Arqana’s Arc Sale, which was held at Saint-Cloud on the outskirts of Paris on Saturday, is a unique event in the global, diversified business of Thoroughbred auctions. Everything about it is special: the date, of course, on the eve of Europe’s championship day; the size and quality of the catalogue: no more than 50 horses in training, but all with fresh form at or just below Stakes/Pattern level; the international clientele: investors from America, Dubai, Qatar, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia as well as the Anglo-Irish jumps fraternity have become household figures, and this year China made a remarkable splash; finally the concept: you can buy a horse and watch him sport your colours in a G1 race the next day.
This particularity, applying to a handful of lots each year, offers potential buyers a fantastic opportunity to have a runner on the most spectacular and prestigious day’s racing in Europe – eight G1 races on the same card, for prize money totaling €8 million ($10.1 million). It was an opportunity that seemed specifically designed for the China Horse Club (CHC).
As the organisation’s founder and supremo, Teo Ah Khing, recently explained in an interview with Paul Haigh, the aim of the CHC is to provide members with outstanding experiences, mostly, but not restrictedly, by having runners in the world’s top races.
“I wanted to bring high-class Thoroughbred racing and the experiences that come with it to a population that has not experienced the social, cultural, and lifestyle aspects of this sport,” said the architect of Meydan Racecourse and a prominent owner in his own right – notably, he has a share in dual Derby winner Australia and four horses in training in France with Nicolas Clément.
The Arc weekend, with its glamour and international reach, must rank high on the CHC’s “to-do” list, and as the Arc Sale provides the fastest gateway to owning a live contender, its appeal was only logical. Teo Ah Khing’s first purchase there took place two years ago, when Nicolas Clément bought him a Listed winner named Tropaicos for €210,000 ($266,000). The horse went on to land the G1 Singapore Gold Cup the following year.
This time, however, spending by the China Horse Club took a dramatic step up with five lots bought for a total of €2.6 million ($3.29 million), agent Michael Wallace finished €1.6 million ($2.02 million) clear of Anthony Stroud, who is often seen on bidding duty for Godolphin at this sale. On Wallace’s shopping list were two horses with entries at Longchamp the following day – both ran in Teo Ah Khing’s colours as the China Horse Club is not (yet) a registered owner in France.
Crisolles, a daughter of sire sensation Le Havre last seen when an admirable second to Avenir Certain in the G2 Prix de la Nonette, required a final bid of €720,000 ($911,000) to see off Emmanuel de Seroux (Narvick International) and Nicolas de Watrigant (Mandore International). While she failed to shine on Sunday in the Prix de l’Opéra Longines, where she was unlucky in the straight, the 3-year-old was far from disgraced and will make an exciting prospect for America’s turf races – where her future is likely to lie, according to Wallace.
The CHC had more luck with the 2-year-old colt Burnt Sugar, the recent winner of the G3 Sirenia Stakes at Kempton, who cost them €350,000 ($443,000). The son of Lope de Vega, who had been supplemented to run in the G1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère, finished a close fourth, less than a length behind the winner. Wallace explained that Singapore could be the next stop for the Richard Hannon trainee.
The most expensive purchase made by Teo Ah Khing and Michael Wallace also ran at Longchamp at the weekend, but on Saturday. Auvray, another son of Le Havre, was the high-class winner of the G2 Qatar Prix Chaudenay over 3,000 metres in the colours of Gérard Augustin-Normand, and topped the sale at €800,000 (£1,011,386) a few hours later. Wallace stated that Australia and next year’s Melbourne Cup were likely to feature on the colt’s agenda, as well as on that of his paternal half-brother Orbec, an impressive Listed winner at Deauville, who cost €600,000 ($759,000).
Synergies between sales and racing work both ways during the Arc weekend, with some connections of Sunday’s big races warming up in the ring. Dermot Weld had travelled to Paris primarily to saddle Tarfasha in the Prix de l’Opéra Longines and Pale Mimosa in the Qatar Prix du Cadran, but he made the small detour via Saint-Cloud to snap up the exciting 3-year-old stayer Behesht. By Sea The Stars out of the G2 scorer Bekhara, the Aga Khan-bred won a Listed event over 2,400 metres after the catalogue was printed and looks poised for more glory over long distances. Weld had to fork out €525,000 ($664,000) on behalf of Calumet Farm and confirmed that he would train the colt in a bid to win a Group race next year.
Figures for the whole sale were up across the board, although comparisons are less significant due to the small size of the catalogue. The average price of €268,125 ($339,096) was a new record, while the clearance rate of 65 percent, the highest since 2008, was judged satisfactory for such a select sale.