Mocklershill, Co Tipperary, Ireland
Willie Browne of Mocklershill was a pioneer of the breeze-up sales scene and has a hard-earned reputation as one of the best in the business at preparing youngsters. Mocklershill’s graduates include Speciosa, Dubawi Gold, Walk In The Park and 2012 Gimcrack Stakes winner Blaine
Browne says: “Timing breezes has become a big issue and we’re very conscious of that but I still think long term it’s a poor plan. Obviously, like everybody else, we’re trying to get them to go a bit quicker. Good horses invariably breeze well but if you have a mile-and-a-quarter or a mile-and-a-half horse they are not going to do the same clock as a horse that will win before June.
“My numbers are slightly lower this year – about 10 down at between 80 and 85 – but that’s probably no bad thing. Yearlings were difficult to buy and a bit like the year before we didn’t give as much for them as I don’t think the return is as good as it was. You just can’t be giving 100,000gns for a yearling any more because you won’t get it back. We all know there is still plenty of money at the top end but the middle market drops away steeply after that – that’s why all sales are struggling.
“I believe that the breeze-up sales still don’t really get the recognition they deserve but I would say that, wouldn’t I! Plenty of winners come from them – I sold the Gimcrack winner at Doncaster last year – but people still like to knock them and I don’t know why.
“From a selfish point of view I’m not sure the system of selling horses alphabetically by dam helps. I have a big consignment of 20 going to Tattersalls for the Craven Sale and we’ve ended up with 14 on the first day and six on the second. Last year days one and two at Newmarket were chalk and cheese and if that follows through to this year that will put me in a bad spot. I’d like to think there’s a fairer way of doing it.”
Hillwood Stud, Wiltshire
Sold one of last year’s best breeze-up graduates, Moohaajim, winner of the Mill Reef Stakes and runner-up in the Middle Park Stakes
Charlie Vigors, who runs Hillwood Stud with his wife Tracy, says: “Our breeze-up numbers are about the same [some 15 horses spread among Goffs, DBS and Tattersalls], although we don’t have any horses we felt would suit Arqana better than any of the English sales this year, and we’re not offering any US-breds, partly because we were so busy prepping yearlings last year it was difficult to get across the Atlantic. The best stallions are currently in Europe and people are comfortable with what they can buy at home.
“We always thought Moohaajim had a lot of natural talent, but you’re not sure how much until they race. When we saw his sale develop into a straight battle between underbidder David Redvers and Marco Botti we were delighted as he was certain to be in very capable hands whoever bought him.”
Seven Springs, Newmarket
Consignors of five Group 1 winners from relatively small numbers
Armando Duarte is a partner in the business with Emma O’Gorman, who says: “We’re based near Tattersalls and since they’ve been very good to us we sell breezers only at their [two] sales. In the past, with just two of us, it was a logistical nightmare going away to sales further from home.
“When we started 13 years ago everyone breezed their horses in pairs, but buyers didn’t want the one that came second – even though it might prove the better horse in time. Now most horses breeze on their own, with exceptions for horses that are green and need to work in a pair to show their best.
“The clock is very important and it’s getting tougher every year – there are plenty of people who are interested only in the top 20 or 30 times, some in the top ten to 15.
“There can be fractions of a second between the times of the top ten and it’s hard to get on that quick list. Official times would be a disaster, pressurising people and horses and possibly doing the sale no favours in the long run. Luckily there are enough people watching horses on their merits, not the clock.
“At present it is almost impossible for a juvenile to win more than a couple of races because they get penalties that stop them – how many people become fed up when they find that out? It would help us, the market and the sales companies if that was changed.”
Tally-Ho Stud, Co Westmeath, Ireland
Key players who consigned last year’s most expensive European breezer, a 500,000gns Shamardal colt
With some 50 horses to breeze at sales in Britain and Ireland, it is just as well Tally-Ho Stud’s Roger O’Callaghan says: “We’re busy but that’s the way we like it. We’re selling at both Tattersalls’ sales [13 horses], plus Doncaster , Goffs [five] and Goresbridge , but we’re not going to Arqana. It hasn’t worked for me there – it might be the language barrier, or maybe I took the wrong type of horse.
“We’re taking a big draft to Donny but we’ve always sold well there and it’s a venue where you can sell at every level. We always buy some horses in the USA and this year we’re putting four through the Craven and a couple at Goffs. We enjoy buying at Keeneland – it’s the only sale we attend where we’re not selling and can therefore concentrate on buying, rather than playing on both sides of the fence. We go there with an open mind and try to come back with horses that look like they will run. The sire has a role but if the horse looks a runner we’ll buy it at our level.
“Regarding bonuses and other incentives offered by sales companies, I’d say it’s all about the horse that comes out the door. That’s all that matters.
“People are putting more emphasis on times and there are fewer horses breezing in pairs, probably because when they do there’s a winner and a loser.”
Gaybrook Lodge Stud, Co Westmeath, Ireland
Jim McCartan cut his teeth at Tally-Ho Stud with the O’Callaghans’ breeze-up horses and now prepares his own team at his farm in Mullingar along with running a video production company
“We’re geared mainly towards pre-training and breeze-up horses and at the moment mostly sell our own horses,” says McCartan. “We’re often asked to take on breeze-up horses for other people so I’m planning to expand our facilities with an equine swimming pool and solarium and then we can increase both the sales and pre-training side.
“I don’t like to see young horses being put under too much pressure and I definitely wouldn’t be in favour of officially timing breezes like they do in America. I like horses to show a bit of style and a good attitude and naturally the precocious types will breeze a bit faster.
“It’s hard to compete in the yearling market as there’s only a certain amount you can get for a breeze-up horse. Yes, one made 500,000gns last year but only a few make over 100,000gns.
“We buy a few in America every year. Some people are a bit down on the American sires at the moment but the best two-year-old in Europe last year was by Exchange Rate. I don’t have a bias – there’s such a big pool of horses in America and if you work the sales hard you can have some luck with them.
“This is the busiest time of the year for us and the hardest part of the job is getting all the horses safely to the sales in one piece.”
Jockey who is used by Jamie Railton and Charlie Vigors as a breeze rider
Chalmers says: “From November to May I’m involved with breeze-up horses and can ride 10 to 15 at a sale. People are now mad on the clock, so a good breeze is when you hit the two-furlong pole running, get maximum effort in the final furlong and record a fast time.
“There is a lot of preparation, ground work and building up to the day of the breeze, so they are primed for the job.
“Some horses you have to kid along, some cannot gallop in a straight line, but you want to do a neat job. If the turf is a bit quick you have to hold them together to avoid sore shins that could prevent them going through the ring. I’m not nervous about the responsibility because we have no idea how much they are going to sell for.
“After the breeze I go home and pick up the results from there. It’s a good feeling if a horse you have ridden over many months sells well, and you follow them whenever they race.”
Charlie Vigors of Hillwood Stud says: “Neil rides out for Andrew Balding each morning and then comes to us. A good horseman who understands the horses is important, and the fact Neil comes here every day and knows each horse’s quirks and habits is very important.
“Trying to get every shape, size and calibre of horse to perform on one day is a skill. As consignors it’s good to have confidence in the person riding for you.”
Roger O’Callaghan of Tally-Ho Stud adds: “The lads in the yard, who are all from the Ukraine, are very important because they break the horses in and ride them away, but [jockey] Michael Hussey rides them for us in the breeze. His willingness to help is crucial, but so is his bottle. Some lads are more nervous than others before riding in the breeze because there’s a lot at stake.”
Selling one horse at Tattersalls’ Craven Sale and two at Goresbridge
Italian-born Moroni says: “I began with breezers in 2007 when I was in Newmarket, and Emma O’Gorman and Armando Duarte were very good guides.
“Now I’m based in Ireland, working for John Egan and renting some boxes from him. I start on my horses at 4.30am and then begin with John at 7.30am. The first horse I sold under my own name was a Barathea colt bought for 3,000gns as a yearling and sold for €65,000 at the Arqana breeze-up. He later won a couple of jumps races, but for me he was a Derby winner.
“I ride my own horses in the breeze. It’s pure adrenalin and I love it. I’m light enough and, while I might not be the best, that’s my glory. I’d rather ride them, and accept I might make a little less money, than put a better rider up.”
O’Gorman and Duarte of Seven Springs ride their draft in the breeze. O’Gorman says: “You get one chance so cannot afford to mess up – it can take several years before you get it to a tee. You don’t want to set off too soon or your horse might get tired, but you want to be rolling when you hit the start pole or it costs you time.
“A lot of it comes down to the homework you do in advance, to give a horse confidence to go quick.”
Times the breezes for David Redvers, whose clients include Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani’s Pearl Bloodstock
Wall says: “We timed breezes by hand for a number of years, then last year we used a Tag Heuer electronic system. It puts a beam across the track at the two-furlong pole and the finishing post.
“It’s a useful device but we also watch every breeze to assess how a horse is being ridden and the way it’s moving. We factor in the time with the visual evidence and we wouldn’t buy a horse solely because it’s done the fastest time. We found the electronic system and the hand-held clock produced the same top ten times, but the electronic saves me entering up hours of data.”
Stephen Hillen, Newmarket-based bloodstock agent
In the past two years has bought Bapak Chinta, who won Royal Ascot’s Norfolk Stakes, and Gimcrack Stakes winner Blaine
“I take a little tour in Ireland before the sales to get a feel for the horses and look at them in my own time. It’s a chance to assess their temperament, and if they impress at home and in the breeze they have two ticks.
“I’ve done reasonably well buying breezers and in theory it’s simpler because you see them in their faster paces. The stats for the number of winners that come out of breezes are good and my clients can save on training fees. The earlier young horses start work the better – it’s good for bone density. Look at the successful young jumpers that come out of France.
“I don’t use a clock because I don’t have time to do that and watch the breeze. I’m looking for a good mover that looks a racehorse, besides we couldn’t afford to buy the horse that records the fastest time.”
WHEN IT ALL GOES TO PLAN…
Catching up with two high-flying graduates from the breeze-up sales of recent years
Successful in the 1,000 Guineas and so far the only British Classic winner to emerge from a breeze-up sale
Her trainer and joint-owner, Pam Sly, bought Speciosa for 30,000gns at the DBS Breeze-Up Sale in April 2005. Sly says: “We picked out a colt but he made 70,000gns or 80,000gns, which was beyond our budget. Also on our list was a Danehill Dancer filly who breezed alright, had an athletic walk and was nice looking, although she swished her tail a bit. We bought her, that was Speciosa.
“She’s a good breeder, but being by Danehill Dancer means I’m a little short of sires I can use. I train her Oasis Dream three-year-old, Speciality, who finished close up in a maiden last season, and I have her two-year-old daughter by Sea The Stars called Asteroidea, which is a class of sea star [starfish]. Her yearling is a Dubawi colt we sold last year as a foal [78,000gns] and she’s due to Teofilo on April 19. We plan to use Dutch Art this year.
“I’m sure there will be a good one to come out of her, and probably a filly, because there have been some wonderful fillies in her family, including Pride.”
RIO DE LA PLATA
Proved worthy of his expensive price tag with three Group 1 victories and a career spanning six seasons
Bought by Con Marnane of Bansha House Stables as a Keeneland yearling in 2006 for $75,000, he was reoffered at Tattersalls’ Craven Breeze-Up Sale, where John Ferguson paid 170,000gns.
Within two months of being sent to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, he finished third in a Newmarket maiden, but he broke his duck soon after and then took Goodwood’s Group 2 Vintage Stakes. His next three assignments were all in top-grade company, in which he was second and fourth to New Approach in the National Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes, sandwiched by victory in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.
In the following two seasons he failed to win, although he was second in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, but as a five-year-old he scored five times, winning two Italian Group 1 contests late in the season. Aged six he lost nothing in narrow defeat by Excelebration in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin.
Rio De La Plata retired at the age of seven, having run 30 times, won eight races and been placed in 11 for earnings of £976,000. Few, if any, breeze-up horses have shown similar ability over so many seasons. He now stands under the Darley banner at Haras du Logis for a fee of €7,000.