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Demi O'Byrne flanked by Tom and Liz Stack at Goffs last week

  PICTURE: Caroline Norris 

Thumbs-up for rebrandingof Orby as buyers create sale buzz

THE announcement to rebrand Goffs' flagship yearling sale may have been greeted with a degree of scepticism in some quarters but by the conclusion of selling on Thursday, there was no question that the sales company had made the right decision.

By reducing the sale by a day and cataloguing 30 per cent fewer horses than last year, the Orby was always going to stand a better chance of maintaining a fluent momentum. And with the stand out lots condensed over two days rather than three that is exactly what happened.

A significant fall in aggregate had to be expected but the average at Part 1 dropped by only seven per cent to €67,951 while the median registered an increase of 11 per cent to €50,000. The clearance rate was excellent, constantly hovering around the 80-85 per cent mark in Part 1 and recording a 77 per cent figure in Part 2.

Goffs deserve plenty of credit for adapting the sale to entice buyers old and new but recognition must also go to Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, whose efforts in recruiting interest, particular from abroad, had been warmly received at the Tattersalls Ireland September Sale the week before (at which a reduction in the minimum bid to €1,000 also helped to produce an improved clearance rate).

Of course, the knock on effect of tightening the select portion meant a greaternumber of attractive individuals were catalogued than normal in Part 2, formerly the Sportsman's Sale. With that in mind, it wasn't that surprising to see Part 2 return increases in average and median.

In addition, a reduction to three days was always going to open up the possibility of more buyers sticking around while the auction, whether under the guise of Sportsman's, Challenge or Part 2, has always had a good reputation for producing winners - given that Kingsfort and Termagant are graduates of last year's Sportsman's, the Million appears to have been outperformed on the racecourse this season.

Whatever it was that made the Orby surpass people's expectations - which in turn generated a buzz that was missing from the final Million Sale - it worked. And although the recession continues to present challenges, the 2008 renewal was staged during the worst of the collapse and consequently had already suffered a major correction.

Leading sires by average

 Name  Off-sold  Aggregate  Max  Average
 Giant's Causeway  3-2  505,000  475,000  252,500
 Sadler's Wells  2-2  500,000  300,000  250,000
 Pivotal  4-3  620,000  320,000  206,667
 Montjeu  7-5  805,000  420,000  161,000

Yet buyers continue to remain ultra selective, and as at many yearling sales this year, the Orby presented an all or nothing situation for vendors. However, whether they like it or not, many have appeared to have adjusted to the market by setting realistic reserves.

Even so, the drop in number of six figure lots from 102 to 65 was disappointing, as was this year's top price of €470,000, which was well short of the €1m paid last year by Demi O'Byrne for a sister to Mastercraftsman. In fact, this year's top figure would only have filled fourth position on last year's top ten list.

Leading buyers by aggregate

 Name  No. bought  Average(€)  Aggregate (€)
 BBA Ireland  23  95,304  2,192,000
 John Ferguson  13  145,000  1,885,000
 Shadwell Estate Co., Ltd  9  155,000  1,395,000
 Jim Bolger  11  93,182  1,025,000
 John Magnier  5  199,000  995,000

Leading vendors by aggregate

 Name  Off-Sold  Average (€)  Aggregate (€)
 Ashtown House  11-11  107,727  1,185,000
 Airlie Stud  16-13  81,077  1,054,000
 Glenvale Stud  15-13  77,231  1,004,000
 Croom House  8-8  121,875  975,000
 Cahermorris Stables  10-9  97,444  877,000

Given the decrease in catalogue size, a reduction inseveral of the leading players' expenditure was to be expected. Even so, it was still surprising to see Coolmore reduce their spending from €4.09m to €1.285m (with John Magnier and Demi O'Byrne each signing for lots).

On the other hand, the Maktoum family, although still boycotting Coolmore stallions, increased their presence. John Ferguson's purchases last year included Shakespearean, whose victory in the Goffs Million earned back more than Ferguson spent at that entire sale. Returning with renewed vigour this year, Ferguson bought 13 yearlings for nearly €1.9m while Rabbah Bloodstock turned up during Part 2 to purchase three for a total of €83,000.

Other commitments have prevented Sheikh Hamdan from attending recently but he made an appearance to purchase nine lots for nearly €1.4m, up from €1.06m for six last year.
However, none came close to matching the BBA Ireland, who assumed their former spot at the head of the leading buyers' list with 23 bought for nearly €2.2m.

While US agent Cecil Seaman, who has made the odd purchase at Goffs, didn't make the trip, US-based owners West Point Thoroughbreds and their agent Buzz Chace did thanks to the efforts of Goffs US representative Sean Clancy. The pair made an immediate impact by purchasing lot 2, a son of Ad Valorem for €50,000, and ultimately went home with three yearlings, all of whom are likely to open their racing careers in California.

The international crowd was further complemented by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and South African-based Form Bloodstock, who purchased Group 2 winner Front House at this sale three years ago.

It was still at times sticky for pinhookers, however, with 66 of 114 yearlings offered recorded as making above their foal purchase price (47 could actually be termed as profitable).

One common factor in several home runs so far this year has been Medicean. At the DBS St Leger Sale, the Cheveley Park resident was responsible for a colt who presented Jimmy Murphy with approximately £116,000 of profit, and Goffs played host to several similar outcomes with lot 87 reselling to Shadwell for €270,000 after costing Five Star International 70,000gns as a foal and lot 151 reselling to Frank Barry for €65,000 after costing Emerald Bloodstock just 2,000gns as a foal.

It could be that the Orby was deemed a good sale just because it surpassed people's expectations. But by tightening the format, Goffs produced a stronger sale which will have engendered some confidence in the Tattersalls' October Sale, which starts on Tuesday. There, the expenditureof the Maktoum family is going to be crucial.




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