Auctioneers in dinner jackets, Generous 'the blancmange yearling' and more
Industry members recall magic moments at Goffs November sales
Goffs has been talking to the people who played a leading role in some of the most memorable moments at the Goffs November Foal and Breeding Stock Sale, which begins its seven-day run at the company's Kill sales house on Monday.
With kind permission of Goffs, we have collected all the reminiscences in one place. So, from when the auctioneers donned dinner jackets to sell the first Shergar foal, the sale of Generous as a youngster and more recent million-sellers, enjoy the walk down memory lane...
Former Goffs Managing Director Jonathan Irwin reflects on the impact of Shergar at the 1983 Goffs foal sales
"Once in a generation there is a stallion who transcends the racing and bloodstock industry and catches the interest and imagination of the public. Shergar was one of those horses. It was very exciting to have the first foal by Shergar selling at Goffs in November 1983, nine months after the stallion was kidnapped.
"When it came to the foal sale the interest in Shergar’s offspring was phenomenal; they were two enormous days with crews from television and radio stations across the world reporting from Goffs.
"The fire safety officer informed us that we had to lock the doors of the auction house and not allow anybody else into the venue. I don’t recall that ever happening in my time at Goffs, either before or after that sale. Most of the people there were spectators - there were probably two or three people with the money to afford the foal.
"The colt broke the European record on both occasions he was sold at Goffs. Thomastown Castle Stud sold him for 325,000 Irish guineas to the BBA and at the Invitation Yearling Sale of 1984, Camas Park Stud sold him to Tote Cherry-Downes for 3.1 million. That remains a record for a yearling sold at auction in Ireland, which demonstrates the excitement around Shergar.
"The Shergar factor helped Goffs as a company too. From 1975, when I took over and we built the sales complex in Kill, my idea was to put much more theatre into the auctioning of horses. It’s why we never put windows into the auditorium; I didn’t want people to be able to stare out of a window, I wanted them looking at the auctioneer’s podium. The auctioneer and bid-spotters were dressed in dinner jackets, we added glamour and pizzazz to the experience.
"There is a lot of emotion involved in auctioning horses. You're auctioning a dream really and with Shergar it was the gamble that his progeny would possess the same magic he did. The yearling would be named Authaal and went on to win the 1986 Irish St Leger for Sheikh Mohammed and trainer David O'Brien".
Bloodstock agent Hamish Alexander remembers his famous foal purchase in 1988: that of subsequent dual Derby winner Generous
“Mags O’Toole worked for me at the time and she had looked at all the foals so that when I got to Goffs she handed me a shortlist, a very short one and Generous was at the top of it. He was by far and away the best foal in the sale and came from a magnificent outfit who were known for their foals at the time. Barronstown Stud always had their foals so well done and they were beautifully mannered foals too. I had bought horses from them prior to buying Generous and they were very good people to buy from.
"I think Generous was the top price foal that day, I paid 80,000 Irish guineas for him, but he was the only foal I bid on. Some people may have been put off by his colouring, as a chestnut with very bright mane and tail, but that was never a consideration for me: he was just an absolute specimen.
"We never had any bother with him at all, he was such a lovely young colt and a pleasure to deal with. The only person who came to see him at the farm before the sales who was interested in buying him was James Delahooke, and he loved him. Unfortunately by the time the Goffs’ yearling sale came around he no longer had that sort of financial backing. I thought this colt could have been the one to avenge Dancing Brave in the Derby.
"The day before the sale Billy McDonald who worked with Robert Sangster, came to me and said, 'I think you’re going to get a Klondike for your blancmange yearling,' which I thought was very funny.
"An agent who had already been to look at Generous put him on the shortlist for a trainer he was purchasing yearlings for and brought the trainer to have a look at the colt. However the trainer turned around to the agent and admonished him, saying, 'I told you to find me racehorses.'
"I never forgot that and a couple of years later I saw that trainer interviewed on television when he had a horse racing against Generous, and he told the interviewer he had always loved the horse and tried to buy him as a yearling!
"Instead, it was Paul Cole who bought Generous for 200,000 Irish guineas, on behalf of Fahd Salman, and Paul is just about as good a judge of a horse you can get. Paul rang me after they cantered Generous for the first time to tell me this was a good horse."
Charlie Gordon-Watson reflects on his purchase of the Aga Khan mare Darara in 1994. She would become a multiple Group 1 producer for the Lloyd-Webbers
“It was 23 years ago that we bought Darara but I remember that purchase very well. It was on a Sunday evening, after it got dark. Ned Gowing had vetted the mare for us about two weeks in advance and we arrived at Goffs on the Sunday morning and she was selling in the afternoon.
"Darara looked very woolly in her coat; she wasn’t overly impressive to look at but her appearance didn’t represent her pedigree or ability as a half-sister to Darshaan and the winner of the Group 1 Prix Vermeille.
"Her conformation was good. Darara was a small, neat mare with very good room to carry a foal and she was a very correct mare.
"We stood on the balcony and used the landline in Peden’s sales office to ring Andrew Lloyd-Webber, on whose behalf we were bidding on Darara. David Nagle was downstairs by the door to the sales office to the right of the auctioneer and we could see him all the time. It was between him and us for Darara and she cost rather a lot of money, 470,000 Irish guineas, which was a lot more than we had expected to pay for her.
"You can’t go wrong really with the Aga Khan’s draft, and Simon Marsh who worked with me for the Lloyd-Webbers was keen to buy something from his families. When we looked at the catalogue Darara was the obvious mare to target.
"Back in the early 1990s people were not spending a lot of money on bloodstock and we were lucky that Watership Down Stud was just being established and they wanted to buy top-class foundation mares and had the budget to do just that.
"She has been an amazing story, producing four Group 1 winners - Darazari for the Aga Khan and then River Dancer, Dar Re Mi and Rewilding for the Lloyd-Webbers."
Breeder Stefano Luciani has fond memories of the fairytale day at Goffs in 2008 that his filly who was the sole offspring of George Washington went up for auction
“That day at Goffs was such a great experience for our family and one I will never forget. It was a fairytale for us and she was a very special filly. My father Loreto, Niki my wife and our daughter Antonetta, who was just one year old at the time, were all there for the sale.
"Date With Destiny - as she would later be named - was a special filly from the start, and she was very much like George Washington with the same head as him. Our mare Flawlessly was the only one to get in foal by him and by then he had died after breaking down at the Breeders’ Cup in Monmouth. George Washington was a great champion and it was full of emotion for us.
"My father, who passed away in 2014, was a great fan of George Washington. He was a great horse, a real champion. When he retired to stud, even though his fee was €60,000, we decided to send Flawlessly to him. He was a son of Danehill and ticked all the right boxes and we believed so much in Flawlessly that we had no doubts about it. Straight away it was decided she would go to George Washington.
"When Date With Destiny was born and we knew she was a filly, the first thing we realised was that she would be George Washington’s legacy in the thoroughbred world.
"We are commercial breeders and mainly sell foals and although she was incredibly special, it was the right business decision to sell her. She was sold through the Irish National Stud, who we have a long relationship with and John Clarke, who was the manager of the farm then, and his team did a beautiful job with her.
"You can imagine how we felt on the eve of the sale and during the day leading up to her taking a turn in the ring.
"I've been coming to Goffs since 1984 and I've never experienced an atmosphere at a sale like the feeling when Date With Destiny came into the sales ring. The whole room fell silent, everyone could see she was really, really special – the star of the sale. Twice we have topped the foal sale at Goffs so we have a particular affinity with the place but this was something different, something I had never experienced in 25 years and not again since. She was the star”.
Julian Dollar, general manager of Newsells Park Stud, talks about the timely purchase of Hazariya in 2014
"We're a commercial operation and we're also looking to operate at the high-end of the market and breed Group winners, which is not easy. Looking through the catalogue for the Goffs November Mares’ Sale Hazariya stood out as a mare with a great pedigree who had already produced good horses with good looks.
"Her first foal was a Listed winner and her fourth foal had won the Group 3 Silver Flash Stakes and was twice placed in Group 1 races at that stage.
"Pat Downes, who I trust enormously, assured me Hazariya got good-looking stock and that she had a nice Sea The Stars colt foal on the ground, which was a potential upside. Of course nobody knew then the colt would turn out to be Harzand.
"She was an older mare which we don’t always go for and we didn’t know that she had already produced a future dual Derby winner, who was waiting to come through.
"Oliver St Lawrence was helping me at Goffs that week and on Friday I had to leave before Hazariya was due to be sold as we had yearlings and foals back on the farm to bring to the following week’s sales, and mares of our own to sell, so I needed to get back to Newsells Park.
"I was on my way to the airport when Oliver rang to say she was going into the ring. We bid €420,000 or €425,000 and then Joe Foley countered with €450,000 for his client, which was our limit. I suspect if I had been there, I would have said ‘no more’ but Oliver went with one more bid.
"Nick Nugent jumped us to €480,000 when Oliver had intended to bid €460,000 but I think that was rather fortuitous as if he hadn’t gone to €480,000 Joe would have come back with another bid and we would have lost her. It was a big enough jump that it put Joe off from coming back with another.
"If I had been at the sale, instead of in a car on the way to Dublin Airport, I think I would have stuck to my guns. Then again, we always have another bid, don’t we?"
Irish Oaks winner Chicquita made history in 2013 by becoming the most expensive horse ever sold at public auction in Ireland. The star of the spectacular Paulyn Dispersal, Chicquita was consigned by the Castlebridge Consignment. The operation's Bill Dwan looks back on that unique day at the Goffs November Sale
“It was a truly unique atmosphere that day and to see the sale pavilion completely full of people set the scene perfectly for a special sale. We were so busy that day with the Makin dispersal and all the horses we sold for our other clients that it passed by so quickly, but I will never forget the electric atmosphere in the ring that day.
"Mr Makin has been a long-term client of ours and a good friend so it was fantastic to be able to consign his stock for him at Goffs in November 2013. Any sale brings its own pressures but there was a huge expectation of Chicquita selling well four years ago. She won the Irish Oaks and was second in the Prix de Diane during the summer prior to the sale, with a great pedigree and was a daughter of Montjeu.
"We all anticipated that she would be very popular and sell for a good price but we never foresaw her selling for €6 million. When a collector’s item like her comes up for public auction anything can happen, but she certainly exceeded our expectations.
"It was the highest price for a horse sold at public auction in Ireland and the record hasn’t been beaten yet. At the time you are so busy ensuring everything will go okay that you don’t really realise the achievement. Also it was a big couple of days for us with other top-class mares to sell that we didn’t get time to think.
"As part of the Paulyn Dispersal we sold July Cup winner Fleeting Spirit in foal to Galileo for €1.1m and Song, a sister to Yesterday and Quarter Moon, in foal to Frankel for €1m. We also sold Funsie, the dam of Derby winner Authorized for Mr Makin, one of the 24 horses we consigned for him, for €550,000.
"On the day, we also sold the most expensive mare not part of the Paulyn Dispersal for another client, the Group 3 winner Hazel Lavery in foal to Frankel for €850,000.
"Mr Makin had acquired some top-class stock over the years, which is not easily done. We were subsequently chosen to handle the Wildenstein Dispersal in 2016 which was another memorable time for us at Goffs. That dispersal was spread across the Orby and November Sales and had so many highlights too, including the sale of the Poule d’Essais des Pouliches winner Beauty Parlour by Deep Impact for €1.6m and her Dubawi yearling colt sold for €1.4m at the Orby Sale."
The sale of Al Eile Stud’s filly from the first crop of world champion Frankel out of its dual 1,000 Guineas winner Finsceal Beo at the Goffs November Sale in 2014 created headlines around the world. Vendor Mícheál Ryan reflects on that surreal day
“Frankel was a superstar and because Finsceal Beo was such a great mare, it was the obvious choice for her when he retired to stud.
"Three years previously we sold a daughter of Finsceal Beo from the first crop of Sea The Stars at the Goffs November Foal Sale for €800,000 and that had been an enormous success for us, and we had other stock at home, so we decided to sell the Frankel filly too.
"Ol’ Man River, her son by Montjeu who sold for €2.85 million as a yearling at Goffs, had just won the Group 2 Beresford Stakes for Aidan O’Brien and Coolmore, which gave her an added boost.
"Goffs had done a magnificent job promoting the sale of the filly around the world, I don’t think there was a buyer left who didn’t know that Finsceal Beo’s filly by Frankel was for sale. The hype leading up to the sale was incredible, but it was nerve-wracking coming towards the sale, as it always is when you’re selling a horse because there are so many things that can go wrong.
"I treat all the horses the same as each other, it doesn’t matter what their pedigrees are, they are all looked after in the same way but normally your foals aren’t making headlines on BBC Sport and RTÉ News, which this filly did!
"The whole thing was completely surreal, an incredible experience for all of us. The price we got exceeded all our expectations - we never imagined that she would sell for €1.8 million. That was just unreal.
"There was a massive crowd in the ring at Goffs and when the filly was sold, they gave her a round of applause which was unbelievable. It was one of those times that you look back on and wonder did it really happen because it all felt so surreal, like a dream.
"Finsceal Beo has a filly foal by Invincible Spirit and is back in foal to Frankel so you never know what might happen next year!”