Pinhooking, whether it’s foals to yearlings or yearlings to two-year-olds, carries with it enormous risk, but there have been smiles on the faces of many of the breeze-up pinhookers after the most recent round of sales, at which records have been tumbling.
Not one but two new milestones were reached at Tattersalls’ Craven Sale, where the first session saw Gaybrook Lodge Stud’s High Chaparral colt set a new record top price at 800,000gns, only to be trumped 24 hours later by the first ever seven-figure transaction at a European breeze-up sale.

The sum of 1,150,000gns was given for a colt consigned by Willie Browne’s perennially successful Mocklershill operation by a stallion whose name is now seldom out of the sales headlines: War Front. The Claiborne resident has had a smattering of representatives at the European breeze-up sales, with one of his daughters also topping the Guineas Breeze-up at 270,000gns. His popularity continues to flow unchecked in his home country, with a pair of juveniles fetching $510,000 and $420,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale which was concluding as we went to press.

Claiborne’s admirably strict policy of restricting its stallions to a little more than 100 mares each per season, coupled with the fact that many of those patronising the non-shuttling War Front are breeding to race, means that not many of his offspring come up for auction each year. That rarity value, especially when compared to some of the bigger-book sires, will almost certainly have played its part in ensuring the offspring of War Front, whose current two-year-olds were conceived when his fee was still just $15,000, command collectors’ item prices.

The Guineas Sale top lot was another eye-catchingly good result for Jim McCartan of Gaybrook Lodge Stud this season. After selling his 800,000-guinea colt at the Craven Sale, McCartan stated memorably: “I’ve just had an equine swimming pool built, I’m going to have to fill it with champagne now.”

The champagne kept flowing for McCartan, who sold the two most expensive youngsters at the Guineas Sale a fortnight later, and also for Brendan Holland of Grove Stud, whose season-capping moment came when selling the record-priced juvenile at the Arqana Breeze-up. The Invincible Spirit colt joined Sheikh Joaan’s team at €750,000, beating the previous year’s record of €520,000.
For Holland, this followed selling the top lot at a lively renewal of the DBS Breeze-up – with Sheikh Fahad paying £340,000 for the daughter of Exceed And Excel – while Grove Stud was also responsible for the most expensive filly at the Craven Sale, the fast-breezing Invincible Spirit two-year-old who also now belongs to Qatar Racing, having been bought for 450,000gns.

The clamour for horses untested under Rules doesn’t end on the Flat. The once-raced point-to-pointer Alisier d’Irlande topped Brightwells’ April Sale at Cheltenham at £300,000, while another four-year-old winning pointer, Birch Hill, took the honours at the Goffs Punchestown Sale at €160,000. In both codes, we must be grateful for the fact there has been a resurgence of wealthy people prepared to pay sums which in most cases are unlikely to be recouped through prize-money in this country. Happily, the prestige of owning a winner at a major meeting, whether it’s Royal Ascot or the Cheltenham Festival, is enough to keep many coming back, while for some buyers the potential resale value of Flat horses to Asia or Australia is now a major consideration when buying youngsters.