Tattersalls UK - December Sale Stars

The recently completed Tattersalls December Foal and Mare Sale revealed robust bidding for top mares, enough to heighten the median this year 32% over last year’s sale, the most telling statistic for such mixed sales. Twenty-two mares brought over 500,000 guineas, a record, making this sale decidedly different from the Keeneland November sale, which featured an uptick in weanling prices, but a slightly lower average and median for mares.

The North Americans want what they can see, touch, feel, and get what they believe is a bargain compared to buying top yearlings. The European and UK buyers believe in the future, in what is on the page and in utero. The long-term view seems to me to be the more essential and realistic one in terms of the greater good for the thoroughbred industry, rather than the instant gratification visible in North American markets.

By examining these top 22 lots, we can draw some conclusions. As a sought-after broodmare sire, Galileo reigns supreme. Five of his daughters were in this top flight of mares, as well as one by his son Frankel, and one by his son Teofilo. The son of Pivotal, Siyouni, was represented by three of his daughters, while Shamardal (Giant’s Causeway) and Motivator (Montjeu) each had two daughters amongst the top lots. It would seem to me that Shamardal is the up-and-comer here, as his pedigree represents a phenomenal cross for broodmares, with his Machiavellian dam. More about him in the consideration of covering sires forthcoming.

The esteem certain breeders are held in was also obvious, with mares from Juddmonte and the Aga Khan Stud reaping benefits. But it was the dispersal of Waddesdon Stud, which had been owned by the late Lady Rothschild, and her breeding program, that posted two mares in the top lots, and both were purchased by the manager of this now dispersed program, James Wigan. Lot 1515, Thistle Bird, in foal to the red-hot Kingman, fetched 750,000 guineas. Thistle bird was multiple Group One placed, a listed stakes winner, and comes from a solid black type, Group winning family. Since cataloging, her 2017 colt became a winner, making her the dam of two foals of racing age, both now winners. Hip 1502, Aflame, also a Rothschild-bred, and a daughter of Shamardal, fetched 675,000 guineas, in foal to Havana Gold. By Barathea, her pedigree is also solid.

Two young stallions are clearly the most sought-after covering sires, and they are Kingman and Lope de Vega. Five mares covered by Kingman, who will stand for 150,000£ in 2020, up from 100,000£ in 2019, were among the top lots, a remarkable statistical achievement. The son of Invincible Spirit stands at Juddmonte’s Banstead Major Stud in Suffolk, England, and was the leading second crop sire, on top of being crowned, as a race horse, with multiple Championships.

Lope de Vega, who stands at Ballylinch Stud in Ireland and entered stud in 2011, the same year as Kingman, has also had flamboyant success at stud, and will stand the 2020 season for 100,000€. He was represented by three mares in the top 22, also a remarkable achievement. By the previously cited Shamardal, his pedigree has a distinguishing feature: he is double-bred Machiavellian, on the zig zag. As previously mentioned, Shamardal is out of the Machiavellian mare Helsinki (though she is not just any Machiavellian mare, as she is the full sister to the great Street Cry). But Lope de Vega’s dam, lady Vettori, is by Vettori, a son of Machiavellian. This indicates that Street Cry and his sister have created their own branch of the Machiavellian line, much as Fappiano has distinguished himself from his own sire, Mr. Prospector, in North American breeding—a fascinating development. The Nijinsky II in Vettori reaches out to the Blushing Groom, through Rahy, on the sires’ side, and there are numerous doses of Turn-to on both the sires’ and dams’ side, making him an ideal match for so many pedigrees that include Klairon, My Babu and Ambiorix.

The sales topper, at 2.1 million guineas, was Coplow, the dam of Group One winner Billesdon Brook, who was, of course, herself in foal to Kingman. There was spirited, competitive bidding for her which stalled at two million guineas, whence M.V. Magnier, of Coolmore but bidding for another client, entered from stage left and made a single winning bid to acquire her. This move epitomizes the thrill and drama of such auctions, in which the top lots inspire what can only be described as horse-lust. Anyone who has spent years (or decades) attending horse sales has, at one time or another, been afflicted with this fever. Love at first sight is a very real and inspiring emotion at auctions, frequently trumping good sense, just as it does in human relationships.

-- Roberta Smoodin


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