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Mullins and Kirk break Cheltenham May Sale record to land £280,000 El Barra

James Thomas reports from a busy session of trade at Prestbury Park

El Barra in the Cheltenham ring before bringing a sale-topping £280,000 from Harold Kirk
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The sky-high demand for four-year-old point-to-pointers was in evidence during a lively renewal of the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham May Sale at Prestbury Park on Thursday, as a new auction record was set and 11 of the 67 offered lots brought six-figure prices.

By the close of trade 51 lots had sold for turnover of £3,568,000 - a 56 per cent increase on 2017's figure, an average of £69,960 - up 41 per cent, and a median of £45,000 - up eight points. The clearance rate stood at 76 per cent. 

The top lot will now join the ranks at Willie Mullins' Closutton base after Harold Kirk set a May Sale record when going to £280,000 for El Barra, who finished runner-up to Fury Road in a Dromahane maiden under Derek O'Connor earlier in the month.


View full sale results


A number of interested parties made a play to land the athletic four-year-old, but it ultimately boiled down to a straight duel between Kirk and Tom Malone, who proved a determined but ultimately frustrated underbidder.

"There are loads of goodies still to come," said auctioneer Alastair Pim as he orchestrated some frenetic opening exchanges. "And I should know because the mare is back at my place."

And Kirk can already boast familiarity with the family having bought the four-year-old son of Racinger's half-sister, the Grade 1-placed Barra, before the daughter of Vendangeur was sold on to Gigginstown House Stud.

"I bought Barra and she was a decent mare and Robin Des Champs is a very good broodmare sire," said Kirk. "I really liked what he showed on debut and he came highly recommended. He looked classy and showed a lot of gears despite getting beaten - the winner got first run. I hope he's lucky."

El Barra was purchased from Sluggara Farm at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale for €52,000 before heading into training at Robert Tyner's Leighmoney Stables.

"He was recommended to us by Walter Connors' head man and once we'd seen him we had to have him," said Tyner. "He seems to have a lot of ability - and he knows it!

"We like to give them an educational run so we weren't disappointed when he finished second. We knew we had the best horse in the race. The winner of the race had experience and kicked entering the straight when we were still 30 lengths behind."

The scopey Monkfish exits the Cheltenham ring
Earlier in the day Kirk had gone to £235,000 on behalf of Mullins to secure Stowlin maiden winner Monkfish. The son of Stowaway, a €36,000 Derby Sale graduate, was offered by Cormac Doyle of Monbeg Stables.

The rangy four-year-old found himself in high demand as the bid board quickly rolled into six-figure territory, but after Aidan 'Mouse' O'Ryan and Matt Coleman had lasted longer than most, Kirk reappeared from behind the curtain by the ring's exit to strike the decisive blow.

"He's a big, strapping three-mile chaser and was a fantastic mover - it's rare to see such a big horse to move like that," said Kirk. "We've been lucky with Stowaway before and he's out of an Old Vic mare, that's a very good cross. He had size and movement, he ticked every box."

The most notable example of Mullins enjoying good fortune with the offspring of Stowaway is Champion Bumper and Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Champagne Fever, while he also handled the early stages of Outlander's career, winning the Flogas Novice Chase with the Gigginstown-owned runner.

The delighted vendor shed some light on how he came to train Monkfish, saying: "I like chestnuts and he was a lovely big horse who caught my eye at the Derby Sale. We took him home, broke him in and then turned him away, and while he was pulled up the first time he ran he wasn't quite right and was a bit sick afterwards. Just over two months later he won well at Stowlin."

Doyle running wild

James Doyle - no relation of Cormac - also enjoyed a notable success when selling Run Wild Fred, a four-year-old son of Shantou who made a winning debut at Dawstown earlier in the month, for the session's third-highest price.

Lodge Bloodstock signed the docket after the horse had been knocked down for £225,000, the highest price Doyle has achieved for one of his graduates.

Run Wild Fred brings a winning bid of £225,000
"He's a fine horse and we loved him from day one," said the vendor. "I hope he's lucky for the new connections. I've had 30 on the go this season, which is a lot of expense, but we've had a good year and plenty of horses through the sales.

"It's time to regroup now though and I've already been in action at the Doncaster store sales."

The gelding, who is out of the Talkin Man mare Talkin Madam, was picked up by Nicholastown Stud for €52,000 at the Goffs Land Rover Sale.

Locked in

Colin Bowe's Milestone Stables brought a six-strong draft to Prestbury Park, and ended the day as leading vendor by aggregate with a total of £615,000 collected. The priciest of the sextet was Lock's Corner, who looks set to carry the silks of JP McManus having fetched £215,000 from the owner's son, Kieran.

"He won very well and he jumps very well too," said Bowe, whose name has been in lights this year thanks to the exploits of Samcro. "I owned half of him with my cousin, JJ. We sold Trevelyn's Corn [to Tom Malone and Paul Nicholls for £400,000] here in December."

Lock's Corner, a four-year-old son of Gold Well bought as a store for €39,000, brought a big reputation to the sale having run out a 12-length winner of a Dawstown maiden on debut earlier in the month.

Bowe sold four six-figure lots on the day, including Paxman, who went the way of Evan Williams for £110,000, and Pogue, who was snapped up by Donald McCain for £100,000.

Gordon's the man

Gordon Elliott was among the leading trainers in attendance, and got his name on the scoresheet when securing The Very Man from Stuart Crawford's draft for £210,000. The four-year-old Jeremy gelding got off the mark at the second attempt when creating a big impression at Loughanmore.

"He looks a nice horse and the type with a bit of speed and class," said Elliott. "He looks like a horse for bumpers and then hurdles. We've got a lot of three-mile chasers so we're just trying to get a few different types into the yard."

Crawford's brother Ben - who partnered The Very Man in both of his point-to-points - was in attendance, and explained how the brothers came to train the horse, saying: "He was bought by Roy Wilson - all of his horses come to us, we've had some nice horses for him including the Irish Grand National winner General Principle.

"He did it very impressively [at Loughanmore] and ended up with one of the highest ratings of the year for a four-year-old maiden winner. It was a good race and be made a lot of them look silly.

"He's the sort of horse that would never disappoint you at home. You never really know how good they are until you let the flag drop but it keeps everybody happy when they go and do what he's done," he continued. 

"The sire, Jeremy, has probably taken off a bit since we got this horse and that's done us no harm at all today. They tend to be a bit handier in size but when they can gallop like this lad does size doesn't seem as relevant."

Crawford also went on to explain that The Very Man had also been in the headlines after providing him with a spectacular-looking fall at Moira on debut.

"He got a lot of airtime for the wrong reasons first time out as when he fell I ended up getting shot through the air like Superman!" he said. "He's more than made up for it now though."

Easyrun for Malone

The first six-figure lot of the day came when Malone went to £105,000 for Easyrun De Vassy, a son of Muhtathir who was last seen winning an Oldcastle four-year-old maiden for Bowe.

"He's just a beautiful big staying chaser in the making," said Malone. "He's got great form - there's horses later in the sale that I think will make a lot more than him and he was right upsides them.

"He mightn't have been flashy in his points but he's done everything right, he stuck his head down and tried to win, and in a racehorse that's exactly what you want. He'll be trained by Paul Nicholls."

Easyrun De Vassy is out of Royale The Best, a Cadoudal sister to the Group 3-winning Royale Chantou. Later in the piece Malone went to £145,000 to secure Jasmin Des Bordes, four-year-old son of Great Pretender offered by Donnchadh Doyle of Monbeg Stables.


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He's a big, strapping three-mile chaser and was a fantastic mover - it's rare to see such a big horse to move like that
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