Five points of interest from a record-breaking renewal of the February Sale
A look at the key players and major market trends at Park Paddocks
1 - Buyers keen to cash in on rare opportunity
Beleaguered South African business tycoon Markus Jooste may have been forced to call time on his global racing empire, but his departure presented a rare opportunity for buyers to acquire a range of blue-chip stock that had previously been owned in part by the Mayfair Speculators man.
The most eye-catching offering was undoubtedly Willie John, who had been owned in partnership with the China Horse Club. The three-year-old boasts a flawless pedigree, being by Dansili and out of the dual Group 1 winner Izzi Top, was an impressive winner of his sole start to date in a mile maiden at Yarmouth, and was offered with entries in the Derby and the Irish equivalent.
Willie John duly attracted the attention of a plethora of major players before Roger Varian, acting on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid, sealed the deal at 1,900,000gns to set a European auction record price for a colt in training.
A quartet of mares that Jooste had owned with the Coolmore partners also came under the hammer, with the most expensive of the four being Smoulder, who was knocked down to Lordship Stud for 550,000gns.
In total seven horses who had been under the part ownership of Jooste were sold across the two-day sale, with the septet registering a combined 3,738,000gns - 47 per cent of the 2018 February Sale turnover.
Tatts: Roger Varian outbids Chris Richardson at 1,900,000gns to land the unbeaten Willie John pic.twitter.com/PF76jrTIFL— RP Bloodstock (@rpbloodstock) February 2, 2018
2 - Tough away from the top
The 2017 February Sale set the tone for a record-breaking year at Tattersalls, and it will be interesting to see if the latest renewal proves to be another good omen.
The sale posted a record price when Willie John fetched 1,900,000gns, and also set new high marks for the aggregate and average figures. Turnover hit 8,037,150gns - up 40 per cent year-on-year - while the average price was up 58 per cent to 26,880gns.
However, as was so often the case in 2017, it was the upper end of the market that proved by far the strongest sector, as despite those monstrous increases, the median figure actually fell from 8,000gns to 7,000gns.
It may be very early days, but those returns stand as a cautionary note that we could be set for a year of polarisation on the sales circuit.
3 - Owner-breeder mares in demand
It is a sad fact of the modern horseracing landscape that the number of owner-breeders is in decline. But even if they are becoming a rarity on the racecourse, the presence of their stock in the sales ring tends to go hand in hand with the bid board registering a sizeable sum.
This was certainly the case at the February Sale, as eight fillies and mares offered by some of the most prominent owner-breeders around filled the top 20 prices. The priciest was Thetis, offered with her 19-day-old Lope De Vega filly foal by The Castlebridge Consignment on behalf of Ballymacoll Stud.
She became the first of four lots to break the previous February Sale record when knocked down to John McCormack for 550,000gns.
Juddmonte and Godolphin also got in on the act, with the former supplying the 220,000gns Relent - who was knocked down to Cathy Grassick on behalf of Yvonne Jacques - while the latter's draft contained Quality Moment - who was bought by Paul Moroney for 90,000gns.
4 - Cheveley Park spree
Another prominent owner-breeder was busy spending rather than selling, however, as Cheveley Park Stud secured ten lots at a cumulative spend of 525,000gns - almost seven per cent of February Sale turnover.
Patricia and David Thompson's operation was busy buying mares with which to support the stud's eight resident stallions. The most expensive of those was the 170,000gns Tallulah Rose, a winning daughter of Exceed And Excel who will join the harem pencilled in to visit exciting newcomer Ulysses.
Cheveley Park also invested in some less expensive prospects too, including End Of An Era and Portraitofmylove, both of whom offer plenty of pedigree despite costing just 15,000gns each. Both are also by Azamour, the damsire of Cheveley Park's Listed-winning juvenile Private Matter, a son of the stud's resident Mayson.
The stud's February Sale spend was so nearly considerably higher, having been the immediate underbidder on the sale-topping Willie John.
5 - Count on Castlebridge
Consigning a high-value thoroughbred at public auction is a task that should not be underestimated. If a horse is to realise its maximum value it must be prepared with care and attention and handled with skill once on the sales ground, where a popular offering could potentially be shown hundreds of times befores coming under the hammer.
So take a bow The Castlebridge Consignment, who offered four of the top five most expensive lots at the February Sale.
The operation offered the 550,000gns Thetis and her 19-day old foal on behalf of Ballymacoll Stud, and offered the four expensive mares that had been part owned by Markus Jooste, with Smoulder, who fetched 550,000gns, the 525,000gns Key To My Heart and the 475,000gns Pocketfullofdreams all making the top five.
The Castlebridge Consignment offered 23 lots during the two-days of trade for an aggregate of 2,649,600gns - 33 per cent of the February Sale's turnover - and at an average of 115,200gns.
The Castlebridge Consignment also offered Easton Angel, who set the previous February Sale record price when bought by Mick Flanagan for 500,000gns in 2017.