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Sweet acquisition as Sugar Baron tops trade at lively Ascot June Sale

James Thomas reports from the mixed auction

Sugar Baron in the Ascot ring before fetching £28,000
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The Ascot auction house played host to a broad cross section of the National Hunt community at the Tattersalls Ireland June Sale on Tuesday, as plenty of familiar names restocked for the upcoming jumps campaign. 

By the time the final offering had been through the ring 130 lots had changed hands for turnover of £705,700 - just one per cent down on last year's figure, an average of £5,428 - down eight per cent, and a median of £3,100 - down from £4,000 12 months ago. The clearance rate remained static at 82 per cent. 

The session's top lot went the way of point-to-point trainer Nick Wright, who parted with £28,000 for the highly-rated Sugar Baron, who was offered by Nicky Henderson's Seven Barrows operation.

The eight-year-old son of Presenting has won four races and achieved a peak Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 143 when beaten just a neck by Benbens in last year's Betfair London National Handicap Chase.

Sugar Baron, was who last seen being pulled up in the bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase, was a €50,000 Tattersalls Ireland Derby Store Sale purchase by Highflyer Bloodstock.

View the full Tattersalls Ireland Ascot June Sale results

The first of two lots to fetch £22,000 went the way of Chris Gordon, who added Desiremoi D'Authie, a son of Cachet Noir offered by Sullivan Bloodstock, to his Morestead-based string.

"I spoke to Alan King and he strongly recommended him, and he's a man I can trust deeply," said Gordon. "We'll probably stick to hurdles and see how he goes. Tom Cannon, my jockey, has ridden him a fair bit at Kingy's, and Wayne [Hutchinson] reckons he'll jump a fence, so we've plenty of options."

Chris Gordon contemplates his next purchase

The five-year-old made a winning debut at Fougeres in an AQPS bumper, and achieved a peak RPR of 120 for Alan King when fifth to Bandsman in a competitive Warwick handicap hurdle.

"I've bought a few off Alan before," added Gordon. "He's bought me lots of drinks down the years so I thought I better return the favour! He's for a new owner in the yard, Derek Conti, and he's very excited. The horse will go out in the field on holiday for a month and then come back for next season."

An unexpected acquisition

The second lot to bring £22,000 was Pyrios, who went the way of trainer David Christie and owner Ray Nicholas. The five-year-old son of Heliostatic was offered by Philip Hobbs' Sandhill Racing Stables.

"He's been bought for an existing owner who has horses like Eddie's Miracle and Vinnie Luck who was second to On The Fringe yesterday," said Christie.

"We've been looking for a horse to go down the maiden hunter chaser route that's young enough to progress the whole way up. He's on a nice mark and I thought his last run, on paper at least, looked very good."

The scene at the Tattersalls Ireland Ascot June Sale

Pyrios was last seen finishing third in a 16-runner Wincanton handicap hurdle, his first placing from seven starts. Christie went on to explain that he had not planned on joining the buyers' list at Ascot, having originally come to the sale as a seller.

"I didn't actually come here to look at him," he said. "I had two horses to sell earlier in the day and I just saw him and really liked him and he suits what we want down to the ground.

"We'll take him back to Ireland and run him in point-to-points in the autumn then go for a maiden hunter chase. There's good prize-money for those races and you quite often get small fields. He's only six, so who knows what he could be in a few years time."

O'Brien goes shopping

Another trainer to make an unexpected acquisition was Fergal O'Brien, who took Project Mars home after striking the winning bid of £20,000. The six-year-old son of Presenting reached the frame four times for Nick Gifford.

"I thought he was a lovely horse," said O'Brien. "I didn't actually come to buy anything but he was stabled near one that we were selling and I saw him trot up a few times and liked the look of him."

Project Mars is the second foal out of Molly Massini, a winning sister to Grade 1 Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle winner Massini's Maguire.

"He's got solid form and he's got a nice mark," added O'Brien. "He's been consistent and hopefully there's a bit of improvement in him too. We've had smaller ones than him jump a fence but we'll just see how he goes. We'll get him home and syndicate him out - there's shares available!"

A new chapter

Among those joining the training ranks after making a purchase at Ascot was former bookmaker Noel Wilson, who signed for Steel The China at £20,000. The six-year-old ran out a ready winner of a 2m4f maiden point at Sedgefield for trainer Chris Dawson, who picked the son of Craigsteel up for £1,700 at last year's Ascot August Sale.

"He's been bought to go point-to-pointing in the South East - hopefully he'll make a hunter chaser and could possibly go under rules further down the line," said Wilson.

Steel The China in the ring before fetching £20,000

"I used to ride badly around the South East when I was younger and now I just want to train a couple and see how it goes. I wanted to buy something that I thought had the class to go under rules.

"I was at Cheltenham last week but kept getting outbid on everything. I thought the horse would go for money than that, so maybe I've done my homework wrong! He won well at Sedgefield and he seems a really easy horse to deal with. I think we'll start at the bottom and go for a restricted and take it from there."

McCain takes a chance

The session's leading buyer was Donald McCain, whose trio of purchases totalled £42,000.

The priciest of the three was Portrush maiden winner Val Mome, who cost £17,000 from the draft of Shanrod Stable. He was joined by the £15,000 Armattiekan - who was fourth in a Dromahane maiden on debut - and the £10,000 Morraman who landed a Necarne maiden for Colin Bowe.

"The sales at Ascot have been lucky for us, we've bought horses like Knockrobin and Chti Balko here and they've done us no harm at all," said McCain. "The ones we've bought today are chancey sorts of horses but they haven't broken the bank and they all have form in the book and are ready to kick on with.

"The four-year-old [Armattiekan] might need a bit of a break but the other two could be ready to run in a month. They're young horses at the end of the day and they've shown they can gallop and jump and that shouldn't be taken for granted. I could have bought a couple more really as there's race for all sorts of horses."

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