood, however, the indices were predictably grim.

Turnover for the second session was down 43% on last year, from £7,889,500 to £4,525,000; yielding a £30,782 average that declined 29% from £43,349, and a median slipping 25% to £24,000 from £32,000. Given somewhat stronger returns the previous day, that equated across the whole sale to a 38% slump in aggregate, to £11,503,500 from £18,468,000; a 27% loss in the £34,034 average from £46,519; and a 23% dip in a £27,000 median from £35,000.

As Goffs UK managing director Tim Kent observed, this had been one of the most anticipated editions of this sale in recent years.

“But not in the way that we normally prepare for a sale,” he said. “And we share everyone's collective relief that we have been able to conduct the sale, and provide an opening to Europe's yearling sales circuit during these difficult times.

“There is no doubting that trade across that last few days has not been straightforward, but the important thing is that horses are getting sold and the collective view from vendors and purchasers has been that this was a 'good' sale, even though 'good' may currently be difficult to quantify. We obviously missed some key faces who were active last year but there were a significant number of success stories over the last two days, including some spectacular pinhooks, and we must remember these moments as we reflect what has been achieved.

“Despite the two days proving predictably difficult, we echo what has been said many times this week, that we are lucky to hold sales and continue to trade despite the challenges that face us and our industry. It has been encouraging to see so many people descend on Doncaster and to see a respectable clearance rate upheld over the two days.

“Full credit to our vendors who have adapted to the market to facilitate trade and we now look forward to the Goffs Sportsman's and Orby Sale which will take place here at the end of this month.”

As Kent indicated, this auction was always going to be exposed after finding itself shuffled to the front of the calendar. And the fact that it has so flourished in recent years only gave it farther to fall. Last year, it processed 35 six-figure transactions. The three recorded yesterday took the total this time round to just 12.

There will be anxiety, naturally, about the complete absence of the firm that had topped aggregate purchasing here in each of the previous five years. But Shadwell's boss is a human being like everyone else, and it would be most ungrateful–after decades of priceless support from his whole family–for anyone to forget that the debt is owed to him by the industry, and not the other way round. For all most of us can know, his inaction this week may be governed by factors extraneous to the industry's present difficulties.

That said, those preparing for elite sales ahead will be hoping that the whole market does not take its lead from the physical appearance of the ring here, with only sporadic green ticks among all the black crosses marking those sections of the benches to be left vacant to keep bidders safely apart.

Some vendors did make a stand, refusing to allow a nice horse to go too cheap–a description that even extended to the highest bid of the day when lot 322, a Cotai Glory (GB) half-sister to multiple Group winner A'Ali (Ire) (Society Rock {Ire}), was bought in for £150,000. The new plan? “She'll win a group race,” promised Daniel Creighton of consignors Salcey Forest Stud. “And they'll all rue the day they didn't buy her.”

By the same token, many other vendors will doubtless end up shaking their heads over the derisory reward they had to accept for subsequent high achievers. But one of the most seasoned sages on the circuit put it best. “Look, you couldn't sell a kid's bike at the moment,” he said. “Yet people are here selling racehorses. There's trade, and trade is good.”

That was something you heard a lot. Lady Carolyn Warren of Highclere Stud summed things up well. “Yes, it's been tough,” she said. “But we ought to be pleased that we're able to sell horses at all. And with that in mind we must all be respectful of the 'rules and regs', going into such a busy sales season. But there are nice horses here, and the trade has been solid.

“Yes, we've had to adjust our sights a bit, but hopefully people will realize that the opportunities that are out there now; opportunities, to compete at the top level, that maybe weren't there before. There could be better value around now than for many years, so we've just got to hope that people feel more encouraged to have a go.”

£115,000 Havana Gold Colt Tops Session

The top price of the day was paid by Oliver St Lawrence, who gave £115,000 for the Havana Gold (Ire) colt presented by Mountarmstrong Stud as lot 303.

He is out of Majestic Missile (Ire) (Royal Applause {GB})'s stakes-placed half-sister Majestic Alexander (Ire) (Bushranger {Ire}), whose three previous foals onto the track have all won, two also gaining black-type.

“We're all looking for a Royal Ascot 2-year-old, of course we are,” St Lawrence said. “And he does look a really strong, sharp type. Actually we hadn't originally intended to buy him: he was on the radar, and I showed him to Fawzi [Nass] yesterday, but we hadn't had him vetted. But then the trainer said how much he liked him, and we re-evaluated today. Of course it helps that he comes from breeders who do such a good job.”

St Lawrence diplomatically left the trainer in question anonymous, pending formal confirmation of the horse's destination. Gentlemanly conduct, from one who described his mask-fetchingly adorned with sports cars–as more suitable for a second-hand car salesman. True to his own profession, however, he professed that even so depressed a market remained challenging.

“It's still tough enough,” he said. “I know all bloodstock agents say that, and the market overall is a bit down. I'm not sure there are quite the horses here they've had in the last couple of years. Doncaster do a great job, and there are some really nice ones here. But I suspect some of the vendors have made a percentage call, with sales moving around and this one ending up first.”

Another Diamond for Middleham Park?

The embers of a cold market were stoked into life when the day's second and third six-figure sales were achieved from its closing half-dozen lots. First of these was lot 418, a Showcasing (GB) filly bought by Middleham Park for £110,000–a good result for W.H. Bloodstock, having made €58,000 from Peter and Ross Doyle at Goffs last November.

“She was our nap of the sale, really,” said Middleham Park's Mike Prince. “She just looks a lovely racing filly. Showcasing's had a great year, and the mare has already produced [a dual winner] by Raven's Pass. She'll be going to Mark Johnston, so let's hope she can follow in the footsteps of Marie's Diamond (Ire).”

An apt turn of phrase, regarding that daughter of Footstepsinthesand (GB), who achieved a Group 1 podium in the Queen Anne S.

Encouragingly, Prince reported plenty of interest in Middleham Park syndicates from investors looking forward to getting back on the racetrack.

“We've bought five here,” he said. “One apiece for Mark, David O'Meara, Keith Dalgleish, Karl Burke and Richard Hannon. Our guys have got a taste for it, and as long as they're buying, we're buying.”

“It's a very resilient industry,” concurred colleague Tom Palin. “We've been through two recessions and racing just seems to come back stronger than ever.”

A Brother to Make up for the One That Got Away

The very last horse into the ring, likewise, put a more heartening signature on proceedings. Certainly one of the best pedigrees of the sale had been reserved for last, the Dark Angel (Ire) colt (lot 423) out of multiple stakes winner Swiss Dream (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) being a brother to group scorer Yafta (GB).

That horse had made £280,000 here four years ago, when likewise consigned for breeders Lordship Stud by Highclere Stud. Given that he ended up running for Sheikh Hamdan, whose buying team was absent this time, £100,000 from Ed Sackville arguably represented an equivalent result in this market. Sackville was completing some business-like shopping over the two days for Tom Dascombe.

“It's a nice story because [Dascombe's landlord] Michael Owen was under-bidder on Yafta,” said Highclere's Lady Carolyn Warren. “So I really hope that this one will be just as successful, if not more. He's a lovely-moving colt who sailed through his preparation.”

Owen, the former England striker, has evidently managed to interest more of the North West's football community in his Cheshire yard: Burnley midfielder Jack Cork had earlier been standing alongside Sackville when the agent gave £88,000 for another Dark Angel (Ire) colt, presented as lot 350 by Yeomanstown Stud.

This one, too, has a lively page: out of a stakes-placed half-sister to G2 Queen Mary and G2 Prix Robert Papin winner Signora Cabello (Ire) (Camacho {GB}); and the third dam is a half-sister to Classic winner Las Meninas (Ire) (Glenstal).

“It's a lovely female family, going back to the tremendously fast Kingsgate Native (Ire) (Mujdail), and with a recent Royal Ascot winner on the page,” Sackville said. “SackvilleDonald have always been admirers of Dark Angel, including Art Power (Ire) who's running for Alastair [Donald] in the GI Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock on Saturday.”

Dascombe's partnerships are famously convivial and Sackville confirmed that his clients “have been very loyal and supportive–especially in these difficult times.”

Albeit even this price would represent a fairly marginal gain on Dark Angel's fee, the mating is certainly paying its way: the colt's sister realized €275,000 as a yearling at Goffs last October.

Murphy Hopes for New Dawn

This market is a teasing one for breeze-up pinhookers: there's value, for sure, but they are betting on confidence returning to the economy as soon as next spring. For Mick Murphy of Longways, however, £95,000 for a Night Of Thunder (Ire) colt (lot 346) was too tempting to resist.

“Gorgeous horse,” he said. “For me, the nicest in the sale. I saw him Sunday morning and didn't think I'd get him. He's an exceptionally correct individual, for a Night Of Thunder, who's obviously very much in demand. I just hope he's fast! He has the pedigree to be.”

The dam, indeed, is an unraced sister to G1 July Cup winner Fleeting Spirit (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}). In previous years, perhaps, competition from absent friends such as Shadwell would have put a colt like this beyond reach. As it was, he was Murphy's fifth purchase of the sale.

“But generally the ones you want are still making money,” Murphy said. “The top end looks after itself. There's always someone to buy a nice horse. I suppose the market is down, without the likes of Shadwell. But let's just hope they're buying next April.”

Aguair Upgrading for next Stage of His Odyssey

As the son of a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner, Ulysses (Ire) might not seem the most obvious of the new stallions for the breeze-up pinhookers. But not enough people grasp how class can tell in any environment. Credit to Robson Aguiar, then, for stretching to £92,000 for lot 255, a February colt by Cheveley Park's rookie out of a winning sister of listed sprinter Feet So Fast (GB) (Pivotal {GB}).

After all, Ulysses won two Group 1 races over 10 furlongs, and his deep Classic pedigree will doubtless gain a bit of commercial spice from some of those zippy Cheveley Park mares. This colt's dam was a case in point, albeit recently culled from the farm, as she is out of another of its black-type dashers in Splice (GB) (Sharpo {GB}), whose seven winning foals–besides Feet So Fast and her sister–include G2 Lowther S. winner Soar (GB) (Danzero {Aus}).

“He will probably be a horse for later on, for seven furlongs, but he is a very nice and scopey type,” Aguair said. “I'm trying hard to improve the horses, to keep things going forward, and it's not easy: nicer horses will still sell well. I have tried for a few that I could not get. But I have some people who are investing with me, and I will keep a half.”

The Brazilian has certainly established his eye for a young prospect at a lower level. One graduate of his nursery is Alicestar (GB) (Charming Thought {Ire}), found for just £10,000 as at Tattersalls Ascot last August. She won on debut at Yarmouth in July, and seeks black-type for David Simcock in the G3 Unibet Dick Poole S. at Salisbury on Thursday.

Mother Takes Pride

Anna Sundstrom of Coulonces Sales had another happy tale to tell when following up the top price of the opening day with the £85,000 sale to Hillen-Ryan of a Caravaggio colt, lot 355.

Having co-bred Tuesday's Starspangledbanner (Aus) sale-topper with head girl Charlotte Hutchinson, she revealed that this one was all the work of her 19-year-old daughter Moa–who, just like Hutchinson the previous day, led up her charge.

“Moa has done an amazing job with her and deserves every penny,” Sundstrom said. “She bought the dam privately the night before [her subsequent group-winning half-brother] Peace Envoy (Fr) (Power {GB}) won first time out. She had obviously done her homework, and now the mare has a lovely Starspangledbanner colt foal and is in foal to Sioux Nation (Scat Daddy).”

“Very well produced colt,” said Kevin Ryan, congratulating her consignor. “Athletic, with a lot of quality.”

The selective cross-Channel raids of Coulonces to South Yorkshire have paid wonderful dividends, both in the ring and on the track, above all through Laurens (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}). When she won the G2 May Hill S. on the adjacent track in 2017, it was just the first downpayment on the spectacular dividends she achieved as a £220,000 graduate of this sale the previous year.

Lloyd Excels in Premier Sale Debut

Let's end on a positive note. It would be misleading to construe the figures, severely depressed as they are, as causing universal despair. Horses were brought here by resilient and realistic people, and the skills of their presentation remain undiminished.

Jamie Lloyd of Far Westfield Farm will have been speaking for many, then, when he concluded his first experiment in selling at this sale with the sale of an £80,000 Exceed And Excel (Aus) filly, lot 414, to Richard Brown.

“It's been great,” he said. “I'm very glad we came. I brought six and sold five, including an Acclamation (GB) for £95,000 and a Showcasing (GB) for £80,000, which was great–we were supposed to sell that one as a foal, but he wasn't up together enough.”

The mating that produced this filly had been directed by the dam's half-sister, Group 3 winner Sound Of Silence (GB), also by Exceed And Excel.

“I bought the dam off Darley, off the track for 25 grand, before Sound Of Silence had run,” Lloyd said with a grin, before reiterating his broader satisfaction. “They've managed to get lots of people here and, given what the market's like, they've done a brilliant job.”


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