One in a million: Ballylinch Stud splashes out €1.4 million for Dubawi colt
Son of Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Just The Judge lights up the auction ring
Last year the Arqana August Yearling Sale was topped by a son of Dubawi out of a Group 1-winning mare, and history repeated itself in Deauville on Sunday as Ballylinch Stud's John O'Connor went to an auction-topping €1.4 million for a colt out of Just The Judge.
A hush descended in the packed auditorium as the highly anticipated lot made his way into the ring, but by the time the bid board was showing a seven-figure sum matters had boiled down to a straight duel between O'Connor and David Redvers, racing manager to Qatar Racing, who co-bred the yearling with the China Horse Club.
The price continued to climb in €50,000 increments until O'Connor, standing on the steps below Redvers' position at the back of the auditorium, struck the decisive blow.
"When you go to buy a horse like him you always know it'll be difficult but we were keen to have him," said O'Connor, who went on to explain the stud's affinity with this family was a major draw.
"He's a lovely colt by an exceptional stallion in Dubawi and this is a family we know well," he said. "Just The Judge was a real champion and we actually bred and sold her dam [Faraday Light] so it's an original Ballylinch family going back to the McCalmonts' time, it's the family of Mesopotamia which is a great line.
"Those outstanding race mares, if they have a foal by an international stallion there's always going to be plenty of people who'll want to buy them so sometimes you have to push the boat out.”
He added: "Obviously we're hoping he'll be good enough to make a stallion at some point. It would be nice to think he can go to stud so the family can come back home. We may race him with some partners but for the moment it's just Ballylinch involved."
The colt, offered by La Motteraye Consignment, was following in his dam's footsteps by fetching a seven-figure sum at public auction, as Qatar Racing and China Horse Club went to 4,500,000gns to secure the Irish 1,000 Guineas and E.P Taylor Stakes winner from Tattersalls in 2014.
"We'll take him home to our own pre-training centre and break him in and then make a decision about who'll train him over the next few months," added O'Connor. "But believe me, he'll go to a good trainer."
Ballylinch Stud also played a part in several of the other big-money transactions in Sunday's session.
The colt by the farm's flagship stallion Lope De Vega out of Black Dahlia was the recipient of a monumental pedigree update when her Dream Ahead two-year-old – listed merely as “in training in GB” in the catalogue – suggested he was the best colt of his age in Europe with a smooth victory in the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood for trainer Mark Johnston last month. The unbeaten Dark Vision – sold as a yearling by Ballylinch Stud – has since been sold privately to Godolphin.
It is Godolphin's great rivals Coolmore who will race his year-younger half-brother after MV Magnier stretched to €900,000 to secure him.
“He's a very nice colt and a lovely mover,” said Magnier. “His half-brother looked very smart when he won at Goodwood the other week, so let's hope he's lucky too.”
The colt, presented by Ecurie des Monceaux, was bred by SF Bloodstock out of the Listed-placed Dansili mare Black Dahlia, a relative of Group/Grade 1 celebrities Can'thelpbelieving and Soviet Line.
The dam showed admirable toughness in her racing career, finishing in the first three in 15 of her 42 starts. Despite that, SF Bloodstock were able to buy her for just 40,000gns at the end of her racing career in 2010.
If that seems extraordinarily good value in light of the mare's recent exploits, the price Johnston paid to secure Dark Vision is quite implausible: 15,000gns at Book 2 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale last year.
The operation consigned a second €900,000 lot when a daughter of Invincible Spirit and the Group 3-winning Whipper mare Mayhem went the way of Anthony Stroud, who was acting on behalf of Godolphin.
"She's an extremely nice filly," said Stroud. "She's been bred by a renowned breeder in Brendan Hayes and hopefully she'll join the Godolphin broodmare band once her racing days are over.
"The decision over who will train her rests with Sheikh Mohammed."
The filly shares her page with the likes of Royal Bench, Cerulean Sky and Melbourne Cup hopeful Magic Circle, while she is also related to Propel, who topped the 2013 renewal of the August Sale when selling to James Harron for €1.5m.
Meanwhile a Lope De Vega colt bred and consigned by Ballylinch, a brother to champion two-year-old and Lockinge Stakes hero Belardo, was knocked down for €600,000 to Mick Flanagan, acting on behalf of China Horse Club.
"He's a full-brother to a very good horse and is by a proven Group 1-producing stallion," said Flanagan. "He's very athletic, has a very good action and comes from a great farm. We're glad to get him and hopefully he can turn out to be a good horse.
"We'll take him home and break him in and make a decision about who'll train him at a later stage."
American Pharoah was represented by two fillies in the Arqana August Sale and both lit up the bid board. The first, a half-sister to Yorkshire Oaks winner Shareta, was knocked down to Coolmore for €750,000 on Saturday and will head to Ballydoyle, but the second is travelling in the opposite direction across the Atlantic after being knocked down to US agent Deuce Greathouse for €850,000.
Greathouse, who bought Uncle Mo as a foal and sourced champion Tepin as a yearling for owner Robert Masterson, reported the filly would be syndicated among a group of owners including Masterson, with Cindy Hutson, who was present during the bidding, taking a majority share.
“She's a beautiful horse,” Hutson said while expressing her love for American Pharoah, before referring reporters to Greathouse for comment with an exclamation of “I just write the cheques!”
“Cindy has been in the game a couple of years but at a much lower level,” he said. “American Pharoah was such a great, well-balanced horse and we loved this filly's family.”
The filly, bred in partnership between Ecurie des Monceaux and Haras de Saint Pair, is the first foal out of Marbre Rose, a Grade 3-winning daughter of Smart Strike. The dam's Frankel half-brother Gidu was sold by Monceaux for €410,000 at Deauville two years ago and also went to America, developing into a classy sprinter-miler for Zayat Stables and finishing a close sixth in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in June.
A trainer in the US has yet to be decided.
International participation is nothing new at high-end sales, though Denmark rates one of the more unlikely destinations for a blue chip yearling. However, that is precisely where the Dubawi colt out of dual Group 2 winner Cladocera is heading after Morten Buskop went to €520,000 for Haras de la Perelle's offering.
"She's been bought for a good Danish client called Lone Kaj-Nielsen," said Morten. "She's a lovely woman and has had horses for many years, mostly with Bent Olsen, who was doing the bidding today.
"She's always wanted a Dubawi and this filly is a beautiful horse so she absolutely fell in love with her. The horse will go to Denmark and run in Scandinavia to start with. She's probably not a precocious two-year-old but Lone is a woman who lets her horses take their time and hopefully she can progress to the bigger scene. Bent Olsen has done that before and he'll try and do it again."
Trade in the two premier sessions of the Arqana August Sale was on a par with last year, with a clearance rate of 74 per cent – down from 76 per cent – and an average price of €234,735, a decline of two per cent. The median increased from €160,000 to €170,000.
Over the weekend, €27,464,000 was turned over on elite yearlings, down from five per cent in 2017.