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Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Ten of the biggest bloodstock moments from 2017

James Thomas reflects on 12 months of breeding and sales ring action

Cracksman demolishes the Champion Stakes field to become Frankel's first European Group 1 winner
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Flemenshill breaks record price for point-to-pointer
The tone for a year of big-money buys was set early on when a new record price for a point-to-pointer at public auction was posted at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham January Sale, with agent Tom Malone parting with £480,000 for Flemenshill.

The son of Flemensfirth - who beat Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale top lot Defi Bleu in an Oldtown maiden 11 days before the sale, which was, in fact, staged in February - was secured on behalf of subsequent Gold Cup-winning owners Ann and Alan Potts.

"It's amazing what he's done so far and only really good horses can do that," Malone said in the aftermath of the transaction. But in a cruel twist of fate Flemenshill's hugely promising maiden victory proved to be his only career start, as he suffered a heart attack during light exercise while in training with Colin Tizzard.

Wings Of Eagles lands the Derby
A 40-1 shot by a sire who had already been moved on to the National Hunt ranks couldn't win the Derby, could he? The answer, as it turned out, was yes.

Ridden by Padraig Beggy, who was having just his ninth ride of the year, Wings Of Eagles overcame trouble in running to swoop late and emulate his sire, Pour Moi, to claim the coveted Classic prize. 

Wings Of Eagles (left) flies by Cliffs Of Moher (centre) and Cracksman to land the Derby

Wings Of Eagles is from just the second crop of Pour Moi, who was already covering mares alongside the likes of Milan, Walk In The Park and Getaway at Coolmore's National Hunt division at Grange Stud when his son took the Group 1 honours at Epsom. 

Wings Of Eagles ran just once more before injury brought his racing career to a premature end, when he finished a gallant third to Capri in the Irish Derby. Wings Of Eagles was bred by Aliette and Gilles Forien of Haras de Montaigu, where he will take up stud duty in 2018 at a fee of €12,000.

John Ferguson resigns as Godolphin chief executive
In early June the racing and bloodstock world was blindsided by the news that Sheikh Mohammed's long-time right hand man had resigned as Godolphin chief executive after his relationship with Saeed bin Suroor broke down, with the trainer describing his intake of juveniles as "a disaster".

Ferguson had been one of the biggest spenders at public auction for nearly the last quarter of a century, and while we may never know how direct an impact his resignation had on Godolphin's activity at public auctions, a major shift in policy was soon to be enacted. 


Ferguson exit leaves big shoes to fill on the global sales scene


Just days after his resignation three horses Godolphin purchased privately during Ferguson's tenure struck at Royal Ascot, with Ribchester landing the Queen Anne, Barney Roy claiming the St James's Palace, and Atty Persse running away with the King George V Stakes. 

Ferguson returned to the sales circuit at the Goffs Orby Sale, and now operates alongside Sam Haggas and his old Godolphin ally Mark McStay.

Scat Daddy's Royal Ascot four-timer
The much-missed Scat Daddy claimed the leading sire title by number of winners at Royal Ascot in 2017, with his sons and daughters having landed four races.

Lady Aurelia kicked things off with a dominant display in the King's Stand Stakes on the opening day of the meeting, Con Te Partiro followed up in the Sandringham Handicap on day two, before Sioux Nation landed the Norfolk Stakes on day three and Caravaggio produced a stunning performance to claim the Commonwealth Cup on the penultimate day.

Caravaggio wins the Commonwelth Cup to give Scat Daddy four winners at Royal Ascot in 2017

As if those results weren't impressive enough, Scat Daddy's fab four came from a squad of just eight runners at the meeting, while another two, Murillo and Take Me With You, finished third in the Coventry Stakes and Albany Stakes respectively. 

All eyes will be on Scat Daddy's runners at the 2018 royal meeting, especially his final crop of juvenile representatives.

Thaw in the big freeze between Godolphin and Coolmore
The new-look Godolphin buying team, comprised of Anthony Stroud, David Loder and John Gosden, appeared to be the driving force behind a seismic shift in the policy employed by Sheikh Mohammed's operation at the sales throughout 2017.

The decision to end the seemingly self-imposed embargo on stock by Coolmore sires became apparent at Keeneland with the acquisition of yearlings by Australia, Lookin At Lucky and Uncle Mo, before the team took things to the next level at Goffs when outbidding Coolmore themselves at €1.2m for a Galileo filly consigned by Ballylinch Stud. But bigger things were still to come.


Peace in our time? Everyone in the business will certainly be hoping so


At Tattersalls Book 1, Godolphin and Coolmore renewed their sales ring rivalry in a bidding battle the likes of which had not been seen for many a year. The result was the most expensive yearling of 2017, with Godolphin landing Gloam, a daughter of Galileo and the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Dank, with a jaw-dropping bid of 4,000,000gns

"If we see nice fillies by any stallion we'll be very interested, just as we would with a nice colt," said Gosden. "It just so happens that this filly, and the filly sold by Ballylinch at Goffs, are outstanding physical specimens with great pedigrees."

Cracksman becomes Frankel's first European Group 1 winner
It seemed hard to argue with the start Frankel had made at stud. His very first runner, Cunco, won, and he supplied a steady stream of winners at a very health strike rate thereafter, including the likes of Dream Castle, Eminent and Soul Stirring - who became her sire's first top-level winner when landing the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies in Japan.

But with privilege - Frankel covered exceptional books of mares at a fee of £125,000 - comes expectation, and the doubters took issue with the absence of a European Group 1 winner from the dual world champion's CV. 

Frankel: sire of runaway Champion Stakes winner Cracksman

But on British Champions Day the dissenting voices were silenced in just about the most stunning manner imaginable, as Frankel's son Cracksman ran out a seven-length winner of the Champion Stakes. 

That performance, somewhat controversially, catapulted Cracksman ahead of five-time Group 1 winner Enable on Racing Post Ratings, and whetted the appetite for what should be the biggest showdown of 2018.

Kodiac breaks Sunday Silence's record
Not all major bloodstock moments take place on grand stages, as highlighted by the events that unfolded at Lingfield Park on a quiet Thursday afternoon in early November.

When Statehood made a winning debut in a 7f novice stakes in the colours of Godolphin he became Kodiac's 52nd individual two-year-old winner in 2017, a quite staggering tally that saw him surpass the previous highmark set by the influential Sunday Silence back in 2004.


Kodiac makes it a sensational 60 two-year-old winners in 2017


It had been clear for some time that Kodiac was onto something special, with 31 juvenile winners in the bag by late July, and the juggernaut has barely slowed throughout the year, as he has now sired a remarkable 61 two-year-old winners in 2017.

Songbird becomes the most expensive auction horse of 2017
Back in 2012 owner Rick Porter put his Horse of The Year Havre De Grace up for public auction at Fasig-Tipton's November Sale, where Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm went to $10m to secure the daughter of Saint Liam. Five years on and Porter was back, this time with an equally precious offering, the nine-time Grade 1 winner Songbird. 

After a flurry of million dollar bids the hammer came down at $9.5m - the highest price paid at auction in 2017 - and a sense of de ja vu descended as it was revealed that Songbird's new owner was none other than Pope. When asked why she had stretched to $9.5m, Pope had a simple answer: "Because she's awesome". 

Songbird lands the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

It was later revealed that Songbird would visit Arrogate for her first covering.

Marsha breaks European auction record
The results Galileo has enjoyed when mated with sprinters, think the dams of Frankel, Churchill, Gleneagles and Winter, means that whenever a high-class, speedy filly comes on the market 'the lads' from Coolmore's interest is bound to be piqued.

And at the Tattersalls December Sale one of the best sprint fillies around, Marsha, was up for grabs.

But Coolmore's old foe Godolphin also had their sights set on landing Marsha, and the ensuing volley of eye-watering bids forced the filly's price into record territory.

After MV Magnier raised the ante to the European auction record price of 6,000,000gns - surpassing the 5,000,000gns paid for Al Naamah in 2013 - from down in the packed gangway, Godolphin's buying team walked away and the gavel was brought down to applause from the massed and gobsmacked onlookers. 

"She's going to Galileo," confirmed Magnier after signing the docket.

Islington brings the curtain down on the Ballymacoll dispersal
The Ballymacoll Stud dispersal has been one of the biggest stories of 2017, from the farm itself being sold to a mystery buyer for €8.15m back in June, to the plethora of high-profile lots that came under the hammer across a variety of sales, most at Tattersalls with some at Goffs.

The final draft of fillies and mares came under the hammer during the December Mares Sale, where the seven-figure sums fetched by Justlookdontouch and two of her daughters, Aim Of Artemis and Abingdon, contributed to aggregate sales of 7,767,000gns.


Ballymacoll dispersal takes centre stage during December Sale


However, the defining moment of the dispersal came when long-serving Ballymacoll manager Peter Reynolds took Islington on a turn of the ring. The level of emotion experienced by those inside the packed Park Paddocks auditorium was befitting for such an poignant moment in bloodstock history, and is unlikely to be felt again at auction any time soon. 

The four-time top-level winner, who has produced a remarkable 11 fillies from 11 foals, was knocked down to Blandford Bloodstock for 270,000gns.


Read the Bloodstock Review 2017 - including an interview with Tally-Ho Stud, features on Coolmore breeding, Scat Daddy and Frankel, profiles of the stars of the year and lots more

But on British Champions Day the dissenting voices were silenced in just about the most stunning manner imaginable
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