Temperatures and trade promise to be hot, hot, hot
Martin Stevens previews the exclusive eve-of-Ascot auction
Thank goodness for the ample canopy and marquees provided for guests at the Goffs London Sale in the Orangery at Kensington Palace, as the mercurial British weather makes the cover absolutely essential.
For while it was shelter from persistent rain that was necessary last year, it will be protection from the fierce sun that is likely be sought during Monday's renewal, which starts at 5pm, as weather forecasts suggest the mercury could soar to as high as 32ºc in the capital.
Selfridges, a partner in the sale, will reportedly be dispensing sunscreen during the event, which is held in association with Qipco.
Trade promises to be as sizzling as the temperatures, with a catalogue comprising 22 lots – 19 horses in training with engagements at Royal Ascot this week, two mares with foals at foot and an eleventh hour entry in the form of Band Of Outlaws, a Limerick maiden winner for Joseph O'Brien on Saturday evening who holds an entry in the Railway Stakes.
Buyers are able to transfer ownership of horses before they race at Royal Ascot in special measures provided by the BHA and Weatherbys and the potential runner this week who could be in hottest demand is Lockheed (lot 7), saddled by William Haggas to finish a neck second in the German 2,000 Guineas for owner China Horse Club last time out and trading at around 14-1 for the Hampton Court Stakes on Thursday.
Bidding could also heat up for Absolute Blast (8), a Kodiac mare sent out by Archie Watson to finish second in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes who, though an outsider for the Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Wednesday, holds considerable breeding value, and Ardenode (21), a Hellvelyn gelding unbeaten in two starts in France for Eoghan O'Neill, including in the Listed Prix La Fleche.
Then there are the unexposed two-year-olds who buyers will have to pay a premium to discover just how good they are: Whitefountainfairy (3) and Armum (19), for example, both shed their maiden tags in convincing fashion on their last runs for Jessica Harrington and Jamie Osborne respectively.
Armum, a Society Rock half-sister to reigning Windsor Castle Stakes winner Ardad, is one of two siblings to scorers at Royal Ascot last year on offer on Monday as Tisbutadream (17), one place behind Absolute Blast in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes for David Elsworth last time out, is a Dream Ahead half-sister to Persuasive, who landed the Sandringham Handicap last June and is around 7-1 to follow up in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes on Wednesday.
In its three-year history the Goffs London Sale has attracted showstopping lots to attract the biggest spenders and generate welcome publicity, whether it was Crystal Gaze with her first-crop Frankel colt at foot and foal by the same sire in-utero in the inaugural edition, or Jet Setting, fresh from her Irish 1,000 Guineas victory over Minding, last year.
Similar theatre is likely to be provided this year by two mares who each form a thrilling three-in-one package, just as Crystal Gaze did in 2014.
First up is Baldovina (11), a 13-year-old daughter of Tale Of The Cat who produced 2012 Queen Mary Stakes heroine Ceiling Kitty – in turn the dam of Wednesday's Queen Mary Stakes hopeful Formidable Kitt – and has a Muhaarar filly foal at foot and is in foal to Le Havre.
The mare, to be offered by Andrew Black's Chasemore Farm, may hold particular appeal to visitors from Japan as she is a half-sister to Jeweler, who won the country's 1,000 Guineas, as well as One Carat and Sunshine, also classy performers in the far east.
The other mare on offer is the Heatherwold Stud-consigned Millevini (18), a nine-year-old Hawk Wing half-sister to Kingston Hill who has a filly foal by Frankel at foot and has been covered by Kingman.
She would not look out of place in any of the elite broodmare bands and you have to think that a commercial entity would be able to recoup a significant amount of any outlay on her if they wanted to sell the offspring in future.
A select group of breezers formed part of the catalogue in previous years but they are absent this time around.
Goffs chief executive Henry Beeby said: “To be frank, they were becoming a distraction from the horses in training and what the sale has evolved into: a source of Royal Ascot runners. They were also a logistical nightmare so we decided to focus all our attention on the Goffs UK Breeze-up in Doncaster and that was hugely successful this year, so we think the approach has paid off.”
Reflecting on the sale in its fourth year, he added: “It is developing into a serious event as well as the unofficial curtain-raiser to Royal Ascot, and we're flattered by the interest we receive in it.
“I remain grateful to all our partners but would make special mention of the BHA, who have been fantastic in terms of co-operation, transferring ownership and making special arrangements for runners. They couldn't be more helpful.”
A convivial atmosphere, excitement for the outstanding racing that awaits this week and some electrifying auction intrigue. It will make the inevitable sunburn worthwhile.