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Alpine Star and Alpha Centauri sell for record sums as Coolmore splash jaw-dropping €19m on Niarchos mares

James Thomas reports from the Goffs November Breeding Stock Sale as the Niarchos draft goes down a storm

Alpha Centauri becomes the second lot to make €6 million in the ring on Friday
Alpha Centauri becomes the second mare to sell for €6m at Goffs on FridayCredit: Goffs

What unfolded at Goffs on Friday evening will be talked about for years to come. Group 1-winning siblings Alpha Centauri and Alpine Star sold for €6,000,000 apiece, equalling the record price for a thoroughbred at an Irish public auction not once but twice. 

The event was, quite literally, generations in the making as the Niarchos family have been cultivating the bloodlines in their possession with skill and care for over half a century. The result of the family’s decision to “restructure” their thoroughbred interests saw breeders flock to Kildare from every corner of the globe. 

In a sign of the esteem in which the Niarchos family are held, the likes of the Aga Khan and Juddmonte were among those keen to gain access to some truly iconic turf pedigrees, along with bidders from the US and Japan.

However, no breeding operation the world over was more determined to add the Niarchos mares to their broodmare band than Coolmore, as MV Magnier struck both of the jaw-dropping €6 million bids, as well as securing the €3.7m Albigna and the €3.3m That Which Is Not in a €19m spree. 

Alpine Star was the first lot to reach the Irish record mark, after which Magnier said: “She was a very good racemare and it’s an incredible family. Honestly, from all our partners, we’re just delighted to be able to buy these mares off Maria [Niarchos]. She’s been a huge supporter of ours for as long as I’ve been alive. She's godmother to my brother, so it means a lot to us to be able to give back to Maria after all the support she’s given us. These mares are special. They could do anything.” 

The daughter of Sea The Moon won three of her nine starts, including the Group 2 Debutante Stakes at two. She produced her first foal, a colt by Frankel, on February 5 this year. She was offered by Kiltinan Castle Stud in foal to the Juddmonte stallion. 

Magnier also revealed an exciting long-term mating plan for Alpine Star, saying: “What we’ll probably do when the time comes is send her to Auguste Rodin. When he won the Derby, I’d say 30 seconds later Dad rang me and said, ‘This is the most important thing that has happened to Coolmore since Galileo won the Derby’. 

"That horse has everything, from Deep Impact to his mother being a champion, his grandmother being a champion, a Group 1-winning two-year-old, a dual Derby winner, Irish Champion Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Turf. He’s everything that we’re looking for. When the time comes, we’re going to get right behind him.” 

Alpha Centauri proved the best three-year-old filly of her generation, winning four successive Group 1 prizes under the care of Jessica Harrington. The four-timer began in the Irish 1,000 Guineas before she rolled on to Royal Ascot, where she produced arguably her most impressive performance in the Coronation Stakes.

Settled behind the leaders by her regular rider Colm O’Donoghue, she took up the running a little under two furlongs from home before bounding six lengths clear of a classy field that included the likes of Billesdon Brook, Clemmie and Veracious. 

After Royal Ascot she added an easy success in the Falmouth Stakes to her CV before taking on the boys in a two-and-a-half length rout in the Prix Jacques le Marois. Her final start came in the Matron Stakes, in which she went down by three-quarters of a length to Laurens. Time was called on her racing career when it emerged she had chipped a joint in her fetlock during that Leopardstown contest. 

She has produced three foals at paddocks, the oldest of which, the three-year-old Galileo colt Saturn, has been placed on all three of his starts for Harrington. She also has a two-year-old Galileo filly named Earth and a yearling daughter of Circus Maximus named Proxima Centauri. She was sold in foal to Sea The Stars. 

Alpine Star equals the record price for a horse sold at public auction in Ireland - as did her half-sister later on
Alpine Star equals the record price for a horse sold at public auction in Ireland - as did her half-sister later onCredit: Goffs

Alpha Centauri and Alpine Star hail from the dynasty founded by the brilliant Miesque. After the draft had passed through the ring, the family’s long-serving racing manager Alan Cooper reflected on the past, present and future of the Niarchos racing and breeding operation. 

"It’s been a great tribute to decades of building these bloodlines,” he said. “The family would like to thank everybody who has contributed to the success of these families over the decades, from those involved with foaling, right through to training, racing and back to breeding. It’s very much mixed emotions, but as we said from the start it’s a restructuring. 

"That’s been accomplished in the sense that the bloodlines are spreading out. We’ve still got access to all of the bloodlines through our two- and three-year-old fillies, yearlings and foals. Even though we’ve separated from these great race mares, we still have the blood.” 

Cooper said the family will continue to have a significant presence in the industry, not least with 20 yearlings due to head into training and 30 foals on the ground this year.

The bid board flashes up €6,000,000
The bid board flashes up €6,000,000 Credit: Goffs

He continued: “It goes back many decades and it’s become global. The Miesque line has been very successful in Japan with Loves Only Me winning at the Breeders’ Cup and Real Steel. We had a look last week and descendants from Miesque and her dam, Pasadoble, if I’m not mistaken, include 91 black-type winners. 

“I know it’s nostalgic to talk of Mr Niarchos, Francois Boutin and Philip Payne-Gallwey, but it was Mr Boutin who picked out Pasadoble because she had some French influence in her bloodline. The whole story stems from there. There have been some wonderful people involved this week and everyone has made their contribution. There’s been a lot of preparation and, today, there’s been a lot of emotion.”

Alpine an early peak

The seven-figure action was kicked off by the Group 1-winning Albigna. The Kildare Paddocks auditorium was packed to the rafters as Juddmonte Farms, represented by general manager Simon Mockridge, clashed with Magnier, who won out at €3.7m. 

“She’s a lovely mare and I have to say, the whole Niarchos family are incredible breeders and very close, special friends of ours for a very long time,” said Magnier. “We’re very happy we can get such a good mare and try to continue their legacy. These kinds of mares don’t come on the market very often and we’re just very lucky that we’ve got very good partners that are willing to support us in buying these sorts of mares.” 

The six-year-old Albigna won three races while in training with Harrington, including the Group 2 Airlie Stud Stakes and the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac, registering a comfortable two-and-a-half length success in the latter contest. 

MV Magnier talks to the press following Albigna's sale
MV Magnier talks to the press following Albigna's saleCredit: Goffs

She has produced two foals since her racing career came to an end. The first of those, a colt by Wootton Bassett, sold to a partnership comprising the China Horse Club and Qatar Racing for €460,000 during the Orby Sale. She also has a filly foal by Dubawi and was offered in foal to St Mark’s Basilica.

“St Mark’s Basilica’s foals are very good, so we're looking forward to seeing the foal she has,” said Magnier. “If she has a good foal, it’s an easy decision to go back to him again.” 

Reflecting on the atmosphere in the auditorium, Magnier added: “In fairness to Henry Beeby and all the Goffs team, over the whole year they’ve done an incredible job. Be it the Orby Sale, the foal sale earlier in the week or the crowd they’re after getting here for this, credit where credit is due, they’ve done a very good job.” 

Albigna is by Zoffany and out of the Prix de Pomone scorer Freedonia. She is a half-sister to the Listed-winning sprinter Polybius, while another sibling, No Lippy, is the dam of Norfolk Stakes runner-up Walbank. Freedonia is out of Forest Rain, a Caerleon half-sister to the Niarchos’s Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Domedriver. The page goes back to Bella Senora, a Northern Dancer sister to El Gran Senor and Try My Best. 

Albigna: merely the appetiser at €3.7m
Albigna: merely the appetiser at €3.7mCredit: Goffs

Juddmonte may have missed out on some of the bigger ticket lots but the operation was successful when Mockridge bid €720,000 for Diaphora, a Listed-winning daughter of Pivotal bred and raced in Germany by Gestut Rottgen. The well-related nine-year-old was offered in foal to New Bay and has youngstock by Wootton Bassett and Frankel in the pipeline.

If Alpine Star and Alpha Centauri supplied the drama, there was an air of mystery around the purchase of the €775,000 Foniska and the €440,000 Humankind.

The former was bought online by a buyer signing as Bassingham Equine, while the latter was knocked down to another online player operating under the pseudonym Prospect Partnership.

Zhang Yuesheng of YuLong Investments could be seen bidding online in the auditorium during Humankind's time in the ring but was unavailable for comment on his activities. Prospect Partnership also struck for the €720,000 Phaenomena, a 13-year-old sister to Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Nightime, dam of the champion Ghaiyyath. 

The three-year-old Foniska, a daughter of Galileo and Bocca Baciata consigned by Kiltinan Castle, landed the Listed Navigation Stakes on her penultimate racecourse outing. The Norelands-consigned Humankind ran three times for Sir Michael Stoute without troubling the judge, but is backed up by a superb pedigree, being by Frankel and out of a daughter of Miesque.

Humankind was bought by Bassingham Equine
Humankind: sold for €440,000Credit: Sophie Webber Photography/Goffs

Thoughts Of June brings €2m 

The Niarchos draft was not the only source of a seven-figure lot, as The Castlebridge Consignment presented Cheshire Oaks winner Thoughts Of June.

The four-year-old daughter of Galileo and Del Mar Oaks scorer Discreet Marq was owned in partnership by Moyglare Stud and Coolmore, and the former party went to €2m to take outright ownership. The well-related filly was offered in foal to No Nay Never. 

“We lost the dam after Thoughts Of June was foaled,” said Moyglare’s adviser Fiona Craig. “Eva [Maria Bucher-Haefner, owner] was there when Thoughts Of June won a couple of races and I think she just wanted to have the daughter. It was relatively simple, and it was fairly predictable that we’d be bidding against the other partners, but that’s fair enough. 

Thoughts Of June: sold for €2m at Goffs on Friday
Thoughts Of June: sold for €2m at Goffs on FridayCredit: Sophie Webber Photography/Goffs

“She’s a big, good-looking, stakes-winning mare. She was on a May cover date so we’ll have to breed her in Ireland next year, but she might go back to the States eventually. That’s where Discreet Marq was very good.” 

This is not the first seven-figure transaction in the family as Discreet Marq joined the Moyglare broodmare band at a cost of $2.4m at Fasig-Tipton in 2014.

Japan joins the fray

The global appeal of the Niarchos draft was highlighted by strong Japanese interest. Champions Farm had the final say at €625,000 when Norelands presented Forever Be, a Listed-placed daughter of Dubawi offered in foal to Wootton Bassett. 

The five-year-old is out of Nature Spirits, making her a sister to the Listed-winning Ghostwatch. Her third dam is Whakilyric, a Stavros Niarchos homebred daughter of Miswaki who produced the Group 1 Prix Lupin winners Johann Quatz and Hernando, the latter of whom also won the Prix du Jockey Club before going on to have a successful stallion career at Lanwades Stud. 

“We have been looking at all the draft,” said Champions Farm representative Takashi Kodama. “The Japanese owner likes the Niarchos pedigree, especially a mare like this who is by Dubawi and in foal to Wootton Bassett. That is top-class. We knew that all of the Niarchos mares would be expensive and they tried to buy two or three beforehand but were underbidder. 

“The Niarchos bloodlines are very closely associated with the Japanese industry. They used Deep Impact a lot, obviously Study Of Man is by Deep Impact from a Niarchos pedigree. We believe these pedigrees should be successful in Japan. That is why they were very keen to buy.” 

Forever Be in the ring at Goffs on Friday
Forever Be in the ring on FridayCredit: Sophie Webber Photography/Goffs

Earlier in the session another Japanese operation was on the board when Tanikawa Stud, whose website lists several Niarchos-bred members of the broodmare band, secured the unraced See at €300,000. 

The four-year-old daughter of War Front is out of Faufiler, a Grade 3-winning daughter of Galileo and the champion Six Perfections. That breeding makes the dam a sister to Australian Group 2 winner Yucatan and the Listed scorer and Beresford Stakes runner-up Mount Everest. 

Aga Khan makes rare public purchases

La Fiamma’s price may not have been the most significant on the day, with the granddaughter of Six Perfections knocked down at €150,000, but the identity of the buyer perfectly illustrated the gravity of the Niarchos offerings. 

Pat Downes signed as Gilltown Stud, making the daughter of War Front the first filly or mare bought by the Aga Khan at public auction in Ireland since the operation paid €120,000 for subsequent Blandford Stakes winner and Oaks fourth Four Sins at the Goffs Orby Sale in 2005. 

Reflecting on the purchase of La Fiamma, Downes, manager of the Aga Khan Studs in Ireland, said: “It is rare, but then it’s also rare that you get an opportunity like this. Obviously we’ve made block purchases in the recent past, but the last filly or mare we went to market for in Ireland was Four Sins.

“The Niarchos family pedigrees are tried and tested over many generations so when they came on the market here it was something we had to take a close look at. We’ve inspected a few of them and like what we've seen. La Fiamma has an incredibly deep page, and she looks the part. She should make a nice addition to our broodmare band.”

Pat Downes Goffs
Pat Downes: 'It is rare, but then it’s also rare that you get an opportunity like this'Credit: Goffs

The Aga Khan team made two more acquisitions later in the session, going to €450,000 for Raja Ampat, a daughter of Galileo and Six Perfections in foal to Baaeed, before giving €775,000 for Malicieuse, an 11-year-old Galileo half-sister to Bago and Maxios offered in foal to Wootton Bassett. 

The Aga Khan Studs also enjoyed success as a seller later in the session when agent Jill Lamb went to €410,000 for Suwayra, a daughter of Siyouni who won a Leopardstown maiden during her time with Dermot Weld. The four-year-old, who was offered in foal to Sea The Moon, was signed for by agent Jill Lamb on behalf of Paul and Sally Flatt of Childwickbury Stud in St Albans. 

“We want to repeat the past history of the stud by getting some quality mares there, that’s why we bought her. We have four mares at the moment but we’re hoping to build it up,” said Sally Flatt, before Paul joined in by saying: “I think [Classic breeding] is the way forward for the stud and there’s proven land there. Hopefully this is the next era.” 

Lamb added of the relation to Sinndar: “She’s absolutely beautiful, we all loved her. She was a good race filly and ran to a rating of 98 as a two-year-old. Her form reads well and she’s from a lovely family so we’re excited about her. The half-sister by Sea The Stars [Sumiha] stays in training for the Aga Khan next year and they feel strongly that she should get black type. My aim is to get her back to Sea The Stars.”

Facts and figures

Unsurprisingly the electric day of selling generated some eye-popping year-on-year gains. Turnover hit €39,507,500, which was up 153 per cent compared to the corresponding session in 2022. The average rose by 166 per cent to €203,645, while the median was up a slightly more realistic five per cent at €44,000. The clearance rate was 81 per cent as 194 lots sold from 240 offered. 

The Niarchos draft generated receipts totalling €26,755,000, which is equal to 68 per cent of turnover for the session.

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