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Harsh reality hits breeze-up market as Night Of Thunder colt stars at 575,000gns

James Thomas reports from the Tattersalls Craven Sale

Tattersalls staff sporting face masks at the entrance to the Park Paddocks sales ring
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Temperatures were being taken upon entrance at the combined Tattersalls Craven and Tattersalls Ascot Breeze-Up Sales on Thursday, but after there were decidedly mixed fortunes in the ring it was the health of the market that provided the greatest cause for concern, with one leading vendor branding trade "a disaster."

By the close of trade, 70 of the 84 offered lots had sold for a clearance rate of 83 per cent. Those transactions brought turnover of 6,649,500gns, down 36 per cent on last year's results. The average was down by 22 per cent to 94,995gns and the median closed at 61,000gns, having been 85,000gns 12 months ago.

The results highlighted by key market metrics from the first post-lockdown sale in Europe with people in attendance tell only half the tale, however, as vendors have been left trying to turn a profit in a market plainly feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, having pinhooked their lots for premium prices during a round of robust yearling sales in 2019.

There were plenty in attendance at Park Paddocks, where strict social distancing measures were in place, though some major names were notable by their absence only, including Godolphin, who claimed leading buyer honours at last year's Craven Sale with an outlay of 2,940,000gns on seven lots.

When asked for his reflections on the market, John Cullinan of Horse Park Stud, whose draft included a 300,000gns Kodiac colt, said: "It's been a disaster. The agents have worked very hard for the last couple of days, I've got to hand it to them, but obviously they're struggling with punters.

"There have been a few nice prices when agents with orders have landed on the same horse, but it's a buyers' market for the rest. There's fantastic value here, I just think circumstances in the real world have gone against us."

It was not all doom and gloom among those selling, however, and Johnny Collins of Brown Island Stables enjoyed the biggest result of the day when a Night Of Thunder colt he pinhooked for £72,000 was knocked down to Blandford Bloodstock's Tom Biggs for 575,000gns.

"Amazing, brilliant," said a visibly stunned Collins. "Especially so in the year we're having."

The sale-topping Night Of Thunder colt in the Park Paddocks ring before fetching 575,000gns from Tom Biggs
There was a significant number of withdrawals at this year's Craven Sale, with plenty of vendors having offloaded stock privately after the Covid-19 pandemic threw the breeze-up sales season into disarray.

Collins said he had received attractive offers for the Night Of Thunder colt, but, buoyed by the physical development and athletic prowess he had witnessed at home, had decided to take his chances at public auction.

View full Tattersalls Craven Breeze-Up Sale results and stats

"He's a lovely colt, I could have sold him privately a few times - I was offered a good bit of money for him - but I felt it would have been a bad advert for the breeze-ups so I said we'd tough it out and go to the sales, rightly or wrongly," he said.

"I was prepared to take it on the chin if it was the wrong decision, but thankfully it wasn't. Even the good offers I had for him privately weren't as much as he's brought here."

Johnny Collins: "Even the good offers I had for him privately weren't as much as he's brought here"
He added: "He showed plenty and everyone who rode him loved him. He's done very well physically too. He's an April 28 foal and he was bought in August as a very backward horse and was maybe a little over 15 hands. He came back into work at 16 hands and a strong horse, so he'd really developed and did what a good horse should do. We've been lucky to sell some very good horses and I think he'll be up there with them."

The colt is out of the winning Tamayuz mare Thurayaat, a granddaughter of the Oaks heroine Midway Lady. This is not the first touch Collins has landed with the offspring of Night Of Thunder, having sold Path Of Thunder, a 48,000gns pinhook, to Godolphin for 375,000gns at last year's Craven Sale.

Collins explained the success enjoyed with Path Of Thunder had encouraged him to go in search of more stock by Darley's rising star sire, saying: "We loved Path Of Thunder and the Night Of Thunders all seem to have good minds, so I felt we had to have another one."

Tom Biggs: Blandford Bloodstock agent signed for the Craven Sale top lot
Biggs, who saw off the attentions of Mark McStay, was unable to confirm plans for the sale-topping lot, but said: "He's a lovely horse and he did a very nice breeze. It was a little bit more than we expected to pay, but it's that sort of market where there are a few that everyone wants."

Pharoah in favour

The second-top lot is set to begin his racing career with Simon Crisford in Newmarket, with the American Pharoah colt consigned by Star Bloodstock going the way of Harrogate-based owner-breeder Simon Chappell, who struck a winning bid of 400,000gns through Tattersalls' online platform.  

"I know the guys at Star Bloodstock and they've been telling me this colt is a good horse all year," said Chappell, who bred the likes of Decrypt and raced horses such as Nameitwhatyoulike, Natalie's Joy and Thesme.

"At 400,000gns there was no way I was letting a horse like him slip through the net. He's by the sire of the moment in American Pharoah, he did the third-fastest breeze and has a massive stride, so I used the online bidding system and bought the horse. He'll be going into training with Simon Crisford."

Star Bloodstock's American Pharoah colt brings 400,000gns
The colt was pinhooked by Byron Rogers and Newminster Pinhooking for $170,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale and prepared by Johnny Hassett of the Bloodstock Connection.

The strapping individual, who reportedly clocked a two-furlong time of 20.59 seconds during his breeze, is out of the stakes-winning Harlan's Holiday mare Harlan's Honor.

"I'm delighted with the sale and I'm thrilled with how the colt has turned out; I'm already looking forward to seeing where he's going to end up on the track as he's always been an exciting prospect," said Star Bloodstock's Matt Eves, who added: "In a normal year you'd hope a horse like this might break the half a million mark, but clearly it's not a normal year."

Cool Silk write a fairy story

A handful of wildcard entries made it into the sale, and among those was a Hard Spun filly consigned by Willie Browne's Mocklershill who was sold to breeze-up regulars Matt Coleman and the Cool Silk Partnership for 375,000gns.

"It's unusual for us to go to that sort of money but we really liked this filly," said Peter Swann of the Cool Silk Partnership. "She's the one we've been waiting for and she's just a lovely horse. She'll probably be aimed abroad and racing on dirt. We've got Midnight Sands going over to America, his target will be the Breeders' Cup, and we'll have a chat with a trainer and see where we go with this filly."

The Cool Silk team have enjoyed enormous success with their breeze-up purchases, having sourced the likes of Prince Of Lir, Sands Of Mali and Summer Sands from the two-year-old sales, and Swann expanded on what draws him to the breeze-up model.

He said: "It's a bit more of a lottery with yearlings but we really enjoy the breeze-ups. We use Matt Coleman and get James Given to vet the horses, we look at times and strides and those factors, but the horse still has to have a bit of character when we go around and see them."

The Hard Spun filly sells to the Cool Silk Partnership for 375,000gns
The filly, out of the Grade 3-winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Lemonette, was not sold at $70,000 at the Keeneland September Sale, and Browne explained that she had not spent long with him at his famed Country Tipperary farm.

"It's a great result and she's a lovely filly," said Browne. "I got her from America only on March 1 and she was unbroken. The plan was to send her to Fairyhouse if she was ready because every other sale looked like being shut down.

"But in this instance Covid-19 has suited me as it's meant I was able to bring her here with the sale being pushed back. We knew she was going to breeze well and she didn't let us down. She's a real class act."

Although Browne enjoyed one of the day's bigger results, the general state of trade had not passed the breeze-up sales' elder statesman by. He said of the market: "It's very sticky. Special horses still sell well but it's very difficult with the rest.

"I knew she'd sell well but, to be honest, that price is a bit of a fairy story really. It's the fifty grand horse you can't move on, but how could you with the way everything is? Horses aren't really anyone's priority at the moment.  And I think the breeze-up needs to be in April and not the end of June, too much of the season has already gone."

Crisford's Kodiac

While not everyone enjoyed a fruitful Craven Sale, Simon Crisford won't have been complaining afterwards, with the 300,000gns Kodiac colt out of Life Of Pi offered by Church Farm and Horse Park Stud also set to join his ranks after being sold to Anthoy Stroud.

"He's been bought for Shaikh Duaij, who owns A'Ali, and will go to Simon Crisford," said Stroud. "He did a very good breeze and is by a very good sire, Kodiac had a great week at Royal Ascot. He passed the vet and ticked all the boxes."

Bred by John Dance, the March-born colt is the first foal out of the unraced Life Of Pi, a daughter of Sea The Stars and the Grade 1-placed Noahs Ark whose siblings include the dam of Classic candidate Armory.

The scene inside the socially distanced Park Paddocks sales ring
Despite enjoying a fine result with the Kodiac colt, Horse Park Stud's John Cullinan was left to rue a sobering session for those selling in a marketplace which has plainly not escaped the insidious effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "It's been a disaster. The agents have worked very hard for the last couple of days, I've got to hand it to them, but obviously they're struggling with punters.

"There have been a few nice prices when agents with orders have landed on the same horse, but it's a buyers' market for the rest. There's fantastic value here, I just think circumstances in the real world have gone against us."

On the Kodiac colt, he added: "He's got loads of speed, a good mind and plenty of ability. He was prepared for a client."

A big brace for Blandford Bloodstock

Tom Biggs was not the only Blandford Bloodstock agent to get in on the action at the Craven Sale, as his colleague Richard Brown went to 250,000gns for the Shalaa half-brother to Bogart and Blaine offered by Malcolm Bastard.

"He's been bought for a long-standing client and will go into training with Simon Crisford," said Brown. "He was the horse that after the breeze, having seen him gallop and inspected him on the sales ground, we highlighted him as the one we wanted."

The colt, out of the winning Tagula mare Lauren Louise, had been due to appear at last year's October Yearling Sale but was withdrawn before coming under the hammer.

Brown continued: "He comes from a very good consignor and I very much like the stallion. I think Shalaa has made a good start, the mare has already done it, although I think Shalaa's progeny aren't showing blistering pace so I think this colt could be more of a seven-furlong horse."

While the colt's pedigree appeal was obvious, Brown said it was his pre-sale breeze that really caught his attention.

"I thought his breeze was exceptional; it was the best breeze visually, in terms of time and stride, everything," he said. "That's hard to do and you have to pay for horses who can do that, but I'm delighted to get him."

A good day for team Tally-Ho

Tally-Ho Stud were also among the consignors who registered some noteworthy results, with eight lots sold for a total of 740,000gns. Jake Warren signed for two of those eight, including the 210,000gns Twilight Son filly out of Laqataat, who had been pinhooked for €68,000.

"She's been bought for Bermuda Thoroughbreds," said Warren. "We bought Queen Of Bermuda and Pink Sands from here so we've had success with fillies bought at the breeze-ups. For us, this filly was the standout physical, she's got a nice page and she did a great breeze too so we think she's got great prospects.

"Twilight Son has got off to a good start, it's still early days but I hope this filly can be a flagbearer for him."

Warren also signed for a colt by Tally-Ho's own sire Vadamos at 90,000gns on behalf of Highclere Racing. The purchaser said: "We adored him, he did a brilliant time and he's another by an exciting first-season sire."

End of sale statement

At the conclusion of trade, Tattersalls' chairman Edmond Mahony said: "First and foremost we would like to pay tribute to each and every individual who has worked so hard to make sure that the 2020 Craven Breeze-Up Sale took place under almost normal conditions, albeit more than two months later than intended.

"In particular we should recognise the patience and commitment of the breeze-up consignors who have worked with us every step of the way and have adapted to the challenges that the global pandemic has thrown at people in every walk of life.

"None of us can pretend that the past few months have been easy, but in these times of adversity it has been even more pleasing than usual to see so many of the consignors well rewarded. A clearance rate of 83 per cent, an average price nudging 100,000gns and a top-priced colt matching last year’s highest priced colt, are very respectable statistics and reflect the outstanding professionalism of the breeze-up consignors who, as ever, brought a fine collection of two-year-olds to the Craven Breeze-Up Sale.

"We should equally recognise the huge contribution made by today’s purchasers. They have yet again demonstrated the enduring appetite for quality European thoroughbreds and the esteem in which the Craven Breeze-Up is held.

"Even in these extraordinary times we have had buyers active from all corners of the world including Australia, Bahrain, Dubai, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Qatar and Spain, and the domestic demand has also exceeded expectations. Obviously the highlight was Johnny Collins' spectacular pinhooking triumph with his outstanding 575,000gns sale-topping Night Of Thunder colt, but there were numerous other success stories and we can be confident that there will be plenty of 2020 Craven Breeze-Up graduates performing at the highest level.

"We are expecting international travel restrictions to be eased in the near future, which will be a great relief, and as we look forward to the Tattersalls Guineas Breeze-Up and July Sale it has also been encouraging to see the new internet bidding facility being widely used by buyers at all levels of the market. We have done our best to explore every possible way for buyers to participate at our sales in these unusual times and it has clearly been well received."

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I just think circumstances in the real world have gone against us
E.W. Terms