09/29/2009 11:00PM

Declining prices unavoidable


When the Tattersalls October sale opens with its select three-day Book 1 sale Tuesday in Newmarket, England, officials at this important European select yearling auction expect declines in keeping with the global economic downturn. But they are hoping to avoid the 35- to 45-percent drops seen at the Keeneland September market this year.

Like Keeneland September, the Tattersalls Book 1 sale traditionally draws buyers from around the world. Its location in the heart of the British Thoroughbred industry and close proximity to mainland Europe make it an easy trip. But even with its convenient location and long history of providing good winners internationally, Tattersalls's North American representative, Lincoln Collins, said the sale company is realistic about the auction's prospects this year.

"It would be foolish to say the market isn't likely to experience a correction," Collins said from his Kentucky office, where he also is part of the Kern Lillingston Bloodstock team. "However, the Tattersalls sale is the premier sale in Europe, and I hope that good horses will continue to make good money."

This year a pair of bonus series for sales graduates might help attract bidders sitting on the fence. Those are the eight-race Tattersalls Millions series, offering $2.8 million in purses for Book 1 grads and sporting a lower entry fee this year, and the Racing Post yearling bonus, a nearly $4 million fund for yearling sale graduates to run for in designated maiden races.

The long drop at Keeneland's select days suggest that even those horses at the top of the market are worth about 30 percent less than they were as recently as last year. That makes it seem unlikely that Tattersalls will pull off the extraordinary feat it did last year, when it posted a record median of 85,000 guineas (about $142,800) in a down economy, and even as its own gross and average fell.

"That had a lot to do with quality and the fact that people in Europe really enjoy racing, and England in particular," Collins said. "This sale has a reputation for producing lots of good horses from Group 1 level to useful, everyday runners. I think people feel that they can get a horse here that will give them maximum fun at the racecourse. But there probably will be a downturn this year. How great it's going to be I hope will be mitigated by the quality of the catalog."

There is the usual array of star pedigrees from British and European racing, including one particular collector's item: the world's only foal by Coolmore's ill-fated English and Irish champion George Washington, who fatally broke a leg in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic. The bay filly brought the equivalent of $350,000 as a weanling last November at Goffs in Ireland when sold by breeder Stefano Luciani. Buyer Glidawn Stud now offers her at Tattersalls. She is out of the Rainbow Quest mare Flawlessly and is a half-sister to American Grade 1-placed Flawly and to Group 3 winner Ombre Legere.

George Washington's three-quarter-brother, by Danehill Dancer, also is on offer as Hip No. 272.

Among the other especially notable horses with European cachet are Hip No. 103, a three-quarter-sister to European champion juvenile Mastercraftsman; the Holy Roman Emperor filly also is a three-quarter-sister to American Grade 3 winner Genuine Devotion. Hip No. 242 is a Montjeu filly out of European champion juvenile filly Attraction. Other European champions with siblings in the catalog include Manduro whose full sister is Hip No. 544, and Finsceal Beo, whose half-sister is Hip No. 600.

Book 1's 676-horse catalog has plenty of other pages relevant to the American breeder, buyer, and fan. There are two Storm Cats, from the great sire's next-to-last crop, for example. The first, Hip No. 106, is out of Grade 1 performer Starry Dreamer, making him a half-brother to War Front, Teammate, and Ecclesiastic. The second, Hip No. 200, is a daughter of English champion juvenile Airwave.

Other U.S.-based sires with yearlings in the sale include Bellamy Road, Bernardini, Congrats, the late El Prado, More Than Ready, Mr. Greeley, Orientate, Smarty Jones, Songandaprayer, and Speightstown.

On the mare's side, multiple Grade 1 winner Riskaverse has her first foal, a Sadler's Wells colt, as Hip No. 33. Multiple stakes winner Snowdrops has a Dansili colt as Hip No. 85. Dual graded winner Diamond Diva's half-brother by Cadeaux Genereux is in the catalog, as are half-brothers to Grade 1 winner Gabby's Golden Gal (Hip No. 417) and multiple graded winner Preachinatthebar (Hip No. 451). And Hip No. 485 is a Shamardal colt out of multiple graded winner Katdogawn.

Some American weanling sale graduates also bear watching as they return to the auction ring as yearlings. Most notable is Hip No. 338, a Bernardini colt out of Daneleta, who went unsold at $525,000 at Keeneland November; the filly is a half-sister to Group 1 winner Intense Focus.

"I think it's a real shame more Americans don't attend this sale," Collins said. "Right now, the pound is weakening, so the dollar goes farther. The success of European horses in the Breeders' Cup shows that European horses do go on the Polytrack. And I think something that's very much overlooked by American buyers is that there's a whole segment of European breeding dedicated to producing very precocious 2-year-olds. With the advent, most obviously at Saratoga, of early spring grass races, there's a big opportunity there to buy that type of horse with a view to running them in those races."

Tattersalls Book 1 runs Oct. 6-8 in Newmarket and can be followed live at www.tattersalls.com.