At no time in the year is the draw of the British Isles for major buyers more apparent than during foal and breeding stock sales.
No matter what the type of sale, we can look back on 2014 as a pretty solid 12 months – the year that the ghost of the recession was finally laid to rest. And with regard to going out on a high, there could hardly be a bigger show-stopper than the appearance of ten Frankel foals in the public arena at Goffs and Tattersalls.
Last December the great horse made his presence felt when the first mares in foal to him were offered for auction. The combination of a Frankel cover and a dual Oaks heroine ensured that Tattersalls’ December Sale was reported far beyond the normal racing publications, with slots on the evening news, Radio 2’s Drive Time and the front page of The Daily Telegraph when Dancing Rain sold for 4,000,000gns.
With the Flat foal sales likely to be every bit as strong as the recent round of yearling sales, it was also encouraging to see a resurgence in the market for National Hunt foals with more than €10 million changing hands at Fairyhouse. A 35% increase in the median price reflected the depth in the market, echoing the summer’s store sales, and was particularly welcome considering that the jumping sales generally do not benefit from broad international participation.
No sector was hit harder during the recession than that of Irish National Hunt breeding. The drop in jumps foals bred in Ireland, from 4,342 in 2007 to 2,203 in 2011, has helped to boost the strength of the jumping stock sales which have benefited from smaller numbers – predominantly the offspring of better mares.
The breeding business is always cyclical, however, and judging by the number of mares covered by some Irish National Hunt stallions in particular from Weatherbys’ Return Of Mares, we can expect a return to larger sales catalogues in years to come.
The excellence of Monsun is hardly a secret among Flat or jumps breeders and in the last few months the staying races have been dominated by his offspring, who between them have won the Melbourne Cup, Prix du Conseil de Paris, Prix Gladiateur, Doncaster Cup and Prix Kergorlay. Not to be outdone, the beautifully bred Parlour Games – by Monsun out of Irish Oaks winner Petrushka – demonstrated his versatility when winning the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham’s Open meeting for John Ferguson and now has three hurdle victories to add to his four on the Flat.
It’s little surprise then that sons of Monsun are being increasingly well supported by jump breeders. Three of the four busiest stallions in Ireland this year were his sons Getaway (295 mares), Shirocco (274) and Arcadio (262), with Galileo’s Mahler (278) and Imperial Monarch (261) completing the top five.
In Britain, the relatively small pool of jumping mares means the National Hunt stallions on these shores can never compete numerically – though the five-time British champion Kayf Tara didn’t do too badly when covering 143 mares. He has a well-credentialed son of Monsun as his stud mate, the five-time Group 1 winner Schiaparelli, who hails from one of the finest families in the German studbook, but the relative of Sea The Moon was sent only 49 mares in 2014. It will be interesting to see how Yorton Farm’s new Monsun recruit, Gentlewave, fares next season.
For now, however, the focus has turned back to Flat-bred stock. We’ve already seen a new American record price for a weanling set at Keeneland this November with a filly by Tapit – whose fee for next season has doubled to $300,000 – selling for $3 million. By this time next month we can expect, yet again, to be reflecting on some pretty stellar trade in Europe – and maybe even a new foal record.