As the dust settles on another year in the sales ring, there are major positives to be drawn from just about every section of the market. The trade for stores was revitalised in the spring and summer with encouraging advances in the prices for fillies thanks to increased race opportunities and initiatives for National Hunt fillies and mares.

A new European record was set at the Craven Breeze-up Sale when Lynn Lodge Stud’s Elusive Quality colt, later named Great White Eagle and now a Group 3 winner, sold to Coolmore for 760,000gns.

The Coolmore team played its part in a number of dazzling transactions, including the Goffs Orby top lot – a €2.85 million Montjeu colt out of Finsceal Beo – before paying 3.6 million gns for Secret Gesture’s brother at Tattersalls. That record-breaking price stood for less than 24 hours until Sheikh Joaan Al Thani’s Al Shaqab Racing bought a sister to Was for 5 million gns.

The Irish Oaks winner Chicquita was the €6 million superstar of the Goffs November Sale and topped the Paulyn Dispersal bill. She seems likely to race on from Ballydoyle, while the new European record-breaking broodmare Immortal Verse joins Coolmore for a new partnership. One Oaks winner not on the shopping list was Dancing Rain but she went to another superpower, Darley.

There’s always a strong Australasian contingent at the Horses-in-Training Sale and that spilled over into the foal and breeding stock sales this year, too, with new investors such as Eliza Park International appearing on the buyers’ sheet. Chile’s Don Alberto Corporation also made their presence felt, as did a range of buyers from Japan and America, with the continued success of Galileo and the excitement surrounding his young son Frankel being a huge draw.

There’s no doubt that at the top end of the market we’ve almost never had it so good. The middle market enjoys a knock-on effect from this as orders are left unfilled and the net is cast wider. At the bottom end the situation has remained steady at best but smaller number of horses being produced – hopefully from better mares – has helped the overall picture.

Stallions galore
While Galileo still reigns supreme in the European stallion table with more than £2 million in hand over his nearest rival, Dubawi, a gradual power shift is taking place. Dubawi and Oasis Dream lead a strong charge for British sires, with Teofilo the next best for Ireland. Dansili, Pivotal and New Approach then reinforce an increasingly vibrant and sought-after stallion line-up in the UK, with Dutch Art remaining hugely popular at the sales, particularly with pinhookers.

The retirement of Frankel and Nathaniel last year, plus Intello and Al Kazeem for 2014, add some glittering names to the ranks, but then so do Camelot, Dawn Approach, and War Front’s first European-based son, Declaration Of War, in Ireland, which is home to the top four first-season sires of 2013. It’s easy to understand why so many overseas buyers are not only flocking to Britain and Ireland to select mares with solid turf bloodlines, but also often choosing to leave them here to be covered by a member of the strong home team.

With the established elite duo of Oasis Dream and Dansili, not to mention the over-achieving Cacique and the continued furore surrounding Frankel, Juddmonte has plenty of muscle in the stallion market. Another on its roster, Champs Elysees, offers the perfect illustration of the hot-and-cold nature of the sales-ring attitude towards certain stallions.

His first-crop foals sold well, with 17 changing hands for an average of 33,592gns. A year later that average plummeted to 8,205gns (13 sold), while his first-crop yearlings returned an average of 18,110gns (20 sold). This season, on the back of some really promising results on the track by his first runners, headed by Listed winner Avenue Gabriel, Champs Elysees is back in vogue. Fourteen of his foals sold in 2013 for an average of 45,371gns (top price 160,000gns) and all 24 of his yearlings offered this year found a buyer at an average of 23,474gns (top price 170,000gns). His fee for 2014 has remained at £5,000 – half the amount he stood for in his first two years at stud – and as a multiple Group 1-winning brother to Dansili and Cacique, he looks terrific value.

The fine art of auctioneering
A benefit of long hours spent in the sales ring is the occasional flash of humour from the rostrum. Of course horse-trading is a serious business and those who command it from on high – very high from Goffs’ imposing platform – have the gathered masses in the their thrall.

This ring hasn’t been this full since Christy Moore sat in the middle of it

The honour for the best quip of the year in 2013 must go to Nick Nugent, who injected a bit of counter-culture to proceedings by opening his Paulyn Dispersal stint with the line, ‘This ring hasn’t been this full since Christy Moore sat in the middle of it’.

Nugent’s a superb auctioneer, as anyone who has head his bilingual urgings from Arqana will agree, and his rapid-fire patter is relentless as I discovered to my enjoyment when joined by him for breakfast during Goffs’ November Sale and receiving a grilling on a par with that given to the bacon.

Alastair Pim keeps the press bench amused at Tattersalls. This year’s favourite wisecrack, while chiding a slow bidder, was, “Christmas is coming, sir, and I’d like to be home for it.”

Nancy Sexton, sales-blogger par excellence and European agent for Chad Schumer Bloodstock didn’t escape the wrath of auctioneer Simon Kerins during the December Sale while displaying some equally tardy bidding.

“You’d never get away with this at Keeneland,” warned Kerins. Indeed.

Tattersalls will be without one of its regular auctioneers come the February Sale with Philip Myerscough having relinquished his rostrum duties in December. The Myerscough family has had a long association with the sales ring, initially through Goffs, of which Philip was Managing Director until joining Tattersalls as a Director in 2003. He insists he’s not retiring, and through his family connection with the increasingly successful Baroda & Colbinstown Studs consignment, we’re bound to still see plenty of him at the sales. In the meantime, we’d like to wish Philip all the very best.