Five of the most remarkable horse trades from 2017
James Thomas looks back over auction highlights from the last 12 months
The rude health of the top end of the bloodstock market has been in evidence throughout 2017, with record prices falling left, right and centre and some quite stunning pieces of sales ring theatre.
However, those who play at the table with the highest stakes aren't always dealt the ace at the first opportunity, and when others have taken the decision to shuffle their deck the result has been some staggering profits on some shrewdly acquired thoroughbreds.
The following five examples stand out as among the most exceptional pieces of horse trading to take place during 2017.
Pedigree Dabirsim - Danseuse Corse (Danehill Dancer)
Purchased by Emerald Bloodstock for €8,000
Sold to White Birch Farm and MV Magnier for 1,500,000gns
Having brought talents such as Rio De La Plata, Fleeting Spirit, Amadeus Wolf and Prince Of Lir to the market, Con Marnane is well established as one of the shrewdest pinhookers around, and in 2017 he pulled off the biggest coup of his already distinguished horse trading career.
The widely admired breeze-up doyen picked up a foal from the first crop of Dabirsim for just €8,000 at Arqana back in December 2015, but things looked to have gone awry when she failed to find a buyer at just £14,000 at the following year's Goffs UK Premier Yearling Sale.
However, rather than seek a private deal at Doncaster or prepare her for breeze-up auction, Marnane backed his judgement and sent the filly into training with the unheralded Matthieu Palussiere in Maisons-Laffitte.
Carrying the colours of Marnane's wife Theresa and named Different League, the filly recorded two victories in the French provinces followed by a memorable success in the Albany Stakes, in which she got the better of hot favourite Alpha Centauri. The result was arguably the most popular winner at Royal Ascot in 2017, despite the filly being sent off a largely unconsidered 20-1 shot.
Different League also reached the podium in her next two outings, finishing third in the Prix Morny and second in the Cheveley Park Stakes, and by the time her juvenile campaign drew to a close she had she gained all-important Group 1 black-type and netted £143,412 in prize-money to boot.
The final chapter in the story of Marnane's involvement with Different League, and the reason she counts among the best examples of horse trading this year, was written when Marnane's daughter Amy consigned the filly at the Tattersalls December Mares Sale.
Different League had twice been overlooked at public auction, but having been shown a remarkable 520 times in the build up to her date with the auctioneer in Newmarket, it proved to be a case of third time lucky. During a white hot session of trade the flying filly was signed for by Peter Brant's White Birch Farm and Coolmore's MV Magnier for a cool 1,500,000gns, and is now set for a Classic campaign under the care of Aidan O'Brien.
Pivotal - Barter (Daylami)
Purchased by Stephen Hillen for 125,000gns
Sold to the Wertheimer brothers for €1.3 million
Bloodstock auctions are, in essence, all about bartering, and at the Tattersalls December Sale in 2016 Stephen Hillen pulled off a textbook piece of bargain hunting when he secured the Fittocks Stud-bred Haggle for the not inconsiderable sum of 125,000gns.
At the time the daughter of Pivotal was a lightly-raced three-year-old so there were options aplenty, and Hillen decided to put the filly into training with Henri-Francois Devin and go in search of bold black type.
On just her second start for new connections Haggle landed the Listed Prix Maurice Zilber at Chantilly, an effort that was followed by a third in a Group 2 before she finished her campaign off with a comfortable success in the Group 3 Prix Fille de l'Air.
During her time in France the profile of Pivotal as a force among the broodmare sire ranks also reached new heights courtesy of the likes of Cracksman, Hydrangea and Rhododendron, all of whom are out of mares by the Cheveley Park stalwart, landing Group 1s.
With a dramatically enhanced profile Haggle's appearance at auction came at the Arqana December Sale, where Martin Schwartz and the Wertheimer brothers' racing manager Pierre-Yves Bureau traded bids over the filly, with the latter party landing the spoils at the sale-topping sum of €1.3 million.
Having netted profits in the region of €1.15m, plus over €55,000 in winnings alone, in a little over 12 months, this is one piece of haggling that paid off in spades.
Dark Angel - Beatrix Potter (Cadeaux Genereux)
Purchased by Clive Cox for £44,000
Sold to Godolphin privately
Lethal Force, Reckless Abandon and Gilt Edge Girl have all highlighted that Clive Cox is just as adept at spotting a fast horse for small money as he is at training them, and on the evidence of Harry Angel his midas touch remains very much intact.
The son of Dark Angel was picked up by Cox for £44,000 at Doncaster back in 2015, the year his in vogue sire's yearlings averaged 100,485gns. And it did not take long for his purchase to bear fruit, as Harry Angel was an impressive winner of the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes on just his second outing.
Timing, they say, is everything, and while it can only be presumed that Cox and owner Peter Ridgers received plenty of offers for the young colt while he was out enjoying his winter break, the pair kept their powder dry and brought Harry Angel back with a bang in 2017.
A cracking reappearance effort, when second to the classy Blue Point, was followed by a demolition job in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes in course-record time. It was after that performance that marked Harry Angel out as something exceptional and resulted in Godolphin making Ridgers an offer he couldn't refuse. While the exact details of the price paid by Godolphin were never revealed, the rumours that it was well in excess of £4m seem entirely plausible.
"Not only is he a fantastic prospect for all the major Group 1 sprints, being a son of Dark Angel he also has the added attraction of being a potential stallion," said John Ferguson after the deal had been struck.
It did not take long for his assertion to come to fruition, as Harry Angel went on to land the July Cup and Haydock Sprint Cup for his new owners, and now ranks as a most exciting stallion prospect.
Acclamation - Marlinka (Marju)
Bred by Elite Racing Club
Sold to MV Magnier for 6,000,000gns
Back in 2012 the Elite Racing Club opted to send their Listed-winning Marju mare Marlinka to Acclamation in the first season the Rathbarry Stud resident's fee had increased from €15,000 to €35,000.
The resulting foal, born on March 16 the following year, was none other than top-class sprinter Marsha. During the three seasons Elite Racing had Marsha in training with Sir Mark Prescott the filly was brought along with typically patient aplomb.
She won twice at two and rounded off her three-year-old campaign, which began in a Newmarket handicap, with a Group 1 breakthrough in the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp. More top-level glory followed at four, when Marsha narrowly got the better of Lady Aurelia in a dramatic finish to the Nunthorpe Stakes.
As Marsha's four-year-old campaign wore on Elite Racing made the decision to send their star filly to the Tattersalls December Sale, and after her 18th start, and with £650,114 in prize-money banked, it was time for the 10,000 or so members of Elite to bid their star farewell.
As a dual Group 1 winner with a pedigree that matches with some of the best stallions around, Marsha always looked set to be in demand, but few could have predicted quite how sought after she would prove.
A number of powerful parties made a play as Marsha strode around the Tattersalls ring, but it ultimately came down to a duel between Coolmore and Godolphin, who renewed their sales ring rivalry with dramatic effect in 2017.
In front of a captivated auditorium MV Magnier stuck a bid of 6,000,000gns that brought the gavel down, broke the European record for a price paid at public auction, and now sees Marsha set for a debut covering from perennial champion Galileo.
History made on the track and in the ring, all from a €35,000 cover.
Walk In The Sun
Street Sense - Mystic Melody (Seattle Slew)
Purchased by MC Bloodstock for $15,000
Sold to Kerri Radcliffe Bloodstock for €1,400,000
Had Benjamin Franklin still been around he might be saying that there are three certainties in life; death, taxes and Willie Browne turning a cheaply bought yearling into a big bucks breezer.
But, even by his own extremely high standards, the master of Mocklershill outdid himself in 2017 as the perfect storm of a bull market, a major new buying force and a shrewdly bought yearling came together to produce one the most stunning pinhooks of recent years.
It was during the seventh session of the 2016 Keeneland September Sale that Browne spotted the Darley-bred son of Street Sense and the Grade 3-placed Mystic Melody, and a bid of just $15,000 was all that was required to see the colt bound for County Tipperary.
Big things were expected by the time the breeze-up season rolled into Arqana in May, and the action in Deauville did not disappoint.
The name Phoenix Thoroughbreds was new to many, but after the operation's Kerri Radcliffe found the Street Sense colt squarely between her cross hairs, people wouldn't be forgetting the name in a hurry.
However, Coolmore also had designs on landing the colt, meaning that Radcliffe was pushed all the way to the auction-record price of €1.4m to secure the prized lot. Named Walk In The Sun, the colt is in training with Radcliffe's husband Jeremy Noseda but has yet to be seen on the racecourse.