If the figures at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale earlier this month boded well for the overall yearling sale season, it would have taken a very optimistic nature to predict that even stronger gains would be recorded at the next event on the Northern Hemisphere calendar, across the Atlantic in Deauville, France.
This sale, hosted by Arqana on Aug. 16-18, saw 264 yearlings gross a total turnover in excess of €39 million ($51.8 million), up 13 percent from 2013, while the average set a new record at €146,998 ($195,363) (up 9 percent). Another remarkable feature, as had been the case at Fasig-Tipton, was the admirably low buy-back rate, as a record 81.5 percent of the 324 horses on offer changed hands.
One of the major factors beyond this impressive set of figures was a great depth in the market, notably at the top end, with five different investors spending more than €2 million ($2.66 million).
The leading buyer overall was a first-time visitor to the Normandy coast. South African Markus Jooste, head of Mayfair Speculators, whose activities include a retail conglomerate as well as co-ownership of Klawervlei Stud, bought five lots – four with Peter and Ross Doyle and one via Anthony Stroud – for a total of €3.6 million ($4.78 million).
Two of these commanded seven-figure price tags: a Galileo filly out of the young G3-placed mare Dance Secretary, who reached €1 million ($1.33 million) on the inaugural night, and the Invincible Spirit half-brother to last year’s Irish Oaks heroine Chicquita, who topped the second evening at €1.1 million ($1.46 million).
Second down the list was Nicolas de Watrigant’s Mandore International Agency, whose shopping list totalled €2.9 million ($3.85 million) for 15 lots. The young agent was acting on behalf of both Al Shaqab Racing and the Tsui family, breeders and owners of champion racehorse and supersire in the making Sea The Stars. Then came M.V. Magnier, Peter and Ross Doyle (also buying for Al Shaqab Racing among other clients), and Dick O’Gorman, on bidding duties for Darley.
As for the man responsible for the sale’s highest price, he wasn’t exactly a newcomer on the Normandy coast but a long-time absentee – his last visit took place 24 years ago. British-based agent Tony Nerses, acting on behalf of Kuwaitis Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar, of Authorized fame, had to go to €1.2 million ($1.59 million) to secure the filly with the strongest pedigree in the catalogue.
This rare commodity is a member of Monsun’s final crop, and her dam, Sasuela, has already produced three stakes horses, including G1 scorer Seismos, who notched yet another Group win at Newbury a couple of hours before his sibling set the sales ring alight. The second dam is the taproot mare Sacarina, whose affinity with Monsun has proved nothing short of extraordinary. Her regular matings with the German supersire delivered three G1 winners, and two of their daughters have in turn given birth to G1 winners – one of which is this year’s jaw-dropping Deutsches Derby hero and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe ante-post favourite Sea The Moon.
Nerses explained that the long-term plan was for the filly to join his clients’ burgeoning broodmare band at Blue Diamond Stud, on the outskirts of Newmarket.
On the sire front, Monsun also topped the ranking by average, with three yearlings, all fillies, selling for an average €706,667 ($939,174). But the talk was all about the red-hot Gilltown Stud resident Sea The Stars, whose 11 yearlings who sold (from 12 offered) grossed the highest turnover at €3.6 million ($4.78 million) – understandable for a sire whose first 3-year-olds have already won three G1s this year.
The award for most remarkable success, however, must go to leading vendor Ecurie des Monceaux. The figures achieved by their 28-strong draft are simply mind-boggling: 27 sold for a total €8,7 million ($11.56 million) – an all-time record for any vendor at this sale, and twice the total turnover of their nearest pursuer – and an average price of €323,000 ($429,000) – again the highest of all vendors at the sale, some €100,000 ($133,000) clear.
Monceaux have now been leading vendors at Arqana’s August sale for three consecutive years, with their figures improving year on year. Such performances must be read bearing in mind that it was only in 2009 that yearlings bred and consigned by Monceaux first made their way to a sales ring.
The operation was started 10 years ago by textile self-made magnate Lucien Urano, who bought the farm created in 1925 by American Ralph Strassburger. He then hired former Haras du Mézeray manager Henri Bozo with a simple mission statement: to build up a breeding operation that would lift G1 winners on an international scale.
It is fair to say that the plan has come to fruition in record time: Beverly D. Stakes heroine Royal Highness was among the initial yearling purchases, while recent stars such as 2014 Prix Jean Prat hero Charm Spirit, 2013 Irish Oaks winner Chiquita, Critérium International scorer Ectot, and St James’s Palace Stakes winner Most Improved were all bred at the farm and sold as yearlings at Arqana.