Southampton striker Charlie Austin bags £120,000 Ascot breeze-up top lot
The son of Excelebration will head into training with George Scott
Southampton FC striker Charlie Austin got on the scoresheet during the Tattersalls Ireland Ascot Breeze-Up Sale on Thursday when the syndicate he founded in partnership with Paul Fisher – Excel Racing – bagged the top lot, a son of Excelebration, for £120,000.
The colt, signed for by agent Alex Elliott, now heads into training with George Scott, who said: "I came from Newmarket especially to try and buy the horse, so it's mission accomplished. Charlie Austin and Paul Fisher have been big supporters of mine, and having had such a successful start to the season they were prepared to get stuck in again."
The new acquisition continues a productive spell for Excel Racing, with the outfit having landed the Spring Mile with the Roger Teal-trained High Acclaim and the Rosebery Handicap with the Marco Botti-trained Crowned Eagle.
"It was very hard on these horses yesterday," added Elliott, referring to the testing conditions during the breeze. "You usually get five- and six-furlong horses at this sale but with the way he went through the ground and his pedigree and physique, he has the profile of a seven-furlong horse who might stay a mile at three."
The sale of the two-year-old son of Excelebration provided Dunsany Stables with a fantastic return on the €22,000 they spent to secure the colt as a yearling.
"He was very athletic as a yearling but I couldn't have dreamed how well he's done," said Dunsany Stables' Danny Benson, who prepared the descendant of Lowther Stakes winner Kingscote at the family-run operation in County Meath.
"We're absolutely delighted," beamed Benson's mother, Carol. "You're always hoping and we knew he was a nice horse, but you need a lot of luck on the day. The ground during the breeze wasn't easy on those horses. When you're breezing over two furlongs anything can go wrong and there are no second chances."
Tough start to sales season
Many vendors at Ascot found life much more difficult, however, with only 50 per cent of the offered lots finding a buyer.
By the close of trade 59 of the 118 offered lots had sold for turnover of £1,422,900, a 30 per cent decrease on last year. The average dipped by 21 per cent to £24,117, while the median dropped to £16,000 from £21,000 12 months ago.
At the conclusion of the auction, the first on the European breeze-up circuit, Tattersalls Ireland director of horses in training sales Richard Pugh said: "The trade today has undoubtedly been selective. While it was pleasing to sell the fourth-highest price on record at the sale and to have another six-figure lot, we have to acknowledge that trade was very challenging and polarised.
"We will analyse today’s trade in full once the breeze-up season has concluded and, in consultation with our vendors and purchasers, we will respond to that feedback.
"I would like to commend vendors, Ascot racecourse and our own team who, despite challenging and inclement conditions earlier in the week, successfully staged a breeze yesterday despite less than suitable ground conditions."
Stephen Hillen was among a host of industry figures to express concerns about the state of trade, both at Ascot and at the breeze-up sales beyond, saying: "My own view is there are too many breeze-up horses.
"There's 400 extra from last year. I don't think the sales companies are doing themselves any favours by taking horses that are substandard."
Morley in high Spirit
The second six-figure lot came late in the day when owner Tom Morley got the better of Matt Coleman with a bid of £100,000 to secure the Swiss Spirit colt offered by Cristiano Martins' CAJ Stables.
The colt will now head to the Newmarket yard of Stuart Williams.
"Hopefully the plan will be to come back here in June," said Williams. "We liked the way he breezed, the aesthetics as well as the figures he recorded over two and a half furlongs, and Tom liked his pedigree."
The colt, who failed to find a buyer at 28,000gns during last year's yearling sales, is the second foal out of Jollification, a winning Acclamation half-sister to the Group-placed Big Issue.
Coleman returns to the source
It was at this sale last year that Coleman unearthed Gimcrack Stakes winner Sands Of Mali from the draft of Con Marnane's Bansha House Stables and the agent returned to the source of that success when signing for a son of two-year-old sire extraordinaire Kodiac at £88,000 on behalf of business partner Anthony Stroud.
"We bought Sands Of Mali from Con at this sale last year and Anthony bought First Selection here the year before, so we've had a bit of luck from Con's drafts here," he said.
The colt, a 41,000gns pinhook, is the first foal out of the winning Giant's Causeway mare Elpida and shares his page with the likes of Poet's Voice and Grade 1 winner Chief Honcho.
"We're very happy with him, he's a gorgeous colt," said Marnane. "He got a bit sore on the ground after the breeze but he's a horse for the future anyway. We've sold two Royal Ascot winners in the last two years and, you never know, this fellow might be the third.
"The better horses are selling but the lesser ones are very hard to sell. There's nobody there to take a chance on the cheaper ones, but there's a long season ahead. Hopefully the weather might pick up ahead of Doncaster next week."
Bansha House Stables ended the day as leading consignor by aggregate, with three lots sold for £131,000.
Blowing a Gale
The day's fourth-top lot was snapped up in a private sale outside of the ring, with Stephen Hillen and Richard Hughes going to £75,000 for a colt from the first crop of Gale Force Ten offered by John Cullinane and Roger Marley's operation, Church Farm and Horse Park Stud.
"I've bought a couple of good horses off Roger Marley, including Brando, who won a Group 1 last year," said Hillen.
"The ground was very soft during the breeze and that makes it harder to see the nice-actioned horses, but this horse has a big stride, a good attitude and did one of the quicker times. He looks a real two-year-old. I've heard good reports on the Gale Force Tens."
The colt, the third foal out of the winning Shamardal mare Shamarlane, was preceded into the ring by another offering from Church Farm and Horse Park Stud, and it was Pam Sly that struck the winning bid of £50,000 to secure the son of Dandy Man.
"I always buy off Roger, everything I buy off him wins," said Sly. "He used to ride for me years ago, so I always ask him what's what, and he was positive about this horse."
The colt, from the further family of Derby winner North Light, was signed for as a yearling at £34,000 by Howson and Houldsworth.
Sly has the distinction of having trained the only Classic-winning breeze-up graduate, having overseen the racing career of 1,000 Guineas heroine Speciosa, who cost just £30,000 from Doncaster back in 2005.
Fine and Dandy
The first lot to find a buyer was also by Dandy Man, as Federico Barberini saw off a determined challenge from Seamus Durack to snap up the colt, offered by Thomond O'Mara's Knockanglass Stables, with a £58,000 bid.
The colt, pinhooked by Howson and Houldsworth for €25,000, is the first foal out of the the Moss Vale mare Paddy Again, who is herself out of a half-sister to Listed winner Chercheuse, who is better known as the dam of champion US three-year-old filly Questing.
"I've got faith in the sire and since the dam was second in the Brocklesby, you'd hope he can go early," said Barberini.
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