Bobby Zen

DEAUVILLE, France-The temperature is rising at Arqana and so, too, are the stakes. Breeze-up consignors young and old have made no secret about the fact that trade this year has been tricky, particularly at the middle to lower tiers. 

All duck or no dinner, feast or famine-whatever way you want to describe it, vendors have had to negotiate some choppy waters, meaning a lot is still on the line at Arqana when the sale gets underway at 11am on Saturday.

But, weirdly, the optimism is palpable. Maybe it’s the baking heat, beautiful food or the steady flow of champagne. Or perhaps it’s just the high-class bunch of horses that has attracted buyers from all over the world that has breeze-up consignors like Eddie O’Leary, Jim McCartan and Cormac O’Flynn confident about what Saturday might bring. 

O’Leary said, “The market is tight but if you get it right it can be very good. They all seem to be landing on the same horses. If you have a horse with a pedigree and he qualifies for the main men, it’s very good trade.”

He added, “I found at some of the sales so far this year that the top 40 horses on the times made plenty of money. You would hope at Arqana that the times go out the window because you can’t buy a horse for Royal Ascot here-you won’t make it.” 

And plenty of people agree. There is an American flavour to this catalogue and O’Leary’s filly and colt by Justify in particular are making waves. Through Lynn Lodge Stud, O’Leary has sold Donjuan Triumphant (Ire) (Dream Ahead), The Wow Signal (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) and Big Call (Animal Kingdom) at the breeze-up sales. In fact, four horses from last year’s Arqana draft have all won races and achieved good ratings, highlighted by French 2,000 Guineas hopeful Eben Shaddad (Calyx {GB}). 

On this year’s draft, he commented, “We got in on Justify before the market went nuts last year. We are lucky to have two very, very good horses by him. They are natural talents and it’s a credit to the sire that, when you have a horse as big and strong as the colt [lot 62] that he can breeze as well as he did. He could be a freak of nature-he’s just an inch smaller than Gronkowski (Lonhro). The filly [lot 187] is a natural talent as well.”

Jim McCartan and Daniel Creighton at Arqana | Brian Sheerin

McCartan is another man selling the American dream. California Spangle (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}, a horse who has won close to £8 million in Hong Kong, has put McCartan’s Gaybrook Lodge in lights and the normally shy operator couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for the Not This Time colt [lot 55].

He said, “We always try to buy a few in America but didn’t buy as many last year because we couldn’t seem to get them at the price we wanted them at. But I was lucky enough to buy the Not This Time and the Bernardini colts for in and around the same money [$62,000 apiece]. Both horses have been very easy to manage and breezed very well. Not This Time is top of the pops-he’s a sire on the up. I actually rang a couple of pals of mine in America and they told me that Not This Time is the horse who really is on the way up. The stock from his better mares are coming through now and his stud fee has gone up to $150,000. He’s getting into that bracket of Into Mischief, Curlin and those sorts of horses. 

McCartan added, “I have clients who want dirt horses and grass horses. We try to buy a broad section of horses as we have lots of different clients. This year has been good so far but I have been down on numbers. That was by design to be honest. Now, I did have an interest in a couple of horses with Willie Browne at the Craven, and they went ok. There is a lot of emphasis on the clock at different sales. Is that a good thing? I don’t think that it is. I certainly have no interest in breezing horses very fast. I think it’s the wrong thing for them to be doing. We pre-train them and like them to be big and strong at the sales. If they do a nice, even breeze with a bit of style, we’re happy. The Not This Time was up there on the times but he’s one of those natural talents. Over here at Arqana, they appreciate a big horse with a pedigree so times are not necessarily as important as they are at the other sales. The footfall has been very good here this week. There is an extra day, so it’s a bit more spread out, but a lot of the right people are here so it’s great to see. I think it should be a very good sale.”

O’Leary and McCartan are seasoned pros when it comes to the breeze-ups but O’Flynn is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with in this sphere. Through his association with Roderic Kavanagh of Glending Stables, O’Flynn famously sold the unbeaten Group 1 performer Vandeek last year and the pair followed that unforgettable pinhook up with an emphatic result in the Craven when selling their 125,000gns yearling purchase by Galileo (Ire) for an eye-popping 1 million gns. 

Cormac O’Flynn and Roderic Kavanagh | Brian Sheerin

“The Galileo has been the flagship horse so far this year and it was great to hit with him but there were plenty of others who failed to hit the mark,” O’Flynn said. “They still sold well, went to good homes and will hopefully go on to be good racehorses, but it’s definitely been a sticky market to be operating in. 

“The middle of the market has been very tough, particularly in the UK. Obviously coming over here, things are a little bit different and Arqana is a lovely place to bring a nice draft of horses, which hopefully we have. There is a little bit more of an emphasis on middle-distance horses over here. But we are happy, Arqana have done a great job and there has been plenty of footfall. We have been very busy all day.”

But surely when you sell a horse for ten times his initial outlay in a year, the pressure is off?

“No, definitely not. You just take each sale as it comes. This game is a great leveler. While the highs are brilliant, you never know what is around the corner. We just try to do the best that we can with each horse and hopefully we have a nice group for tomorrow. We’re looking forward to it.”

O’Flynn added, “I got involved in pinhooking with Roger quite a while ago. We started off with a couple of foals and ended up breezing one of the fillies that we couldn’t sell as a yearling. It has gradually built from there. I never thought we’d be operating to the level that we are now-I wouldn’t have even dreamt of it.”

Without Vandeek, the Galileo may not have been a goer for Glending. It goes back to that old saying that success breeds success and that saying certainly applies to the breeze-up sector as a whole. This sale has been the source of many top-notchers down through the years and, like O’Leary and McCartan, O’Flynn is expecting a string of strong results on Saturday.

He concluded, “I can’t get over the standard of horses here. Everywhere you look, there are outstanding horses and the pedigrees in the catalogue speak for themselves. I’d be expecting it to be a very good sale. 

“There are a lot of people in town and Arqana has done a great job. There is a lot of emphasis on those mile to mile-and-a-half horses and there is a lot of American interest, too. There is a diverse group of buyers here and there are a lot of horses here for people to shop.”

The post “I Can’t Get Over The Standard Of Horse Here” – High Expectations For Arqana appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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