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By Chris McGrath

NEWMARKET, UK–The sickle moon hanging over the Tattersalls complex last night provided an apt symbol of the market as the Craven Breeze Up Sale drew to a close. For while many consignors found themselves plunged in darkness, the fringe of the market was picked out in a golden glow—much of it reflecting the final rays cast by the late Scat Daddy.

After providing the outstanding sale during Tuesday’s opening session, his final crop again bestrode proceedings with the two highest prices on Wednesday. The common link, apart from the dimming light of this genetic ball of fire, was Willie Browne of Mocklershill—albeit he could only claim a peripheral interest in top lot of the sale, a spectacular pinhook supervised by his son-in-law Ronaldo Souza and daughter Tanya at Mayfield Stables.

For whereas Lot 163, a colt out of Madera Dancer (Rahy), had been bought for $200,000 by Hunter Valley Farm at the experimental Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Sale last September, here Stephen Hillen had to go all the way to 900,000gns—a sum only ever exceeded once at this sale—to see off Godolphin and a host of other international players.

“I went over to see the horse twice in Ireland,” Hillen said. “He was a bit small to begin with, but he developed and developed and the second time I loved him. He is still developing all the time and he looks ready to go. This is probably the last sale where you can get them to [Royal] Ascot so I don’t think he’ll be waiting around too long.”

Hillen was acting for an existing client, who wished to remain anonymous, but was able to confirm that the colt will be staying in Britain.

“Scat Daddy has obviously been a great sire and I think nearly all his that breezed last year have won,” Hillen added. “I bought one for 60 grand tonight and one for 900, so that’s two ends of the spectrum.”

Even Scat Daddy, then, is not immune to the feast-or-famine flavour of the sector this spring. “It’s polarised,” confirmed Hillen. “There have been horses going through today I bought on spec, just because they were too cheap. I had a longer list today, I thought they were better horses, but it’s a buyers’ market. It is easier to get 300 grand than it is to get 75—when there’s not the gulf in class. It’s all or nothing.”

Nonetheless a strong end to the sale helped some indices recover somewhat. Of the 76 animals offered in last night’s session, up from 58 last year, 56 were sold—a clearance rate of three in four, very similar to that achieved at a lower tier at Doncaster last week, but down from 84% here a year ago. The aggregate was up 13% at 8,091,000gns (from 7,165,000gns) with the average holding steady, strictly down 1% at 144,482gns (from 146,224gns). But the median was sharply down, by 23%, to 77,500gns from 100,000gns.

Over the two days, the 94 sold out of 142 lots offered represented%; they raised 13,313,500gns altogether, down 6% on last year, at an average of 141,633gns (down 2%) and a plummeting median of 75,000gns (down 32%).

The Tattersalls chairman placed these returns in perspective. “The huge rises across the board at the 2017 Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up Sale were always likely to be hard to match,” Edmond Mahony said. “And although falling short of last year’s wide-margin record levels, the turnover is the second highest in the sale’s 30-year history, the average is also second only to last year and the sale finished strongly. The top of the market continues to be robust, with more lots fetching in excess of 400,000gns than ever before and new buyers from America, Hong Kong and the Gulf region all active at the upper level. It would, however, be wrong to pretend that everything has been plain sailing. To date, this year’s breeze-up market has been selective and while we have witnessed a number of spectacular pinhooking successes, this has again been evident over the past two days.”

“The consignors have, as ever brought an outstanding collection of 2-year-olds to the sale, and the very best have fetched premium prices, but we would have liked to have seen a better clearance rate.”

With that in mind, the wit of auctioneer Alastair Pim proved a little more topical than he would have intended in accepting a revision to a bid he had interpreted as 800,000gns for the other big Scat Daddy of the night. “Times are tough,” he said, accepting Jamie McCalmont’s clarification that he intended to advance bidding from 750,000gns only to 775,000gns.

In the event, that proved sufficient to secure Lot 155 from the attentions of Ross Doyle. McCalmont signed jointly on behalf of M.V. Magnier.

Browne had brought over this colt—unsold at Keeneland last September for $240,000—with the highest expectations, not least in view of the fact that the dam Lauded (Medaglia d’Oro) is out of an unraced sister to Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus (Mr Prospector). If anything, he had been a little underwhelmed by his breeze on Monday—but the conditions were demanding and his record over the years had likewise emboldened Charlie Gordon-Watson to pay 800,000gns for another Scat Daddy from Mocklershill the previous evening.

“The two out of Willie’s were standouts,” McCalmont said. “You’re talking about the final crop of a stallion who has just got better and better. He has two of the best 3-year-olds in the world right now, with very live chances in the Kentucky Derby, and seems to be a stallion who can do anything: Ascot winners, UAE Derby winners, you name it.”

“It would have been interesting to see what these horses could have done if the going weren’t so dead. You couldn’t read nearly so much into the breeze. That’s not a criticism of anyone, of course, just an observation.”

McCalmont said he felt that patchy commitment from some of the main players at the sale last year had diluted the market. “The quality is as good as it’s ever been, in terms of individuals,” he stressed. “The consignors have been putting a lot of money in.”

Another top breeze-up sire, Kodiac (GB) (Danehill), was in big demand with Alastair Donald. He acquired Lot 122, a colt, for 420,000gns and Lot 132, a filly, for 360,000gns—both consigned by Church Farm & Horse Park Stud, both on their way to Richard Hannon, and both bought with a dream of Ascot in June.

“They’re for a new client who was looking for a couple that we could get on with, so we hope can end up there,” the agent said. “The consignors have been very successful here, with the likes of Mehmas (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}), and they do an excellent job in producing these types.”

The filly was a fine pinhook, acquired for €80,000 at Fairyhouse last September. The colt had been listed as sold for £260,000 at the Goffs UK Premier Sale, but there had evidently been an issue.

“He was returned as a yearling, he made no noise at the gallop and scoped very acceptably—which is obviously far more relevant, now that he is being trained, than as a yearling,” Donald explained. “He’s lovely, beautifully balanced, exactly what you’d be looking for in an early 2-year-old type. And he has a great temperament.”

“The filly just looked very, very fast. Her pedigree is all speed, and she looked to have a great temperament as well. I loved the way she whizzed through that soft ground, you’d have thought she might prefer it a bit better.”

John Cullinan of Horse Park Stud, who also serves as spokesman of the Breeze-Up Consignors’ Association, saw the bigger picture despite these successes. “The popular ones have been selling well but below that it’s tough,” he said. “There’s very little depth to the market. I think people are worried about Brexit and then there’s uncertainty in the markets.”

Donald, meanwhile, maintained the vogue for American pinhooks—on behalf of a different client this time—when giving $575,000 for Lot 158, a Street Sense (Street Cry) colt out of an unraced Tiznow mare. He was unsold at Keeneland in September at just $70,000. “I thought him the nicest colt in the sale, and he’ll suit Hong Kong well,” he explained.

Anthony Stroud bought a couple of contrasting types within a few minutes for Godolphin: Lot 159, a Sea The Stars colt consigned by Powerstown Stud, for 425,00gns; and Lot 156, a Dandy Man filly presented by Tally Ho, for 280,000gns. The latter had impressed the judges this week, despite being bought in at just €40,000 at Goffs Orby.

“She looked quick, and ready to go on,” Stroud said. “She’s a really nice filly in the making. And the Sea The Stars I thought breezed very well for a staying horse. Though saying that the mare [MSW Lilys Angel (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) was quick. The time of his breeze was good and obviously he’s a wonderful stallion. I think you can still learn plenty from times even in that ground, you just need to take everything into account.”

The power of the stopwatch in this sector certainly appeared to account for a surge in the value of the Swiss Spirit (GB) (Invincible Spirirt {Ire}) colt offered as Lot 128 by Norman Williamson’s Oak Tree Farm.

A £72,000 yearling at Goffs UK Premier Sale for Mags O’Toole, he was elevated by a lightning breeze on Monday to 200,000gns from Shadwell—albeit Angus Gold admitted himself a little unnerved by the circumstances.

“Yes, he did a very quick time, which is always terrifying to me,” Gold said. “But we’re trying to buy one or two horses that our trainers like, and a couple of them liked this one a lot. He’s a late foal [Apr. 27] and my experience of Swiss Spirit is that he was quite immature himself, and the ones we’ve got haven’t been terribly sharp, so we might end up giving him a bit of time. But Norman knows him, I don’t, and he said he’s ready to go.”

The second dam, who has produced a couple of stakes winners, is a half-sister to that fast horse Averti (Ire) (Warning {GB}) who finished runner-up in the 1998 Prix de l’Abbaye—and promptly sired the winner of the 2005 running in Avonbridge (GB).

Jake Warren, under-bidder on Donald’s Kodiac filly, was able to hold out a few minutes later for Lot 141, an Exceed And Excel (Aus) (Danehill) filly presented by Houghton Bloodstock. Out of a half-sister by Haafhd (GB) (Alhaarth {Ire}) to German 1,000 Guineas winner Electrelane (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), she dramatically advanced her value to 230,000gns after being listed as sold to Ed Vaughan at 17,000gns in Book 3 here last October.

“She’s been bought for Bermuda Thoroughbred Racing,” Warren explained. “Johnny Barnes (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) was retired [to France] earlier in the year, and we’ve bought some really nice foundation mares for him—and we want to find a filly with a view to getting a little bit of racing action with the potential to go to stud down the line. So we focused on proven sires, and the fastest breezes. And she did the most fantastic breeze in an extremely fast time. Luke Morris could hardly pull her up. She’s not a big filly but a really athletic, neat type, just the sort you want to be buying out of a breeze-up sale, that you can crack on with.”

Warren added that the filly is likely to join William Haggas—”though he doesn’t know yet!”

A colt by Farhh, consigned by Tally-Ho, lit up proceedings as only the second horse through the ring—moving himself up from the 67,000gns he had cost Stroud Coleman here in Book 3 last October to 180,000gns from Mark Richards of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. He had been drawing attention to himself somewhat in the parade ring, before the bell rang to open the session, but Richards cheerfully exonerated Lot 88.

“There was only one other horse in there and she was a filly,” he said. “And let’s face it, he won’t be [an entire] for long anyway! He’s just a lovely, well-balanced horse and certainly should be precocious enough. The sire’s obviously doing a very good job, too, running at five% stakes winners at the minute.”

His dam is a Bertolini half-sister to two elite scorers in Ancient World (Spinning World) and Jilbab (A P Indy), in turn out of a half-sister to two more—both as juveniles, and both highly evocative names: Dunbeath (Grey Dawn {GB}) and Saratoga Six (Alydar). The latter was a $2.2-million Saratoga yearling who went unbeaten in his sole season on the track for Wayne Lukas, notably in the G1 Del Mar Futurity, but died alongside Horse of the Year Favorite Trick (Phone Trick) in a barn fire in New Mexico in 2006.

Matt Coleman, who had signed for the Farrh colt above as a yearling, matched his price on the night in paying 180,000gns for Lot 117, a Dark Angel (Ire) filly out of a half-sister to Entangle (GB) (Pivotal {GB}), winner of no fewer than 20 races in Scandinavia, from a fertile Cheveley Park family.

This is another for the Cool Silk Partnership, which has enjoyed such excellent dividends with its breeze-up investments through Prince Of Lir (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) and Sands Of Mali (Fr) (Panis).

“They usually like to go for fast times but while she didn’t do the best, we thought it was worth taking a chance on her,” Coleman said. “Dark Angels don’t always breeze fast, and I just thought this was a lovely filly, physically, and David O’Callaghan was adamant she’s smart. The pedigree is full of fast horses, if not necessarily early ones, and I think she’ll probably be one for the second half of the season.”

The filly is set to join James Given.

It was poignant to see Lot 94 enter the ring, as a son of the great Giant’s Causeway (Storm Cat)—whose death had been announced only the previous day. But he will, at least, be given every chance to add to his sire’s legacy after being secured by Stephen Hillen and Kevin Ryan for 65,000gns. The same pair came away from this sale four years ago with a future Group 1 winner for 115,000gns in Brando (GB) (Pivotal {GB}), who makes his reappearance down the road on Thursday afternoon. This colt’s dam is a sister to G2 Hardwicke S winner Telescope (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), herself out of a half-sister to Dubai World Cup winner Moon Ballad (Ire) (Singspiel {Ire}).

Hillen and Ryan had already signed a 130,000gns docket for Lot 92, a son of Iffraaj (GB) whose third dam produced three very fast horses in Royal Applause (GB) (Waajib {Ire}), Lyric Fantasy (Ire) (Tate Gallery) and In Command (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells). The colt had been bought here for 60,000gns in Book 2 last October by consignor Brown Island Stables.

Hard on the heels of the loss of Giant’s Causeway, another marvellous stallion had earlier in the day disappeared from the ranks—thankfully only pensioned—in Dansili (GB) (Danehill). The Juddmonte sire had received a distinguished visitor in 2015 in G1 Fillies’ Mile winner Crystal Music (Nureyev), and the resulting colt surfaced here as Lot 105 after being scratched from Book 1 by Watership Down Stud last October.

Presented by Malcolm Bastard, he will make the short journey across town to Somerville Lodge after William Haggas paid 150,000gns. “He’s a very nice, well-bred horse who breezed well,” the trainer said. “I know Malcolm very well, and he loved him. I don’t know who’ll own him but we’ll find somebody. Though I wouldn’t say he’d be that early.”

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