By Bill Oppenheim
You really wonder sometimes: who’s pulling the strings? The final statistics for the two-day Goffs Orby sale earlier this week were very similar to last year’s, just as Keeneland September’s 12-day marathon finished with statistics so similar to the last two years. One noticeable difference is that the clearance rate from the catalogues is about 10 points higher at the European sales, but even so the clearance rate at Goffs, as at Keeneland, dipped marginally; at this year’s Orby sale, 76.4% of the catalogue were listed as sales, down from 79.1% last year.
The Orby went from being a three-day sale (essentially including what is now the one-day, lower-level Sportsman’s sale, held Thursday, itself up 11% in gross and 24% in average) to a two-day sale in 2012, when 304 yearlings sold for €27,274,500 and averaged €89,719. Last year, 356 yearlings grossed €38,802,000 and averaged €108,994–a 42% rise in gross, and 21% rise in average, in two years. This year the growth leveled off, as 372 yearlings sold for €38,931,500 and averaged €104,655. The number sold increased by 4%; the gross increased by €129,500, which is three-tenths of one percent (or €344 per horse, compared to $250 a horse at Keeneland), and the average dipped by 4%. In other words: essentially the same. So in the three years since the Orby sale went back to two days, the number sold has increased by 22%; the gross has increased by 43%; and the average has increased by 17%.
This is an Irish sale, so most of the stallions with the biggest numbers of yearlings at the Orby sale, naturally, stand in Ireland; 30 of the 37 sires which had four or more sell at Orby are or were based in Ireland. The other seven all stand in England. Though Raven’s Pass had a €2-million filly, and Frankel had a €1.7-million filly, each horse only had one other yearling sold, in both cases for less than 10% of their big filly, so their sale averages are not really significant–though the fact they sired such big-price yearlings certainly is.
Coolmore’s world number one Galileo was far and away the leading sire by average with four or more sold, as seven of his nine yearlings offered were sold for an average of €502,857, which takes his average for the year to date, converted to dollars, to $455,620 for 15 yearlings sold from 21 offered so far. Among North American and European sires with 10 or more yearlings sold, Galileo ranks fourth at the moment, behind Juddmonte’s Frankel (13 offered/10 sold, avg $713,489), Gainesway’s Tapit (57/41, avg $620,297), and Claiborne’s War Front (34/24, avg $574,375), but Tattersalls’ October 1, the top yearling sale in Europe, is on deck next week, starting Tuesday. Galileo has 23 catalogued for that sale, Frankel has 18 and Darley’s top sire, Dubawi, who has only had one yearling sell so far this year–a €2.6-million colt at Arqana in August–has 13 catalogued. Expect fireworks, though on the basis of the major sales in the last three weeks, not necessarily big increases.
The Irish National Stud’s Invincible Spirit was number two on average at Goffs, with 11 yearlings averaging €199,045. Darley’s New Approach, whose first 2-year-olds made such a bright start in 2012, leading to an upgraded book of mares for 2013 (foals of 2014, yearlings of 2015), ranked third at Orby, with five sold (of six offered) for an average of €175,400. Coolmore sires occupied the next two places, as eight yearlings by Fastnet Rock averaged €140,000 and their Excelebration led first-year sires at Orby (with 4+ sold, so not including Frankel), as all nine of his yearlings offered were sold, for an average of €123,667. Only three other sires with four or more sold at Orby exceeded the sale average of €104,655; these were Morristown Lattin’s Dark Angel (18/16, avg €123,250), arguably the most upwardly mobile stallion in Europe; Coolmore’s Holy Roman Emperor (12/9, avg €121,444); and Dark Angel’s sire, Rathbarry’s Acclamation (14/13, avg €117,538).
A total of 11 sires had four or more yearlings sell at Orby from their first crops. Form behind Frankel, the greatest racehorse ever, has always seemed like it should be a good bet, and Excelebration and Newsells Park’s Nathaniel were the two horses who were consistently closest to him. Nathaniel, who is number two on average to this point behind Frankel among European sires with their first yearlings, had all seven of his yearlings offered at Orby sell, for an average of €93,143, and was comfortably second on average, just at Orby, to Excelebration. The Coolmore horse has eight yearlings catalogued at October Book 1 next week, whereas Nathaniel, being an English stallion, has 18.
The concept of form behind Frankel being a good pointer to sire performance has been franked this year by Coolmore’s Zoffany, whose lifetime best came when he failed by three parts of a length to catch Frankel in the 2011 G1 St. James’s Palace S. at Royal Ascot after Tom Queally patently let him loose too soon. At the time the result looked like it flattered Zoffany, but first he became a market darling with his first yearlings last year, and now he is the leading freshman sire in Europe–so maybe he wasn’t flattered after all, but in any case his performance as a sire so far does suggest form behind Frankel could indeed be significant in the sire ranks. Zoffany was the leading sire with first 2-year-olds and 4+ sold at Orby (15/13, €97,308), but was run surprisingly closely in that department by Ballylinch’s Dream Ahead (15/14, €96,000), currently number three on the European freshman sire list. It’s another positive pointer for him, because it can only mean he’s getting nice stock.
Stay tuned for any tweeting I might do over the next week, especially to do with the sale, and this column will be back next Saturday with analysis of and comment about October Book 1.