Five key angles to emerge during the August Yearling Sale
James Thomas and Martin Stevens with the auction's major talking points
Al Shaqab return
Al Shaqab Racing has in recent years been a much quieter presence at the sales than when it arrived on the scene with loud fanfare, buying numerous high-priced lots. Most famously it paid a record 5,000,000gns for the Galileo yearling sister to Was in 2013.
But the Qatari organisation sprang back into life at the Arqana August Yearling Sale this week, not insignificantly only weeks after its figurehead Sheikh Joaan Al Thani appeared on ITV Racing to reaffirm the Gulf state's enthusiasm for its sponsorship of Glorious Goodwood after it had pared back its participation in British racing.
At last year's auction, just one lot costing €160,000 was signed for in the name of Al Shaqab Racing, but 12 months on there was a haul of 17 who cost €2,387,000 in total. It was the second leading buyer in terms of outlay, between top spender MV Magnier and third-placed Godolphin.
Al Shaqab was playing largely in the middle market – a far cry from the flamboyant bids of yesteryear – with its purchases ranging from €320,000 for a Kingman colt out of Poule d'Essai des Pouliches second Baine to just €27,000 for a son of its home stallion Toronado.
On the evidence of this week, Phoenix Thoroughbreds also appears to be spreading the risk around more horses, with six bought for €1.41 million, the most expensive of which was a Frankel filly out of L'Ancresse who cost €480,000. The investment fund showed restraint by pulling up as an underbidder on a number of the most expensive lots of the sale.
Last year it bought just two over the three days for €2.03m, one of whom was the €1.55m sale-topper, a Dubawi colt out of Giofra.
The biggest spender of all at Deauville in August 2017 was Shadwell, giving €2.4m for nine bought. However, Hamdan Al Maktoum's operation was an eyebrow-raising absentee from the buyers' list this time.
There is no disputing that famed French nursery Ecurie des Monceaux dominates the consignor ranks at Arqana. It was business as usual for Henri Bozo's operation this week, with the stud generating aggregate sales of €9.325m - a whopping 25 per cent of the auction's turnover of €36.891m despite the 32 lots it sold comprising just 14 per cent of total sales.
But another operation also made a noteworthy contribution to this year's August Sale, with Ballylinch Stud playing a leading role on several fronts.
The Thomastown nursery topped the consignors list by average, selling six lots at a clip of €355,000 per head and for total receipts of €2.130m. The group was headed by an Invincible Spirit filly out of Prix Allez France winner Mayhem, who fetched €900,000 from Godolphin when offered on behalf of breeder Brendan Hayes, and a homebred full-brother to Belardo, who went the way of China Horse Club for €600,000.
The stud's flagship sire Lope De Vega also enjoyed a productive few days in Deauville, with his nine sold lots bringing an aggregate of €2.705m and an average of €300,555 - over six times his 2016 covering fee of €45,000. These were topped by a half-brother to crack two-year-old Dark Vision, who set a new record price for the stallion when selling to MV Magnier for €900,000.
Lope De Vega's son Lone Peak gave a clear example of the kind of talent his sire is capable of imparting when making a winning debut by no less than seven lengths in the Prix de Montaigu at Deauville on Monday. That performance saw him join an illustrious roll of honour, as the last three renewals of that race have been won by Cloth Of Stars, National Defense and Wootton. That was followed on Wednesday by Phoenix Of Spain, who ran out a decisive winner of the Group 3 Tattersalls Acomb Stakes at York.
Another Ballylinch resident, first-crop sire Make Believe, also got his sales season off to a positive start when his daughter out of Lady Pimpernel sold to Sackville Donald for €180,000, having been bred at a fee of just €20,000.
As if all that wasn't enough, Ballylinch also turned buyer to dramatic effect during Sunday's session when managing director John O'Connor outbid David Redvers at €1.4m to secure the sale-topping Dubawi colt out of Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Just The Judge.
Muhaarar on the march
The August Sale gave the European market its first glimpse of the debut yearling crop of 15 new sires. Arguably the biggest marker was laid down by Shadwell's Muhaarar, whose six lots sold for a total of €1.540m and an average of €256,665 - impressive numbers considering this crop was conceived at a fee of just £30,000.
Those sales were headed by the colt out of Prudenzia who went the way of David Redvers at €420,000, while the likes of Al Shaqab Racing and Kerri Radcliffe also gave the stallion their vote of confidence.
Darley's Dalham Hall resident Night Of Thunder also made an impact, with three lots selling for an aggregate of €590,000 and an average of €196,665 from a covering fee of €30,000, as did Coolmore's Gleneagles, whose seven sold lots fetched a combined €1.145m at an average of €163,570.
Those seven, conceived at a fee of €60,000, were led by a half-sister to Prix Jean Prat winner Intellogent, who went the way of Gatewood Bell and Cheyenne Stables for €400,000.
The highest price achieved by a first-crop sire belongs to American Pharoah, who saw US agent Deuce Greathouse go to €850,000 for a filly out of Marbre Rose, while the half-sister to Yorkshire Oaks winner Shareta by the Triple Crown hero fetched €750,000 from MV Magnier.
However, as impressive as they were, those sales look likely to be the only impact American Pharoah has on the European yearling sales circuit, as he has no other lots catalogued in the upcoming select sales.
Business as usual at the top
As is often the case, plenty on the grounds at Arqana offered a pessimistic projection for the yearling sales season ahead, with the impact of Brexit and the knock-on effect from a difficult breeze-up season put forward as the biggest causes for concern.
But in the event the key market metrics suggested that trade at the August Sale was largely on a par with last year.
Turnover for the three-day August Sale stood at €36.891m - a decline of around three and a half per cent. When private sales are also taken into account the year-on-year drop was less than one per cent, with an aggregate of €38.126m.
The median remained at €110,000 for the third consecutive year, while the average of €159,700 was down just three and a half points from €165,585 12 months ago.
The number of sold lots remained exactly the same as in 2017, with 231 yearlings changing hands, but with 11 more youngsters on offer in 2018 the clearance rate dipped from 76 per cent to 73 per cent.
And it should be noted that this year's figures were achieved without the participation of Shadwell or Markus Jooste's Mayfair Speculators, both of whom were major presences in Deauville in 2017.
However, things were not quite so rosy at the v2 Sale on Tuesday, which offers sharper and speedier stock - just the types breeze-up traders want.
The aggregate dropped by 16 per cent to €3.534m, the average also fell by 16 per cent to €33,030, while the median retreated from €30,000 12 months ago to €27,000.
Those results are quite at odds with the success the v2 Sale has enjoyed on the track, having supplied this year's Poule d'Essai winners Olmedo and Teppal.
But after a difficult breeze-up season pinhookers were always liable to tighten their purse strings, and a closer look at results suggest that is precisely what has occured.
Breeze-up doyen Con Marnane was the leading spender at last year's v2 Sale, with six bought for €336,000, while Powerstown Stud were third with three yearlings acquired for €250,000.
Both outfits were back in action this week, but Marnane signed for just three yearlings at a cost of €92,000, while Powerstown parted with €167,000 for two lots.
While the top tier seemingly remains impervious to market forces, it is the lower rungs where trade may prove rather more challenging in the months ahead.
Sire on fire
Who is the best sire in Normandy? The strongest claim to the title probably belongs to Siyouni, source of this year's Prix de Diane heroine Laurens and Diamond Jubilee Stakes runner-up City Light.
He was also on the mark with an exciting new winner when the Fabrice Chappet-trained filly Pauline scored in a Deauville maiden in good fashion on Sunday.
The Haras de Bonneval resident recorded a highly creditable average price of €179,474 at Arqana from Saturday until Monday, despite having the largest draft in the catalogue and 19 lots change hands. Those results included a brother to Group 3 winner Souvenir Delondres sold to Godolphin for €380,000.
Or perhaps it is Le Havre, whose exciting son Boitron remains unbeaten in three starts after a decisive success in the Denford Stakes at Newbury on Saturday. He is also responsible for the two-year-old filly Commes, an impressive first-time-out winner at Deauville on Tuesday.
The Montfort et Preaux stallion was popular at the sales in Deauville this weekend, with 13 lots changing hands for an average of €86,769.
But perhaps the most potent patriarch based in France at the moment is, in fact, renowned bloodstock agent David Powell.
He is the father of Freddy, executive director of Arqana who helped oversee another successful August Yearling Sale; Richard, who runs Haras du Lieu des Champs where he raised Fabulous Dragoness, the impressive five-length winner of a three-year-old AQPS-bred contest at Vichy on Saturday; and US-based trainer Leonard, who sent out Fatale Bere to land the Del Mar Oaks on the same day.
All in all, a progeny record to rival Siyouni or Le Havre.
More from the Arqana August Yearling Sale: