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Al Zir - Frankie Dettori - Doncaster

Al Zir (blue): topped last year's Fasig-Tipton Calder Sale at $1.6 million

  PICTURE: Martin Lynch 


Cautious optimism
ahead of Calder

FASIG-Tipton president Boyd Browning was "cautiously optimistic" on Monday of a healthy trade at the sale company's Calder Sale in Florida despite the ongoing fragility of the US market. Browning also reported that Sheikh Mohammed's Darley team had been busy inspecting horses, saying: "It certainly looks as though they'll be active."

Two weeks ago, the opening juvenile auction of the US sales season, the OBS February Select Sale in Florida, again highlighted the market's selective nature by producing an eight per cent drop in average and, more worryingly, a 27 per cent fall in median. There were three horses, however, who surpassed the 2009 top mark of $340,000.

The Calder Sale is traditionally the highflyer of the ten US mainstream breeze-ups, and in keeping with its image, Fasig-Tipton have againcompiled a strong, if more streamlined, catalogue of 237 horses.

"We have a very nice group of horses who between them did some very good breezes," said Browning . "The barns were busy before and after the breezes and I'd say that there is a very good vibe here. We have every reason to be cautiously optimistic."

Optimism will translate into confidence if John Ferguson makes a return trip on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed, whose close associate, Abdulla Al Habbai heads the group, Synergy Investments, that owns Fasig-Tipton. Last year Ferguson signed for each of the three seven-figure lots at last year's sale including the $1.6 million sale-topper, subsequent Racing Post Trophy third Al Zir.

Since then, Dubai has become embroiled in its own financial difficulties, which resulted in an emergency bailout from neighbour Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Mohammed's participation at Keeneland in November and Tattersalls in December was subsequently limited although Ferguson maintains that Dubai's situation does not affect the Sheikh's personal wealth.

"The Darley team have been on the grounds looking at horses," said Browning, "and their behaviour appears consistent with other years when they've bought. It certainly looks as though they'll be active."

Paul Cole purchased $1.17 million worth of horses at Calder last year and the Wantage trainer and owner Jim Hay are back shopping this time around as is Jeremy Noseda, the trainer of past stand-out graduates Sander Camillo and La Chunga. James Delahooke, Brian Meehan, Hugo Merry and members of the Coolmore team have also been spotted working the grounds.

"There are a number of European buyers here and we expect them to buy," said Browning. "Some guys like Brian Meehan have had a history of success here, so they're more likely to come back."





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