Doyle brothers aiming to finish spring with a flourish at Tattersalls Cheltenham May Sale

Donnchadh Doyle brings two more young jumpers to the sale
Donnchadh Doyle brings two more young jumpers to the saleCredit: Alisha Meeder

The conclusion of the Irish point-to-point season at the end of the month brings with it the last of the series of auctions by Tattersalls Cheltenham and Thursday's May Sale at Prestbury Park.

Colin Bowe, the colossus of his chosen sport, is set to be crowned champion for the 12th time ahead of fellow Wexford handler Donnchadh Doyle, who tied for the title in 2015 but has largely played Richard Johnson to Bowe’s Tony McCoy for the last few campaigns.

It is Doyle and his brothers Sean and Cormac that are likely to have the most impact at this particular sale, with nine representatives among around 30 lots set to go through the ring from 1pm.

Prizes – and glory – rank some way beneath their business model for the Doyle family. Just like Bowe, their numbers have been compiled almost exclusively from young horses running in maiden races with the hope of them earning a transfer into National Hunt stables, rather than dedicated point-to-pointers that can sometimes run up sequences in open and restricted races. 

Their Monbeg Stables finishing school has produced such stars as Bravemansgame and Monkfish, with Donnchadh alone responsible for two more Grade 1 winners at Cheltenham this time around. 

Fact To File, one of the sport's great emerging talents after his win in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase, was found for €40,000 as a yearling at Arqana and moved onto JP McManus privately after bolting up at Belharbour a couple of years ago.

 Fact to File (Mark Walsh) wins the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase at Cheltenham
Fact To File, the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase winner at Cheltenham, is one of Donnchadh Doyle's latest graduatesCredit: Edward Whitaker

Stellar Story, a €60,000 store, was one of the big-money Monbeg offerings they have become known for at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival Sale as a £310,000 purchase by Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown who went on to cause a 33-1 surprise in the Albert Bartlett.

The handler has two of the nine-strong lorryload under his name headed by a Jukebox Jury half-brother to another Monbeg leading light, American Mike. The Champion Bumper runner-up and Grade 2 Navan winner topped the April Sale in 2021 for Sean Doyle at £195,000.

American Jukebox (lot 22), a four-year-old with a prominent white face, was second to the more experienced High Dancer on his recent debut at Stowlin when sent off favourite in what looked a hot maiden.

"I think he’s a little bit above average," said Donnchadh Doyle. "He just didn’t win on the day, I don’t know if he was 100 per cent right but he showed a lot of good signs at home. 

"I was fond of him when I saw him at the sales. There’s some similarities [with American Mike] but there’s a lot more to come. He’s done enough for us, we have to move him on, but he’s one I think a lot of and hopefully he’ll go on to do some very good things. 

"You’d love to leave him a little bit longer, he's a big horse who’s going to take a bit of time, but I think he has loads of ability."

Doyle's other representative is Tiptoptim (5), a son of Mount Nelson owned in partnership with a neighbour who is out of a half-sister to very smart hurdler Grumeti. He came clear with authority under Rob James on his debut at Necarne. 

"He’d be a sharper type of horse altogether, Rob said you could drop him back in trip and he’d be ready to rock any time," said Doyle.

"He won very well and is a lovely horse who did everything very nicely, so hopefully he should be fine."

Sean Doyle appears to have three in a similar type of bracket. No Flies On Her (6) is a Soldier Of Fortune half-sister to No Flies On Him, who started off very brightly for Edward O'Grady in the winter, while Kadjar Des Mottes (17) and Hard Dealt (24) are also a perfect one-from-one. 

Cormac Doyle's quartet similarly include Bartlemy winner Sober Glory (10), a relative of the popular Fingal Bay, while the remainder have already shown promise too.

The Doyles, along with a dozen or so others in Ireland, are professionals in all but name and their combined spending made them the leading buyers at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale and the Goffs Arkle last year. 

They could be expected to invest at least a couple of million in new talent when those two principal store sales come around again next month, though the industry has been hobbled by the very wet spring.

"It’s been a bit challenging with weather, sickness and different things, but what can you do – you keep driving on," said Donnchadh Doyle.

"It’s just the way the year has been, everything has been quite slow coming to hand this time, but just the last few weeks we got a good run out of them and we got to run a few nicer ones. 

"The ground has been beautiful the last few weeks so hopefully this week will hold up and next week we’ll get a few more out."

Just like the pinhookers on the Flat, the commercial point-to-point handlers are gambling with high stakes and hoping a few horses can multiply their purchase price to cover the ones who don't. 

High stakes: Donnchadh Doyle (centre) with brother Sean (left) at Cheltenham
High stakes: Donnchadh Doyle (centre) with brother Sean (left) at CheltenhamCredit: Tattersalls Cheltenham

Anecdotally, it is thought that jumpers with the right profile are increasingly being snapped up privately for big six-figure sums after making their debut. Vendors are happy to make a quick sale and some buyers are preferring to keep their business to themselves, with their horses consequently not being a talking point with a punchy price tag. On the whole, figures for the boutique sales have taken a slight dip. 

The seventh renewal of this event features the smallest catalogue so far, although there is an emphasis on quality with half of the original intake being four- and five-year-old winners of Irish and British point-to-points and just about everything else being placed.

"They [sales] haven’t been as strong but when a nice one pops up there’s good trade for them," said Doyle. "It’s been a bit difficult. I probably have more horses than usual left over for the autumn, so probably won’t have to buy as many stores. It’ll just take another six months to get going again and to get through them all."

It is, of course, a lifestyle and a life choice. Donnchadh, Sean, Cormac and their other brother, Gearoid, are trusting in their abilities and remaining patient and positive. 

"We’ll know when we go back and do the sums!" Donnchadh said with a smile. "We’re tipping away again late on. We got a very bad run back in the autumn, I couldn’t get them right but hopefully we’ve one or two nice ones for the weekend and it’ll leave us grand for the year again."

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