Drama in Doncaster ring as Darren Yates gets Interconnected for £620,000
James Thomas reports from a record-breaking day at Goffs UK
Free-spending owner Darren Yates stunned a packed Doncaster ring on Thursday when going to £620,000 to secure Interconnected from the Grech and Parkin dispersal draft at the Goffs UK Spring Horses in Training and Point-to-Point Sale.
It was apparent from an early stage something big was brewing, as auctioneer and Goffs group chief executive Henry Beeby had barely drawn breath before a bid of £300,000 had been called.
JP McManus's son, Kieran, and high-rolling bloodstock agent Tom Malone were among the onlookers, but matters ultimately boiled down to a straight duel between Darren Yates, standing with trainer Phil Kirby by the top of the stairs, and Goffs' director of sales Nick Nugent, who was taking instructions on the telephone from the top tier of the auditorium.
With the £500,000 mark in the rear view mirror there was a lengthy pause as Nugent and his contact debated the next move, but the tension was broken as Beeby quipped: "If he can't persuade them no one can."
Each increase signalled by Nugent was quickly rebutted with a decisive nod of the head from Yates, and despite Nugent pushing the price to £600,000, a move that drew audible disbelief from the audience, Yates would not be denied, and after taking a deep breath, threw in the final, record-breaking bid.
Having run just once under rules, when a promising second to the subsequent Grade 1-placed Emitom in a Newbury novice hurdle, Yates had limited evidence on which to base his decision, but he went on to explain the piece of form proved plenty compelling enough.
"Phil actually rung me this week and said that this was the best horse in the catalogue, and by a long way, so told me to watch his last race," said Yates, who runs a property business from Lytham St Annes.
"Within 30 seconds of watching that run I said I've got to have him. I leave a lot of it to Phil, obviously I have to like the horse myself, but if Phil doesn't like them I won't be buying them, it's as simple as that."
The headline-grabbing purchase is not the first time Yates has made a noteworthy acquisition. Earlier in the year he paid in excess of £300,000 for Blaklion ahead of a Grand National bid, and when that horse was scratched from the Aintree showpiece he recruited Don Poli as a replacement for £170,000 at the Goffs UK Aintree Sale on the eve of the big race.
The pressure of helping the sales-topper live up to his price-tag now lies with Kirby and his team at Green Oaks Farm in North Yorkshire, and the trainer said: "He's a big shell of a horse at the moment so he should improve.
"If he improves even a small amount he's going to be a really nice horse, and if he improves as much as he should do by looking at him then it's game on. Though there's a long way to go."
The five-year-old son of Network was making his fourth visit to public auction, having fetched €37,000 as a foal and £220,000 from Highflyer Bloodstock following his win in a Larkhill point-to-point for Sophie Lacey.
He was retained at just £29,000 when offered by Tom Lacey's Cottage Field Stables at the 2017 Spring Store Sale.
While Interconnected's sale signals the start of a new chapter for Yates, it was the end of another for Mike Grech and Stuart Parkin, who sold 28 jointly owned lots during Thursday's session.
"We knew Interconnected would be the top lot from the Grech and Parkin horses," said Parkin. "Phil Kirby and Mr Yates have put themselves out there as I didn't think he'd go for quite that much. It's all quite surreal at the moment but I wish them the best of luck."
Interconnected's price smashed the previous Doncaster record, which came when Garde Champetre fetched 530,000gns - £556,000 at current day prices - from Timmy Hyde acting on behalf of JP McManus in 2004.