McKeever cuts to the chase for Diamond
James Thomas reports from the Ascot March Sale
Thanks partly to a substantial draft from Godolphin, the Tattersalls Ireland March Sale on Thursday showed significant year-on-year increases in all the key market indicators.
As an illustration of how significant a step forward the first Ascot auction of the year has made, the opening bid of £50,000 for Lost Diamond - top lot among 162 offered - was more than double the top price achieved at the 2016 renewal. And the very presence of the agent responsible for making this audacious play, Susie McKeever, also highlights Ascot’s growing appeal. Though a little perseverance was still required before the hammer eventually came down in favour of McKeever and her husband Johnny, at £70,000 they will rightly feel they have secured their client a bargain.
"I thought there’s no point in wasting time!" said McKeever on her shock tactics. “We’ve been here on and off but it’s probably three or four years since we actually been here ourselves.
"She’s been bought for a client in Australia, as a broodmare. All plans are on hold until we get her home. There’s a chance we could breed to her up here to southern hemisphere time or send her down to Australia for their breeding season. She’s a lovely filly with an amazing page. We didn’t think we’d get her to be honest."
The unraced filly, part of the Godolphin draft, makes obvious appeal as a producer, being a Dubawi half-sister to the 2008 Great Voltigeur Stakes winner Centennial and out of Lurina, a Group 2-placed Lure half-sister to Croco Rouge. The family also includes the likes of 1,000 Guineas winner Sleepytime and dual Premio Roma winner Taipan.
Though based in Newmarket, the McKeevers’ appearance on these shores is a fleeting one. They recently returned from buying duties in Australia, and on Tuesday will board a plane bound for the Inglis Easter Sale which takes place in Sydney during the opening week of April.
Nap hand for Malone
One of the busiest agents around, Tom Malone, signed for five lots during the session, including the second-top lot, Scorpion Sid, at £50,000. The five-year-old son of Scorpion, who will now head into training with Jamie Snowden, had finished runner-up for Stuart Crawford in a Farmaclaffley maiden point earlier in the month. That day he played second fiddle to Western Honour, since bought by Malone at the Cheltenham Festival Sale for £120,000.
"He stayed on well when second on debut," said Malone. "I bought the winner of that race last week so I like the form. We’ll see in 12 months' time if it’s as good as I thought it was! He’s a lovely horse and came highly recommended."
After the antics of RSA Chase winner Might Bite, some have questioned the mettle of Scorpion’s progeny - but Malone highlighted that preconceptions can, on occasion, prove costly.
"He was was unlike your normal Scorpion, and a couple I’ve left behind because of their reputation have gone on and won races so I was happy enough with him," he said.
The agent also signed for the joint-third highest priced lots, going to £30,000 for Wexford maiden hurdle winner Delface offered by Saunderscourt Stables and the Bernardini filly Marian Halcombe consigned by Godolphin.
"The filly has been bought for Tally-Ho Stud and she’ll be covered by one of their stallions," Malone said. "Delface will come back home to Devon with me, but he won’t be hard to sell on.”
Delface is by Della Francesca out of the Lit De Justice mare Septieme Face, and won his third and most recent start for Elizabeth Doyle, achieving an RPR of 105. Marian Halcombe meanwhile is an unraced half-sister to the dam of Molecomb Stakes winner Cotai Glory.
The 26 Godolphin-consigned lots sold for a total £329,1000, and the very first lot from that draft brought about a noticeable upturn in trade, as Peter Harper outpointed the opposition with a bid of £21,000 for Invincible Man.
The colt was secured on behalf of Kuwaiti Sheikh Abdullah Alsabah, whose colours were recently carried to success by Listed Wulfruna Stakes winner Salateen.
Bred by Rabbah Bloodstock, the three-year-old son of Invincible Spirit had finished second on his last two starts for James Tate and Saeed Manana, including when behind Clock Chimes on his most recent outing at Southwell earlier in the month.
By the conclusion of trade 119 lots had changed hands for £972,300, an increase of 265 per cent on last year’s February Sale returns, an average of £8,171, an increase of 81 per cent, and a median of £4,500, a 150 per cent gain.
There was just the sole son of Gestut Fahrhof’s Campanologist in the March Sale catalogue, and he attracted plenty of interest as Paul Bocking, an owner with Pat Phelan, was pushed to £26,000 for the rangy chestnut Avantgardist.
The three-year-old, who has a peak Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 70, ran on five occasions for Mark Johnston, hitting the frame on two occasions, including when third on his most recent outing at Wolverhampton.
When asked what about the horse had caught Phelan’s eye he simply replied "pedigree," and with just a brief glance across the gelding’s page it is easy to see why. Avantgardist is out of the Kings Lake mare Avocette, which makes him a half-brother to German Oaks winner Amarette, German Listed winner Anatola - who went on to produce no other than the Melbourne Cup winner Almandin.
"He’s a big, good-looking horse," said Phelan. "He’s a wind-sucker, but that doesn’t stop them running. The immediate objective will be a Flat race. A change of scenery might help him, as will the Epsom air!"
Having cost Johnston €32,000 as a yearling Avantgardist looks well bought, particularly as further improvement can be expected once the stamina in his pedigree is drawn out.