Fayonagh the finest example of instant returns on purchase
The Tattersalls Ireland man tells us about horses in training trade
Tattersalls Ireland's series of select sales of promising jumps horses and breezers continues after racing at Cheltenham on Friday.
We asked Richard Pugh - director of horses in training sales and an expert on the point-to-point scene, from which so many top lots have emerged - about the auction and wider issues to do with the market.
The jumps horses-in-training market has been red hot for years now. How do you explain it?
There is currently very strong demand for select horses in training who have the potential to go to the very top of the ladder of the National Hunt game. There are many factors which have come together to allow for that, but arguably the most important of those is results.
The consistency of high-class winners emerging from the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham sales is something which has not gone unnoticed. While our most recent sale at the November meeting was very strong, it must be remembered that on the racecourse six graduates of our sales came up the hill in front only yards from where they had been sold. What A Moment, Finian’s Oscar, On The Blind Side, Posh Trish, North Hill Harvey and Slate House all won and notably three of them were graduates of last season’s sales.
Success stories such as Finian’s Oscar and Fayonagh can bring the lucky owner to the top of the sport in a matter of months as we saw last season. But it was of course also rewarding to see the patience of the One For Arthur connections paying off with a Grand National win.
Is there any concern that demand might at some point weaken?
As long as graduates are proving successful on the track it should ensure those lots are sought after for some time to come.
With the British and Irish jumps industries so interlinked, and indeed with all these Irish point-to-pointers being sold in Britain, do you have any fears about the impact of Brexit?
As we speak, news of the Brexit deal that will allow discussions move to the second phase is being announced. It represents a really positive development allowing ease of movement within Ireland – something which is important to our industry and many others.
Racing in Northern Ireland is a crucial part of Irish racing, so unencumbered movement of horses within Ireland is a must for the sustainability of the product as we know it.
There are obviously many more hurdles to overcome and, as an industry, we must keep a close watch on developments to ensure we can continue to prosper as the link between the UK and Ireland in the thoroughbred sector is equally important to both countries.
Which young sires with their first point-to-point runners have been impressing you?
It's a time of change within the National Hunt division, with many of the traditionally dominant sires now at an age where there is a gap for the next generation to emerge. Getaway is clearly doing well and Court Cave has been having a lot of winners in the last 12 months coming through our ring, but it has been encouraging to see buyers supporting a long list of sires at a high level in the last season or so.
We've seen six-figure sums for progeny of sires such as Alkaadhem, Blue Bresil, Curtain Time, Doyen, Frozen Fire, Great Pretender, Lucarno, Scorpion, September Storm, Well Chosen and others.
A good sale for a sire can give the market a real confidence for his progeny at all sales so this is very encouraging.
Which Cheltenham sale graduates are you most proud of - and can you tell us one or two who might be a little under the radar to look out for?
There really are too many to mention but right up there has to be the instant success of Fayonagh. She was sold at this sale 12 months ago and in March went on to win the Weatherbys Champion Bumper from a seemingly impossible position. For a mare to beat geldings in Grade 1 company is unusual and for her to back up that success in impressive fashion at Punchestown was extremely rewarding.
Obviously her loss is one of the disappointments of the National Hunt season, as she had so much still to offer as a racemare and then broodmare. But her exploits were something to be very proud of last season.
Last year’s graduates are already proving a strong bunch and Battleoverdoyen and Mr Lingo are two we haven’t seen yet that I'm looking forward to following.
Thinking of Fayonagh, are you pleased with steps taken to improve the lot of jumps fillies? Can more still be done?
I don’t think you can underestimate the progress that has been made with the profile of National Hunt fillies. It's not that long ago that our sales struggled to sell some talented form fillies. Now we are seeing prices for fillies comparable to geldings – Maire Banrigh at £320,000 topped this year's Cheltenham Festival Sale, and in November two of the top six lots were fillies with Lust For Glory (£240,000) and Queens Cave (£175,000) both selling impressively.
I'm on the ITBA National Hunt Committee in Ireland and I think the mares bonus scheme has been a great initiative. Ultimately, however, the aim is to have comparable races for mares as the geldings at the top level, and Cheltenham deserves much credit here for having a mares' Grade 1 hurdle race, a novice race for mares and hopefully more to come.
No owner could have watched last season's mares' hurdle with Apple's Jade, Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini and not wanted to be a part of it, and mares such as Quevega and Annie Power have also played an important role.
Owners know they can own a champion and win a championship race which has been a vital step for mares. More can always be done to ensure it filters right down, but I do believe we are continuing to go the right way.
Talk us through Friday's sale
The breeze-up section has sold a Gold Cup winner in Lord Windermere and proved very popular last year. We have videos of our lots online already and some wonderful pedigrees, so any buyer can form a real opinion before arriving at the sale.
As for the Irish point-to-pointers, the market has evolved when it comes to selecting these. At the outset, there was a slightly random element as to which horses were selling well and which were not.
Now when there is an impressive looking youngster with a pedigree to match, and with a form-line which signals quality, the buyer has the confidence to support with all these boxes being ticked. Many of the leading lots at our sales are proving to do the same on the course; Finian's Oscar (£250,000), Slate House (£260,000), On The Blind Side (£205,000) and so on are examples from last season and Minella Rocco topped the very first Cheltenham Festival Sale and finished second in this year's Gold Cup.
I think the buyer knows better than ever how to evaluate racing in Ireland and is selecting with more knowledge and enjoying the results.
Then there are the form horses. Fayonagh was a five-year-old Naas bumper winner who made £64,000 and went on to do what she did. We would love to think we have another gem in there this time.