Le Brivido another Voute of confidence in master of all trades
Two top three-year-olds found at auction by seasoned consignor
Needless to say, Ted Voute is keeping his feet on the ground. True, they remain a long way south of that familiar shock of hair which, nowadays, is no longer quite blond but topped by an ever greater variety of hats: not just as a consignor, but as breeder, agent, manager. Seasoned as he is, however, this lofty figure knows not to get carried away by the way two colts he found at auction have emerged - over the past ten days - among the most upwardly mobile three-year-olds in Europe.
At the same time, it is instructive that he can pick up the Jersey Stakes trophy at his farm outside Stratford, and run a finger down names chiselled into its base. There's Mozart, the 2001 winner - sold as a yearling; and here's Aqlaam, 2008 - sold as a foal. Nor can you be especially surprised that Le Brivido, the Siyouni colt who won the latest running, should be Voute's first ever breeze-up purchase. For here is a man with a knack of getting started on the right foot.
For instance, the very first group of foals he accommodated here in 2004 - Voute was yet to exchange contracts for the farm when, candidly "winging it," agreeing to take a batch from Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar - included a 95,000gns son of Montjeu with a habit of locking his stifle. Al Homaizi, making his first visit, came in and asked for the direction of Mecca since it was the hour of prayer. As they took their bearings, he asked what their custodian made of the foals.
"I think you're going to win the Derby," said Voute.
"But I've already written to him twice and had no reply," said young Voute.
"Tell you what - what time is it down there?" said Armstrong, picking up the phone. By the time he replaced the receiver, Voute was booked in for the first leg of his global education.
So by the time he had been consigning for a few years - at a time, in fact, when Mary Hambro was just about the only other operator in the field here - and was in a position to buy himself a farm, Voute would hardly be too glib in telling a new client that a half-formed foal might become a Derby colt.
"I did think him the best I'd ever been around," he recalls. "I just loved everything about the horse. And I was gutted when they said he'd go to Tattersalls October. I think the idea was to top the sale. And I thought: 'Demi [O'Byrne of Coolmore] is going to love this horse.' I'd sold him Mozart, sold him Milan, and I thought he was a shoo-in to buy this one. So I couldn't believe it when we started getting the vettings and he wasn't on the list. I thought: 'Well I got that completely wrong.' In the end Jean-Claude Rouget, an amazing judge, was underbidder. But the horse wasn't even half sold when they bought him back at 400,000gns. They were going for the million, at least."
The colt was Authorized, of course, and duly won the Derby. In the years since, however, the consigning business has become ever more competitive. At one time, Voute had a virtual monopoly and was prepping a couple of hundred youngsters at a time. Now, even in annexing the late Gerald Leigh's farm in Northamptonshire, he has halved numbers and diversified his interests.
"I'd been so taken with Siyouni when I saw him on the Route Des Etalons," Voute says. "And when I saw this strapping colt I thought how much he resembled his sire. As a consignor, I know you're always relieved to sell, for any profit - but I could tell the people who sold him were massively disappointed."
Le Brivido's only defeat to date came when collared in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, after which his trainer Andre Fabre suggested a drop back in trip at Ascot. "But looking back maybe it was greenness that got him beat in France," Voute wonders. "There was a lot going on in that race. Whereas at Ascot he looked like he could stay a little farther, and Andre has been talking about the Prix Jacques le Marois."
Fabre also trains Prince A A Faisal's Frankel colt Last Kingdom, a $500,000 Keeneland yearling who made it three wins in three starts this term on his Group debut at Maisons-Laffitte on Wednesday. "That's the most we've ever spent on a yearling," Voute says. "The horse was a big baby last year, really needed to grow up, and Andre has been amazing - just let him develop, let him come to himself.”
Last Kingdom carries the same silks as Belardo, a €100,000 yearling subsequently part-sold to Godolphin, and Make Believe, a €180,000 foal. "But obviously half of this is luck as well," Voute concedes. "When we bought Make Believe [at Tattersalls December] we had a shortlist of ten. We went in for the first one, I think by Teofilo or New Approach, and saw it bought by John Ferguson; came back for the second, the exact same story; and when we went back to the buffet room the Prince said: 'Take all the Darley stallions off the list!' And the one we're left with was this son of Makfi."
Named Ocovango, the Monsun colt won his first three before going under by barely two lengths in the Derby. And so Voute proceeds, his antennae sharpened by the different perspectives he unites. There he is, on the back of the Tattersalls July catalogue, as buyer of the 37,000gns mare African Jade - subsequently dam of triple Grade 1 winner Lord Nelson - for the late Eamon Cleary. Nor was Le Brivido the only feather in his Ascot cap: he consigned both Khalidi, the King Edward VII runner-up, and Out Do, the Wokingham winner, as yearlings.
So while the role of luck is granted, presumably getting things right at the nursery stage can tell down the line? "Yes," he says, reflecting. "I think temperament is a massive factor. And, when when you're buying yearlings, you don't have much time to assess it. Sometimes you can assess it wrongly, say if they jib going into a box maybe for the 20th time that day. But of course sometimes exactly that kind of thing can make the sales the ultimate test, those repetitive things. And I do think it's one thing, during preparation, you can do all sorts of little things to help.
"Though I think to survive now, you can't just be consigning. You need your stud farm, your hotel, a little bit of buying, a little bit of breeding. It's great - we've found our level, we've found our people. And I just hope that when I'm 65, I'll have a couple of good mares to pop out a nice one every year. But thankfully that's a long way off."