King bids and Christmas spirit at Cheltenham December Sale
James Thomas reports from a busy session of selling at Prestbury Park
Christmas is known as a time for giving and buyers at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham December Sale were plainly in the holiday spirit as big prices came thick and fast during Friday's post-race session.
In a particularly generous mood was Highflyer Bloodstock's Anthony Bromley, who landed impressive bumper winner Downtown Getaway with a showstopping opening bid of £350,000.
Auctioneer Richard Botterill asked for an opening bid of £400,000 for the lot he described as "the next Champion Bumper winner", and when Bromley, stationed ringside, bit at the £350,000 mark a couple of big players left looking decidedly perturbed.
The four-year-old, who was bred and owned by Peter Magnier and Margaret Mullins, had run out a jaw-dropping 12-length winner of a Fairyhouse bumper earlier in the month.
"He's been bought for a new client to go to Nicky Henderson," explained Bromley. "I'm a big fan of the sire - Getaway - I bought four by him at the last sale here. He was very impressive when winning at Fairyhouse, he attained a Racing Post Rating of 130 and is already high up in the betting for the Champion Bumper and that is the aim.
"Hopefully he might be able to have a prep in something like the Graded bumper at Newbury but it all depends on how he settles in with Nicky. He's already shown a high level of form and we know the family having bought Chomba Womba from Mags."
Bromley went on to explain the thought process behind deploying the king bid tactic.
"The client was happy to bid the reserve and it can really change the dynamic of the sale as it can take the wind out of people's sail," he said. "Someone could have bid £360,000 if they'd wanted to though. It felt like a very long time before Richard brought the hammer down!"
Cheltenham's December Sale has got previous form when it comes to producing Champion Bumper winners, as the ill-fated Fayonagh changed hands at the 2016 renewal of the sale.
Malone claims the Corn
Remarkably that price was eclipsed soon after when Tom Malone outpointed Jonjo O'Neill and JP McManus at £400,000 for seven-length Borris maiden winner Trevelyn's Corn.
Whereas Bromley blew his opponents out of the water, Malone and McManus traded blows of £5,000 until the board read £375,000, at which point the agent instructed auctioneer Alastair Pim to round the price up to the session-topping sum.
"He went through his race at Borris like a very good horse and his trainer Colin Bowe, who's someone I have a lot of time for, told me that the horse had woken up a lot since his run," said Malone after receiving a firm handshake from McManus.
"He's a big backward son of Oscar, a sire I've had luck with before with Beer Goggles and Finian's Oscar. It ended up being a colossal amount of money and I'm sure he'll always been seen as too dear when he goes racing, but as far as a young horse goes he looks beautiful and did nothing wrong when winning first time out."
The son of Oscar is out of the winning Presenting mare Present Venture, while the tough and talented Lie Forrit appears further back in his page.
Trevelyn's Corn, a €45,000 Tattersalls Ireland Derby National Hunt store buy, was offered was Colin Bowe's Milestone Stables, who sold three lots in the Prestbury Park ring for a total of £800,000.
O'Neill did manage to secure one of the offerings from Bowe's draft, having parted with £300,000 for Mainstown maiden winner Straight Red.
"We bought him from the Land Rover Sale," said Bowe, who picked up the son of Westerner as a store for €50,000. "He was a very good mover, very light on his feet for a horse with so much scope. I owned half of him with Jim O'Neill - the brother of champion point-to-point rider Barry.
"Jim pre-trained him last year and then he came to me this year. He won on really testing conditions without coming off the bridle so hopefully he's got a big future."
Bowe's other lot, Knockinroe maiden winner Blackjack Kentucky, went the way of Tom Malone for £100,000.
French fancy for Kirk
It only took five lots before the six-figure mark was broken, with Harold Kirk going to £120,000 for the three-year-old El Merano offered by French trainer Alain Couetil. The rangy son of Saddex, who is by Sadler's Wells and resides at Haras de Grandcamp, ran twice in his native land and was last seen finishing second to Elixir D'Ainay at Lyon Parilly.
"He's a fine big three-year-old and I think the form of his last race is very good," said Kirk, whose acquisition is bound for yard of Willie Mullins.
"The horse that beat him is very good. He is by Saddex so will improve with time so he'll be kept to run over jumps next season. We had So Young who's further back in the family too."
Mulholland stocks up
The highest price among the untried lots on offer was given by Neil Mulholland, who went to £115,000 for the three-year-old daughter of Germany offered by Meadowview Stables.
"She's been bought for an owner in the yard," said Mulholland. "I knew a bit about her as I'd seen her back in Ireland and she came with the right vibes. She's very, very nice. We'll probably give her a run in a bumper and then put her away for next year."
Friday's sale was the second occasion the filly had been through the ring in 2017, having been picked up for just €10,000 by Meadowview Stables at Part Two of the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale back in June.
The filly is a granddaughter of Princess Supreme, an unraced sister to smart jumpers Supreme Prince and Supreme Serenade.
By the close of trade 47 lots had changed hands for turnover of £3,777,500 - a 19 per cent year-on-year increase, an average of £80,372 - a 16 per cent increase, and a median of £50,000 - identical to the figure recorded 12 months earlier. The clearance rate stood at 70 per cent, down from 81 per cent in 2016, albeit from ten more offered lots.