Back to the future as familiar faces fill the breach for Godolphin
Stroud, Loder and Mills set to continue in Ferguson's stead at future sales
In the first major auction since his long-time bloodstock adviser John Ferguson resigned as Godolphin chief executive, a triumvirate of familiar faces from Sheikh Mohammed's camp stepped forward to handle the acquisition of yearlings at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected sale.
Standing just outside the back walking ring, in the same vicinity where Ferguson (and, at times, Sheikh Mohammed himself) had previously bid, British-based Anthony Stroud, David Loder and Jono
Mills landed one of the sale's top prizes – a War Front full-brother to Grade 1 winner Avenge – for $995,000 in the waning moments of Tuesday's closing session.
The classy dark bay, whose price was the third highest of the sale behind only a pair of $1 million colts, will be sent to Europe to compete for Godolphin, Loder confirmed.
"We just thought he was a very nice horse and we were keen to have him, Sheikh Mohammed in particular. At that level, we were very pleased to get him," Loder said.
There was another element of déjà vu to the scene as the trio were bidding against Coolmore's Aisling Duignan, who held a phone to her ear as she sat with agent Tom Goff inside the pavilion, sparking
memories of old Darley-Coolmore battles. After some indecision, Duignan and Goff opted to offer $985,000, rather than $1 million, once the Godolphin group had offered $975,000. A reciprocal hike of $10,000 then proved decisive.
"We thought he might go a littler higher than that," Loder said, smiling over the cautious final increments. "It's a breakout price, isn't it? Well, it was only fair. It caused a little amusement for everyone so that's great."
Stroud and Loder both said after the purchase – the second for Godolphin, following a $500,000 Tiznow filly during Monday's session – that they anticipate continuing to work as a group, along with Mills, on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed through the Keeneland September yearling sale, the Tattersalls October sale and into the foreseeable future. Ferguson resigned his position in June.
"It's a team effort," Stroud stressed. "We'll be back in September, definitely. And that's the plan [for Tattersalls and other sales]. It's obviously a transitional period, but everyone has the same objective, the same goal: they want the best for Godolphin. They want results on the racetrack. To be honest, that's number one. That's the
key to everything."
The War Front colt already has ties to the Maktoums, as his female family includes Irish St Leger and Grosser Preis von Baden winner Mashaallah, who ran in the colours of Sheikh Ahmed, and Local Talent, winner of the Prix Jean Prat for Sheikh Mohammed. Produced by the Woodman mare Lerici, the colt was bred by Nobutaka Tada and consigned by Gainesway, agent. Sold as Hip 226, he was the penultimate lot through the ring.
"He was the best-moving horse we had," said Gainesway's Brian Graves while congratulating the purchasers.
"He's very attractive, balanced, correct, high quality. I think he's a really good prospect," added his Gainesway colleague Michael Hernon. "We sold the full sister, Avenge [for $650,000 here in 2013]."
Loder said that this was the only yearling Godolphin had sought at this sale with the aim of racing in Europe. The Tiznow filly, consigned by Eaton Sales, agent for breeder Don Alberto Corp., was acquired specifically for Godolphin USA.
"The people who run Sheikh Mohammed's farm [in Lexington] will discuss it with him and they'll make a plan and decide who trains her," said Stroud. "Ultimately, if she does well on the racetrack, she'll go to stud."
Stroud has happy memories of this pavilion, having purchased dual Classic winner Blue Bunting here for Sheikh Mohammed in 2009.
"I like Tiznow a great deal and she was extremely athletic and a good walker," he said.
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