It was never going to be easy in this strange year but the Arqana Select Sale in Deauville, France, at least gave several participants some confidence going forward into this fragile sales season.

As Thursday’s session proved, when three yearlings broke the million euro barrier led by the €2.5 million Dubawi half-sister to Sistercharlie and Sottsass, there remains a real hunger for elite stock. However, as various agents also commented, there were ‘holes in the market’ beyond that, something that is sadly to be expected as the world continues to grapple with the pandemic.

As such, it was never expected that this year’s renewal would reach the heights of 2019, when a record average of €187,671 was set. 

When all was done and dusted on Friday, 310 horses had sold over the three days for a total of €37,697,500, an average of €121,605 and median of €70,000. The clearance rate was 75%.

“There were some very nice horses there,” said Oliver St Lawrence, who signed at €2.5 million for the sale-topping daughter of Dubawi. “The good stuff sold well. Beyond that, there are holes in the market but then in France you obviously have the good prize-money and premiums to consider so why should a breeder take a haircut when they can put their horses into training and race them for a reward. It’s a different situation for British and Irish vendors who have to be a bit more realistic.”

For Irish vendor Ballylinch Stud, the sale was a successful one that produced a 100% clearance rate.

“I think we might look back later in the year and say that this was a good enough trade,” said Ballylinch Stud’s John O’Connor. “We were happy enough. We had a couple of yearlings who were affected by the change in date and had to be withdrawn but we sold everything we brought, so we’re happy. And I think they all made what they should have made. 

“There’s always a good French buying bench at this sale and all the leading players were represented. So it’s given me a bit of confidence going forward.

“Arqana must also be commended in facilitating the presence of buyers at the sale. They’re very customer orientated and it’s been very impressive.”

Agent Mark McStay of Avenue Bloodstock, whose purchases included a Galileo half-brother to Classic winner Precieuse bought for €210,000, concurred with those thoughts. He said: “Arqana did a great job in getting the people to the sale, there were lot of big players there. 

“It thought it was fantastic that the top end held up so well. It proved there are some people who are recession proof, which is great. But very clearly there has been a readjustment in the middle market. There are not the same number of people around with disposable income and racehorses are, after all, a luxury item. You could see vendors readjusting to the market if they were not in the top five to ten per cent.”

He added: “There is definitely value to be had and as an agent, I will be encouraging people to get involved for that reason.”

Siyouni filly leads the way

As anticipated, trade during the final day of selling on Friday dropped a notch from the heady heights of earlier days. Yet there was still plenty of demand for the better offerings as highlighted by the 80% clearance rate, a figure perhaps indicative of vendors readjusting their expectations.

Leading the way at €290,000 was yet another highly sought after homebred from Ecurie des Monceaux in a Siyouni relation to Magical, who was purchased by Yann Barberot.

Bred by Monceaux/Lordship/Skymarc/Beauregard, the filly is a half-sister to a winner and out of Special Gift, a New Approach half-sister to the high-class fillies Do The Honours and Seba.

“I bought her for Olivier Thomas,” Barberot told Arqana. “She is a superb filly, very typical Siyouni. She comes from a young, very lively family. We saw her at stud with Olivier Thomas, Gitte and Philippe Allaire and we liked her a lot. We didn’t expect to sell for that much but we fell in love with her.”

This Siyouni filly continued an excellent sale for Ecurie des Monceaux, selling for €290,000. Photo: Zuzanna Lupa

Outside of Siyouni, the top end of the market was dominated by the progeny of Wootton Bassett and Kodiac, two proven stallions on a rapid upward curve.

Wootton Bassett has been the talk of the bloodstock industry this summer following his sale to Coolmore and it was no surprise to see him feature heavily within the higher end of the market this week, notably as the sire of a colt who sold on Friday for €180,000 to Al Shaqab Racing.

The colt in question is the first foal out of Playing Trix, an unraced War Front half-sister to the Moyglare Stud Stakes heroine Cursory Glance who goes back to Robert Barnett’s great mare Time Charter. He was sold by The Channel Consignment.

Another coveted offering by the sire is appropriately set to race for the Coolmore partners after selling for €140,000 to Laurent Benoit of the Broadhurst Agency. 

Their new acquisition, a colt out of the winning Mount Nelson mare Mezzo Mezzo, was bred by David Smaga and Marie-Benedicte Fougy and sold through Haras d’Etreham, the farm that developed Wootton Bassett into one of Europe’s premier stallions.

“Following the recent departure of Wootton Bassett for Coolmore, we were looking for one of his sons for MV Magnier,” Benoit told Arqana. “We took a tour of all the Wootton Bassetts in the catalogue and this one was our favourite. He will go to André Fabre, who will be delighted to have a horse from the Zafonic line – it will bring back good memories to him!”

Wootton Bassett: had a good day at Arqana. Photo – Haras d’Etreham

Good day for Kodiac

Meanwhile, a good day for Tally-Ho Stud’s Kodiac was headlined by the sale of a colt for €140,000 to Michael Donohoe of the BBA Ireland. Sold by Haras de Castillon, the colt is a half-brother to Group 3 winner Alounak.

“He is a very good-looking colt who looks precocious,” said Donohoe. “His pedigree is there for all to see. He also has a very good mind – when he came up here, he walked around like he owned the ring. 

“Kodiac is also having another outstanding season.”

Donohoe was speaking just hours before Kodiac fired in another two-year-old stakes winner in the Flying Childers Stakes scorer Ubettabelieveit.

Vital statistics

Almanzor: first-crop sire was well received at Arqana. Photo – George Selwyn

Oliver St Lawrence, working primarily with Fawzi Nass, was the sale’s leading buyer as the purchaser of five yearlings worth €3.353 million ahead of trainer Jean-Claude Rouget, for whom a particularly busy week consisted of the purchase of 20 yearlings.

Ecurie des Monceaux, as the vendor of 32 yearlings worth €10.682 million, retained their position as leading vendor. Their turnover accounted for 28% of the sale’s entire aggregate.

Darley’s Dubawi, who responsible for the €2.5 million sale-topper, wound up as the sale’s leading sire by average thanks to a figure of €870,000 ahead of Galileo on €658,000.

Among the first-crop sires with more than one to sell, it was champion Almanzor who led the way thanks to the sale of 19 yearlings at an average of €126,789. 

“We bought two Almanzors,” said Oliver St Lawrence. “We really liked them. They’re racy sorts, a bit like the Wootton Bassetts. They don’t look like they’ll be early two-year-olds but they have a bit scope and I thought the two we bought were lovely horses.”

The final session also featured a noteworthy result for Haras de la Haie Neuve’s Whitecliffsofdover. A Listed winner for Aidan O’Brien, the son of War Front was represented by a colt who sold on Friday to Jean-Claude Rouget for €135,000 – not a bad return on his €3,000 fee.