Yearling sales season highlights the continuing appeal of top Irish bloodstock

The Galileo filly going for €3 million at the Goffs Orby Sale in October. It was the highest price for a yearling filly at auction in Europe this year. Photo: Goffs

The dust has settled on the Irish yearling sales season with plenty to ponder for all involved but several highlights that emphasise the demand, particularly at the top of the market, for the best Irish bloodstock.

Tattersalls Ireland’s September Yearling Sale suffered somewhat from the lack of Maktoum family involvement, which had helped fuel record prices in the last three years. However, buyers from a number of important racing jurisdictions were to the fore at the sale, with the top two lots bought by Hong Kong Jockey Club representative Mick Kinane.

Top price of €165,000 was for Mount Eaton Stud’s son of exciting young sire No Nay Never, while his Coolmore Stud colleague, Holy Roman Emperor, was the sire of the second highest-priced yearling, a colt from The Castlebridge Consignment was sold for €100,000 to Kinane.

Trainer Wesley Ward, who primed No Nay Never for his racing career, will train the Acclamation first foal out of Click And Roll, a Smart Strike half-sister to Ward’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Hootenany, purchased on behalf of a client of the trainer for €95,000 by Eamon Reilly of BBA Ireland.

Many international buyers were in evidence at a sale that has become a fountain of 2-year-old winners in the last few years. Among those buying at the top end were international agents Stroud Coleman, Peter and Ross Doyle, de Burgh Equine and Justin Casse, who purchased a filly by Declaration Of War for €70,000 from Peter Nolan Bloodstock. 

Once again, the Goffs Orby Sale recorded the highest price for a yearling filly sold at auction in Europe over the year, and there was a happy familiarity to the sale as the daughter of Galileo is a full-sister to last year’s Orby Sale topper, and Europe’s most expensive filly of 2018. Bred by Vimal and Gillian Khosla, and consigned by Ballylinch Stud, the daughter of Green Room, who is also a full-sister to G1 winners Together Forever and Forever Together and a half-sister to G1 winner Lord Shanakill, made €3 million to MV Magnier and the Westerberg operation.

Demand for prospective broodmares

All four millionaire yearlings at Goffs were fillies, highlighting the demand at the highest levels of the market for blue-blooded prospective broodmares. Three of those were daughters of Galileo, with Westerberg buying the full-sister to triple G1 winner Alice Springs for €2.2m and occupying second place, just as her 2-year-old full-sister did in 2018. The third Galileo filly was Barronstown Stud’s full-sister to this season’s Irish Derby winner, Sovereign, who commanded €1.1m from Phoenix Thoroughbreds and Aquis Farm.

The fourth member of the quartet was Baroda Stud’s half-sister to the G1 winner Harry Angel, bought for €1m by Godolphin, who raced and now stand Harry Angel. Her sale was a milestone for her sire, Yeomanstown Stud’s Dark Angel, as she is the first yearling by the G1 winner to make seven figures.

At the Orby Sale, a new name featured on the list of purchasers, that of Australia’s Aquis Farm. The Fung family’s determination to develop their farm into one of Australasia’s powerhouses has seen them expand their stallion roster and move into the shuttling business, with Divine Prophet standing the 2018 Northern Hemisphere season at Tara Stud in County Meath and Spill The Beans shuttling to The National Stud in Newmarket for the same season.

Aquis teamed up with another relative newcomer to the global racing scene, Amir Abdualziz’s Phoenix Thoroughbreds, owners of G1 Commonwealth Cup winner Advertise, to purchase the full-sister to Sovereign. As sole purchasers, they also bought the most expensive colt in the Orby Sale, a son of Sea The Stars, for €550,000 from Edie Murray Hayden’s Gormanstown Stud. He was one of two colts the Aquis team purchased, the other being a son of Darley’s shuttler extraordinaire Exceed And Excel, for €430,000 from Denis Brosnan’s Croom House Stud.

Phoenix themselves were busy with three purchases on their own and a single by the Phoenix Ladies’ Syndicate, adding a Galileo colt out of Convocate from the family of G1 winners Indonesienne and Epicuris for €380,000 from Marlhill Stud. 

China Horse Club and the Hong Kong Jockey Club were also to the fore at the Orby Sale, with Bobby Flay returning to the market for a single purchase, while the Swiss billionaire Georg van Opel’s development of his Westerberg breeding operation led him to team up with Coolmore for the top priced filly and buy the second highest-priced filly through Jamie McCalmont.

Inbreeding to Height Of Fashion

Goffs’ Sportsmans Sale recorded the second-highest-priced yearling in the sale’s history with Joe Foley securing a son of Exceed And Excel for €135,000. The colt was consigned by Derrinstown Stud on behalf of Hadi Al Tajir and features interesting inbreeding to the blue hen Height Of Fashion

His purchase price was the highest achieved at the Sportsman’s Sale since 2007 and was one of two six-figure sales recorded at the expanded 2019 version, which ran over two days. 

Pine Tree Stud’s Camelot half-sister to this season’s listed St Hugh’s Stakes-winning juvenile Orlaith, by Fastnet Rock, made €100,000 to agents Stroud Coleman on behalf of George Murphy. Their dam is a Piccolo half-sister to G1 National Stakes winner Toormore and the G2 winner and young sire Estidhkaar, whose first crop of yearlings sold this year.

Such was the level of demand for places at the Sportsmans Sale, Goffs made the decision to elongate the sale from one day to two. Consequently, from a much larger catalogue, both the average and median figures showed declines from the previous year, the average dropping by ten points to €17,155 and the median by 13 per cent to €13,000, but a clearance rate of 79 percent from 360 yearlings offered is highly satisfactory.

Fairytale result

Once more Goffs attracted buyers from all across the globe and were busy filling orders for horses to be shipped around the world, mainly to racing jurisdictions across Europe, including France, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia and Poland. 

Many of the main players from the Orby Sale were also actively purchasing at the Sportsmans sale, which followed immediately after, indicating the level of quality available at the top of that particular market. The sale also attracted a large number of trainers looking for next season’s juveniles, with Gavin Hernon, Karl Burke, Richard Fahey, Jamie Osborne, Keith Dalgliesh, Eddie Lynam and Ken Condon, as well as Kevin Prendergast, Johnny Murtagh and Archie Watson, among those restocking their yards.

Trade at the final Irish flat yearling sale of the year showed a marked improvement from last year, with the Goffs Autumn Yearling Sale posting significantly better results than the 2018 renewal. 

The decision to trim the catalogue worked well, with the overall clearance rate of 73 per cent significantly better than last year’s. All the key figures showed growth over 2018, with even the aggregate three per cent higher from a greatly reduced catalogue. A median figure of €4,000 and average of €5,860 do not make for the most positive of reading, meaning that most vendors failed to cover their costs.

However the Goffs Autumn Yearling Sale provided one of those fairytale results, the type that keeps every breeder, vendor and pinhooker holding on in the belief that next time they could be the one to strike it lucky. James Sheehan, of Clonmult Stud, sold the highest-priced lot, a filly from the first crop of G1 Middle Park Stakes winner The Last Lion, for €78,000 to Jimmy Hyland on behalf of Rabbah Bloodstock. The filly, from the family of Irish 2000 Guineas winner Indian Haven, was picked up for just €1,000 at the 2018 Goffs November Foal Sale.

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