Plenty of challenges lie ahead for the rest of the yearling season judged on this year’s edition of the Goffs Orby Sale, which drew to a sobering conclusion in Doncaster on Thursday evening.

In light of the ongoing worldwide uncertainty, it was unsurprising to see the figures finish well adrift of 2019.

Overall, the aggregate regressed by 44% to £21,142,000 while the average fell by 35% to £67,981. The median dropped by 18% to £47,000.

The clearance rate, however, did provide some light, eventually winding up at a strong 80%.

Pinhookers predictably endured a mixed sale, with 42 of 110 through the ring listed as making some kind of profit.

Included in the figures is Camas Park Stud’s No Nay Never brother to Ten Sovereigns, a late withdrawal on Thursday morning who subsequently changed hands in a private transaction for £200,000 to Mitsuru Hashida.

“I do not think anyone approached the sale expecting anything other than it to be tough,” said Goffs Group chief executive Henry Beeby. “But we salute our vendors for the way they adapted and read the market as evidenced by the 80% clearance rate which, whilst not up to recent years, demonstrates that vendors were pragmatic in their approach and worked with us to deliver the best results in the circumstances.

Ten Sovereigns (purple) and Donnacha O'Brien win the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket

A brother to Ten Sovereigns was snapped up in a private deal at Goffs on Thursday after being withdrawn late in the morning – Photo: George Selwyn

“That said we absolutely recognise that the returns of the last two days have been hard on many vendors and we share their pain as we have always prided ourselves on delivering the best prices for the lots we offer. However we are all aware of the havoc being wreaked on all walks of life by Covid-19 and the impact on the global economy so it is understandable that there are less orders around for racehorses from buying entities, big and small. Those challenges are, of course, exacerbated by the ongoing issues around prize-money that we read about on a daily basis whilst there are several significant players from recent editions of the Orby Sale that are not present for one reason or another.

“None of this is offered as any excuse or justification as it is plain that Orby 20 is way behind its recent predecessors. Whether that is mirrored elsewhere in the coming weeks remains to be seen but we send our best wishes to everyone selling in Newmarket as this is one interlinked industry whilst we have worked with closely with Tattersalls throughout this crisis as both organisations have done everything in our collective power to provide as near as normal a market place as possible.”

Four million euro lots graced the bid board in 2019, topped by the €3 million paid by MV Magnier and Westerberg for Espania. There were no such fireworks this time around; instead, the top mark dropped sharply to £450,000.

By contrast, Georg von Opel’s Westerberg did not make a single purchase this year while the contribution of MV Magnier, usually a key investor at this sale, was much reduced, with the Coolmore man signing for just three yearlings worth £510,000. By comparison, his name appeared against €6.106 million worth of stock in 2019.

Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Estate Company did at least make one welcome and significant foray into the market with the purchase of the £450,000 sale-topping daughter of Oasis Dream, having been conspicuous by its absence at both the Goffs UK Premier and Arqana Select Yearling Sales. However, that pales into comparison with last year’s activity, when the outfit came away with eight yearlings worth €2.495 million.

“We bring them here to sell, it’s all about clearing the decks and to be fair we’ve sold most of them. But it’s been extremely difficult”

Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin, another former key presence, did not make a single purchase, having shelled out €2.63 million in 2019.

Instead, it was Peter and Ross Doyle who ended the sale as leading buyer thanks to the purchase of seven yearlings worth £705,000.

One encouraging aspect was the level of American investment that included Ben McElroy’s purchase of Wednesday’s session-topper for £420,000 on behalf of Barbara Banke. Mike Akers and Justin Casse also made purchases.

The Castlebridge Consignment was the sale’s leading vendor as the source of 35 yearlings who sold for a total of £2.95 million.

“It’s been really tough,” said David O’Callaghan of Yeomanstown Stud, which sold £789,000 worth of stock. “It is what it is. We bring them here to sell, it’s all about clearing the decks and to be fair we’ve sold most of them. But it’s been extremely difficult.”

Shadwell strikes for £450,000 sale-topper

Bobby and Honora Donworth’s Roundhill Stud brought just a single yearling to the Goffs Orby Sale but their judgement proved spot on as the filly in question, a homebred daughter of Oasis Dream, went on to make £450,000 to Shadwell Estate Company on Thursday.

She is the first foal out of Princess De Lune, a daughter of Shamardal bred by the Donworths out of their excellent mare Princess Serena. Purchased for $150,000 at Keeneland in 2003, Princess Serena proceeded to produce eight winners for Roundhill, led by the Prix d’Ispahan winner Zabeel Prince, Group 2 scorer Puissance De Lune and the current Listed scorer Queen Power. Princess Serena is also the granddam of champion Rizeena.

Nor was Princess De Lune short of ability herself, as she demonstrated when romping home on debut at Newbury’s 2017 Greenham meeting for Roger Charlton.

“She’s a lovely filly,” said Angus Gold after outbidding David Redvers. “Sheikh Hamdan asked me last week to concentrate on a few fillies and we tried on the Green Room filly yesterday but her breeders placed a higher valuation on her than we did [bought back for £775,000]. And this was the filly that we landed on today.

“It’s a very tough, hard-running family. Plenty of them are rated 110 or above, which is what I like to see. Her dam had a lot of ability and hopefully this filly will be good before making a nice addition to the stud.”

Bobby Donworth was understandably thrilled with the result.

“She was a gorgeous filly, absolutely stunning,” he said. “And I hope she’s very lucky for Shadwell.

“There was a bit of head scratching as to where to send her but I’m glad we came here – we’re in difficult times but it worked out. Part of it came down to splitting up the yearlings as we also have a half-sister to Rizeena and brother to Zabeel Prince for Newmarket.”

Kilcarn hits the mark

Pat O’Kelly’s Kilcarn Stud has enjoyed such a lengthy and hugely successful association with this sale that it was very appropriate that the first major transaction of the day came courtesy of a filly from the famed farm.

The filly in question is a Sea The Stars half-sister to Prix de Diane heroine Channel who sold to John Clarke for £360,000 – quite an improvement on the €18,000 that Channel cost when bought by Meridian International at the 2017 renewal of this sale.

Clarke was acting on behalf of Sea The Stars’ owner Sunderland Holding Inc., the nom-de-plume of the Tsui family.

The Sea The Stars half-sister to Channel selling in the ring on Thursday – Photo: Goffs

“She’s a lovely filly who will probably go to William Haggas,” said Clarke. “Mrs. Tsui couldn’t be here to see the filly but she absolutely loved the pedigree and thought she was a great advert for Sea The Stars.”

A descendant of the noted producer Shouk, the filly is a half-sister to three winners overall and out of the winning Love Magic, a daughter of Dansili purchased to join Kilcarn for 170,000gns in 2015. This family has already clicked with Sea The Stars to good effect since Love Magic is a half-sister to his Listed-winning son Tall Ship. They are out of the Cheveley Park Stakes heroine Magical Romance.

Starring role for The Hermitage

There are few certainties in this game but the likelihood of The Hermitage taking high order at the Goffs Orby Sale comes pretty close.

Purchased by the O’Callaghan’s for just 29,000gns through the BBA Ireland at the 2010 Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale, The Hermitage had produced €1.04 million worth of stock at this sale prior to Thursday and went on to add further fuel to that total as the dam of a colt who made £355,000 to Demi O’Byrne on behalf of owner Peter Brant.

By Yeomanstown stalwart Dark Angel, the colt is a brother to three winners including Princess Margaret Stakes scorer Angel’s Hideaway, who sold for €390,000 to Cheveley Park Stud at the 2017 renewal of the sale, and Mill Reef Stakes runner-up Perfect Angel.

“The Hermitage has been a great servant,” said Yeomanstown’s David O’Callaghan of the Listed-placed Kheleyf mare. “She’s been great for us but she’s been good to everyone else along the way too.

“This was an exceptional colt, she has another Dark Angel colt foal and I should think she’ll be going back to him again next year.”

Churchill finds favour

One of the priciest pinhooks catalogued in the sale, Flash Conroy’s Churchill colt did his bit to put some life into the session when selling for £220,000 to Jamie McCalmont.

Purchased for €125,000 as a Goffs November foal through Hamish Macauley, the colt is a half-brother to Gladness Stakes winner Onenightidreamed and out of the winning Pivotal mare Pivotalia, a member of the fine Gerry Oldham family of Zivania.

“He’s for a new client and will probably stay in Britain,” said McCalmont. “He is one of the best colts here today in my book and is obviously bred on the Galileo – Pivotal cross, which has been proven time and time again.

“I’ve really liked the Churchills. But then he’s a very good-looking horse himself. I remember seeing him as a two-year-old walking into the paddock at Ascot before the Chesham Stakes and he looked like a three-year-old then.”

Churchill was also responsible for a filly out of Listed winner Rioticism who sold for £160,000 to Johnny Murtagh and Peter Nolan. Overall, the Coolmore stallion returned an average of £86,423 to lead all first-crop sires.

Beeby offers thanks

In his concluding statement, Goffs Group chief executive Henry Beeby added: “The Irish National Yearling Sale has long been part of the fabric of Irish life as it is a significant occasion with a rich history and tangible relevance to the bloodstock community as well as the wider Irish public. So to move the Orby Sale to the UK was a monumental decision and one that we did not take lightly. However we had to take action in what we felt were the best interests of every vendor given the circumstances in which we all find ourselves as so many had entrusted us with many of their best yearlings despite the uncertainty that existed at the time of entry.

“We are, of course, fortunate to have the world’s newest sales complex in the UK and it is a source of some considerable pride that so many newcomers to Doncaster this week have been so complimentary about the facility we built as DBS. It allowed us to showcase the superb yearlings that made up Orby 20 and we repeat our thanks to each vendor for their support. We recognise that the move presented huge logistical issues and extra costs for everyone, and that it caused some debate, but our feeling is that the large crowd of potential purchasers that arrived from Sunday demonstrated the enduring appeal of the Orby Sale as a rich and consistent course of quality.

“In fact if there is one achievement from this week it is in the staging of a thoroughbred auction, and we are indebted to many people and entities for their hard work, adaptability and cooperation, not least Doncaster Council who worked with us to find solutions rather than problems. So I want to repeat our sincere thanks to every attendee for their good humoured acceptance of the protocols in place to protect everyone and ensure compliance with the latest Government directives. I know they were irksome, annoying and tiresome but we are grateful that everyone acknowledged their necessity.

“Let’s hope that Orby 21 is back where it belongs. In Ireland doing what it does best – selling the best for the best to the best.”