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Doncaster Spring HIT Sales

There has been a steady flow of new buyers at the top end of the market

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker  

Ceiling to top prices but sales give hope for 2010

AND so it's over. Many bloodstock folk will have woken on Friday morning with an end of term feeling after three pretty much non-stop months that began in Deauville and Doncaster and have taken in various visits to Fairyhouse, Kill and Lexington that were rounded off quietly yesterday afternoon in Newmarket at Tattersalls' December Sale.

Most will be happy not to see another catalogue page for some time, to get to know their families again and take a little break from those now all too overly familiar faces that have travelled on the same sales circus.

They will reflect not just on their balance sheets – and even in these troubled times a few have seen healthy returns this autumn – but on a year that has been as eventful as ever for the bloodstock business.

Perhaps few weeks have been more significant than the last four days in Newmarket when there has been an amazingly strong trade for what many viewed beforehand as not only the smallest December breeding stock catalogue for 16 years but one that was a little light on stars.

It has been all the more remarkable because the Maktoum family – who werenoticeably active at last week’s foal sale – seemingly have not bought a single mare or filly.

They have dominated the top end breeding stock business at recent December Sales.

Last year, John Ferguson bought all three seven-figure lots (Saoirse Abu for 1.95 million gns, Lady Marian for 1.8 million gns and Princesse Dansante for 1.7 million gns).

It was a similar story in 2007 when Sheikhs Mohammed and Hamdan snapped up eight of the top nine lots, among them Satwa Queen (3.4 million gns), Ocean Silk (3.2 million gns) and Mandellicht (3 million gns).

But neither Ferguson’s name nor Shadwell appear in this week's results at a time where Dubai has dominated other news coverage and it is perhaps not seen as an appropriate moment to be investing in horses.

The December breeding stock sale is a jewel in the European calendar with a unique atmosphere as buyers from more than 30 different countries travel to Newmarket hoping to snap up the unrivalled group of bloodlines on offer.

It is such an international market that invariably if one group of buyers weakens, another takes their place and this year there have been noticeably strong parties from Japan and Australia, the latter buoyed by favourable exchange rates.

A £100,000 mare would have cost the Antipodeans AUS$230,000 a year ago but AUS$180,000 - or 22 per cent - this week.

Trade held up without Maktoum patronage in a market that, like our horses in training, has huge appeal across the globe, but there will be more than a few worries about any reduced Dubai participation in other sectors.

Sheikh Mohammed and his family's support for both the top-end yearling and breeze-up markets could be seen as the difference between their success and failure, accounting for around a third of the turnover at some events.

This has also been a landmark week in Europe in that we finally saw some seven-figure sale-action in 2009, most notably when Song sold for 1.7 million gns to Paul Makin.

It is the first year since 1997 that there was not a yearling in Britain, Ireland or France that made the equivalent of a million guineas and there seems to be a definite ceiling to top-end trade.

Similarly last week’s sale-topping 400,000gns Galileo colt – whose price also surpassed that of any weanling sold in America this year – was the lowest dearest-priced December foal since 2000.

But for those recharging their batteries as the sales finish, there has been an awful lot to be positive about as we head into 2010 – clearance rates shot up at this year's sales and there has been a steady flow of new buyers at the top-end market.




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