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Time right for select sale in DWC week?

Author: Howard Wright

15/03/2018
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Fancy owning a runner on Dubai World Cup night? Although the Emirates Racing Authority has organised a sale of horses in training at Meydan on Monday week, it is doubtful if any of the entries will be back at the track five days later, so the only new route to the owners’ box on the big night will be through a private purchase. No doubt Ramzan Kadyrov and his agents are already looking through the list of likely opportunities.

He likes to have a runner, or two, and has regularly picked up a late addition to the equine ammunition fired at the DWC card in his distinctive colours. This year, though, he already has a more than capable representative for the World Cup itself in the shape of North America, after the 6yo’s blitzing success in last Saturday’s Al Maktoum Challenge R3. Kadyrov took out his cheque book exactly a year ago to purchase North America to run in the Godolphin Mile, but despite starting favourite with the international bookmakers, the son of Dubawi ran miserably, beating just three of his 13 rivals and trailing home 26 lengths behind the winner Secret Summer.

Back to form this year, he has stepped up through the rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge, progressing from third to second and finally, aided by the fast surface and a superb ride from Richard Mullen, to first. The fascinating part of North America’s story is that he was originally owned by Godolphin, whose Thunder Snow he beat on Saturday, having been purchased by John Ferguson for 100,000gns as a foal at the Tattersalls December Sales in 2012. Four years, six unsuccessful outings and a gelding operation later, on 21 April 2016 to be exact, he left Charlie Appleby’s stable as one of 30 lots offered in Godolphin’s second specialised Racing in Dubai Sale.

Bought by Imhamed Nagem and sent to Satish Seemar, North America proceeded to win four races on the spin inside three months, after which his veteran trainer, with a degree of understatement, said: “We needed some new blood and have found one.” The bill for his newest superstar came to just Dh140,000, or the equivalent of £26,710 on the day, or £27,523 at today’s exchange rate,, a ‘value for money’ price compared with much of modern bloodstock, and highly likely a fraction of what Mr Kadyrov paid later. Now North America goes for the jackpot, but remarkably he will not be the only successful sales purchase appearing on the big night for the Seemar stable, after Yulong Warrior booked his ticket for the UAE Derby by landing Saturday’s Meydan opener, the Al Bastakiya.

Like North America, Yulong Warrior was a maiden when he joined the string, but his price tag was in a different bracket. Sent over to a Goffs’ sale in London last June, after four placed outings for Irish trainer Michael Halford, he was knocked down to Seemar for £360,000, twice the figure he had made in US dollars as a yearling. Three races and two wins later, he is on his way to the big time. The interesting element of Yulong Warrior’s sales history is that the most recent opportunity to take him on board came on the eve of Royal Ascot, at an evening auction held a few ‘stones throws’ from the centre of London in Kensington Palace Gardens.

The unique venue is a throwback to the days two centuries ago when Tattersalls held horse auctions at Hyde Park Corner, with the exception that the modern bidders were entertained to a sumptuous dinner while contemplating their catalogues.

The heady atmosphere among an invited audience of high rollers and well connected observers is like nothing anywhere else in Britain or Ireland, simply because entries are skewed towards horses with a Royal Ascot entry. Maybe too much can be made of this aspect, since last year’s two sale toppers were shipped off to Hong Kong without seeing a British racecourse again, and neither Lockheed, sold for £900,000, nor Born To Play (later renamed Perfect To Play), who changed hands for £500,000, has distinguished himself in the Far East.

Also, results often depend on the right person, with the deepest pockets and most accommodating cheque book, being on the spot. Last year, almost half the aggregate figure of £4.525m, generated from the 12 lots out of 19 offered who found new owners, was down to one individual, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai businessman who owns Leicester City FC. Still, the concept is a good one, although the idea of selling outside the usual confines of a traditional bloodstock ring is not new. The Hong Kong Jockey Club sold yearlings to dinner suited guests at the massive city centre conference and exhibition site for many years, and the newly formed Cape Thoroughbred Sales company in South Africa cast tradition aside by setting up shop close by the harbour in Cape Town’s convention centre.

Hong Kong has gone back to the old format, and this week will be offering 28 handpicked lots, all 3yos and mostly bought as yearlings, in the parade ring at Sha Tin Racecourse, having breezed them in front of the cameras last Saturday. There is bound to be the usual high interest, since prospective owners have to be vetted for suitability by the Jockey Club and there is a lengthy waiting list to participate. In contrast, Cape Thoroughbred Sales has stood by its opening formula of stabling horses outside the convention centre, before bringing them in to parade on a purpose built, elevated ring, while bidders dine and signal their intentions from tables below.

The question from these three examples is: would something similar work alongside the existing ERA sale in Dubai during World Cup week? Entries for the auction on Monday week have yet to be published, but the ERA website says: “The sale provides the industry with a convenient means to access performed horses and an opportunity to redistribute horses throughout the regional racing community.” It is clearly intended to be a ‘clearout’ for the benefit of fairly local buyers looking for a bargain or a jewel to be polished, not to attract horses from or near the top bracket.

Gathering a dozen or so choice lots, some with entries on DWC night, to be paraded before local and expat enthusiasts in a highly social, evening atmosphere in one of the offbeat locations for which Dubai is world famous, would be a novel experience. Promoted properly, it would also offer something different for visitors and residents alike during the week. It’s just a thought.

Howard Wright

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