The relentless sales merry-go-round

Non-stop schedule for bloodstock professionals

Between this issue going to press and the magazine hitting doormats, the Goffs Orby and Sportsman Sales will have taken place and we’ll be lurching into two weeks of action at Tattersalls.

Despite the increasing feeling that never a week goes by these days without another sale taking place, there will be plenty of breeders who struggled to find a sales spot for their yearling. The addition of a new Ascot Yearling Sale on the Tattersalls Ireland calendar appears to have been well received and, judging by post-sale comments, will become a permanent fixture.

Horses for Book 1 at Tattersalls almost pick themselves, on paper anyway. Recently charged with the task of previewing this particular catalogue, I made myself a cup of coffee, leafed through the 500 or so lots, quickly realised that this would take much more than one cup, and spent the next few hours moving things around on my desk wondering where on earth to start. I’ve banned myself from ever using the word ‘fireworks’ in a sales report but, given the way the yearling trade has been in Europe and America so far this season, it would be no surprise to see yet another record edition of the October Sale.

After Goffs, Tattersalls and Arqana, there’s a brief pause before we’re back at Park Paddocks for the Horses-in-Training Sale, which now runs for five days. The action may just have finished in time for us to watch the first Breeders’ Cup race from Del Mar.

I love and loathe this particular sale in equal measures. One the one hand there’s the ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’ element which appeals to this bargain-hunter. There’s nothing quite like the creeping smugness of feeling you might just have spotted something that other, much cleverer judges have overlooked.

Conversely, there’s the wondering and the worrying about how all these horses will fare in the many far-flung places they’ll find themselves in after the sale. Five years after he left our stable I still trawl the results on a foreign racing website looking for updates on a much-loved gelding. On the day he sold, I walked down the hill at Tattersalls looking and feeling pretty glum and happened to pass David Elsworth on the way up.

“I hate this sale,” he said. “It’s the saying goodbye to old friends I find so hard.”

Of course, many of our old friends become new friends to other people and the demand for British bloodstock from all corners of the globe should remain a source of pride to those involved in the local breeding industry.

Agents at the double
In a bid to broaden the list of international purchasers coming to Britain, GBRI, in association with the Federation of Bloodstock Agents, has recently launched a new page on its website with a geographical guide to the agents around this country. Most will be midway through that time of the year when their children forget what they look like as they hop from plane to hotel room to sales ground and back on the plane again.

Being a bloodstock agent may appear to be glamorous but I have a sneaking suspicion that, like so many things in life, looks can be deceiving. Being a good agent requires not only an in-depth knowledge of conformation, pedigrees and form but also plenty of stamina for viewing hundreds of horses a day (not to mention some late-night singing in bars) and buckets of diplomacy when dealing with clients, whether they be owners or trainers.

Plenty forge good and longstanding partnerships with trainers – think Peter Doyle and Richard Hannon, now largely passed on to the next generation – but often trainers can be strangely singular in their opinions and are best left to hunt as lone wolves.

Just as in different types of races, there are definitely trainers to follow in the sales ring. A particular favourite is Henry Candy, a fellow bargain-hunter who has a nose for a good horse as keenly developed as that of a truffle hog. Multiple Group winner Amour Propre, a £1,500 purchase, springs to mind.

Candy has a decent pack chasing him, however. Karl Burke unearthed this season’s Prix Morny winner Unfortunately for €24,000, while Tim Easterby, the subject of a fascinating interview earlier in this issue, snared his Acomb Stakes winner Wells Farhh Go for 16,000gns. In recent years Michael Dods paid just 16,000gns for the brilliant Mecca’s Angel, while fellow Group 1-winning sprinter Lethal Force was bought for €8,500 by Clive Cox, a man who knows more than most about finding diamonds in the rough.

Finally, we’ll have only two more yearling seasons to look forward to the progeny of Kyllachy, who was retired last month. It’s fair to say that the Cheveley Park Stud stallion has been almost as great a friend to the British breeding industry as his sire Pivotal. His popularity has never waned in the sales ring, and there are few stallions for whom that can be said. Two Group 2 victories this season for his speedy daughter Heartache underline just how much he will be missed in years to come, but his legacy continues at Cheveley Park through dual Group 1 winner Twilight Son.

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