No top hats for London Sale top lot as £900,000 Lockheed heads east
James Thomas reports on the varied buying agendas at Kensington Palace
The old saying goes that one should never mix business with pleasure. But whoever coined that particular piece of wisdom clearly knows nothing of the draw of Royal Ascot - and if proof were needed that it can be done, just ask those who gathered in the sunkissed Orangery in Kensington Palace Gardens on Monday evening for the Goffs London Sale.
The fourth renewal of the auction, held in association with Qipco and on the hottest day in the capital since 1976, saw Goffs distil the boutique concept, with the breeze-up offerings dropped in favour of a condensed catalogue consisting almost entirely of horses with entries at the royal meeting or high-class breeding prospects.
A veritable who's who of the racing and breeding worlds gathered, many drawn by the possibility of acquiring an Ascot runner at the 11th hour. And while much the biggest spender of the sale was plainly enthused by that unique selling point, the top lot - Lockheed, beaten a neck in the German 2,000 Guineas for William Haggas - was one of several who will not be taking up his royal engagement.
Bids rained in from under canopies and behind the perfectly manicured hedges, but it was Chris McAnulty, standing directly to the left of the rostrum, who had the last say at £900,000. The Australian was quick to confirm that he had no intention of donning his top hat to cheer on his new acquisition.
This is not the first time that McAnulty has plundered a boutique sale this year only to instantly declare his purchase a non-runner, as the agent also signed for Gunnison, the A$1.4 million top lot at the inaugural Inglis Chairman's Sale in Sydney back in March.
"I think these kind of sales are important because they give owners confidence to buy as there's transparency," he said. "And obviously horses as good as Lockheed very rarely come on the market.”
The vendors, for their part, were satisfied to have cashed in. "He's a very good horse and we've had plenty of fun with him but he's probably just short on the stallion-making profile," said China Horse Club's Mick Flanagan.
"Maybe if he'd won the German Guineas we could have arranged a stallion deal with a German farm but it didn't happen. We decided to move him on and now we'll focus on the next one. We'll be reinvesting the money in another yearling or two and rolling the dice again."
One lot that will start at Ascot - and from a different yard - is the superbly named Armum, who will be saddled by Ed Dunlop for Friday's Albany Stakes. Bidding on behalf of an existing patron, he picked up the daughter of Society Rock for £250,000 from Jamie Osborne's The Old Malthouse Stables.
"She has a lovely pedigree," said Dunlop of the filly, who ran out a half-length winner of a Chester maiden earlier in the month. "She's a half-sister to a Group 2 winner and has a very good second dam. She'll definitely run in the Albany."
The juvenile filly will be bidding uphold a bit of family honour when she lines up in the Group 3 contest, as she is a half-sister to last year's Windsor Castle Stakes winner Ardad.
One of the anticipated highlights, Millevini - a Hawk Wing half-sister to Kingston Hill offered with a Frankel filly foal at foot and in foal to Kingman - failed to meet her reserves and will be retained by Mike Caddy's Heatherwold Stud.
In total a dozen lots changed hands for turnover of £4,425,050, and Goffs chief executive Henry Beeby felt that the sunshine was not purely literal. "It's become an unofficial curtain-raiser to Ascot week," he said. "The sale has evolved from a breeze-up sale into a horses-in-training sale. We decided to focus all our breeze-up energies in Doncaster, and by the end of April we knew that had worked out really well. We don't want to be selling three or four hours - we want a short, sharp sale in wonderful surroundings, a really enjoyable social occasion as well as a very serious sale. The whole point is that while it's a sale first and foremost, the ripple effect is about raising brand awareness of Goffs in the optimum time and optimum place."