10/06/2009 11:00PM

Rare filly star of Tattersalls show


NEWMARKET, England - Two million-dollar yearlings topped Wednesday's second Tattersalls October session that posted mixed results overall.

But it was a singular filly who excited the most interest among spectators on the cold, drizzly evening. That was Hip No. 405, the only foal in existence by four-time champion George Washington, who fatally broke down in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic after proving infertile at stud. Or rather, almost entirely infertile.

"They broke the mold when they made her," the Tattersalls auctioneer reminded the crowd before opening bidding at 100,000 guineas, or about $166,950. The crowd needed no reminders. In a country where George Washington was known as "Gorgeous George" and widely revered despite sometimes erratic performances, the spectators crushed into the Tattersalls pavilion so tightly that the filly, a half-sister to U.S. Grade 1-placed Flawly, had to squeeze through them on her way into the ring.

Bred by Stefano and Loreto Luciani, the bay filly with a blaze brought 280,000 euros, about $350,000, last year at the Goffs November sale. Her buyer, Gerry Burke's Glidawn Stud, resold her Wednesday at Tattersalls. After mild competition, agent Ross Doyle prevailed in the bidding and bought her for 320,000 guineas, about $534,240.

"We have to be pleased with that," Burke said. "She's gone to good people, and we're delighted with the price. We're in a different world, a lot of people are losing their jobs, and to a lot of people that's an awful lot of money."

Doyle's client, buyer Julie Wood, will put the unique filly in training with Richard Hannon.

"I thought she'd make a bit more," Doyle said. "George Washington was a freak, so hopefully she'll be a freak, too."

The filly's cameo appearance did less to plump up Tattersalls's bottom line than the 650,000-guinea session-toppers, sold for the equivalent of $1,085,175. Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum's Shadwell organization bought the first, a Pivotal filly out of the Sadler's Wells mare Briolette that Barronstown Stud sold.

Robert Ogden purchased the other, a Galileo son of Irish champion Caumshinaun, by Indian Ridge. The Castlebridge Consignment sold the bay colt.

"You're nervous bringing a high-profile horse to sell," said Castlebridge owner Bill Dwan. "Thankfully, there is still a market certainly for the better horses as opposed to the lesser horses."

Wednesday's session sold 169 yearlings for about $32,172,934, yielding an average of about $190,372 and an approximate median of $125,212. The gross was up 12 percent versus last year's equivalent day, when 146 horses sold, but average fell by three percent and median dropped 9 percent. Still, the losses were substantially lower than those seen at many recent international yearling auctions, and the buyback rate remained level with last year at 18 percent.

Business rivalry deflates prices

Some consignors said the mutual boycott by Coolmore and Darley, who refuse to bid on yearlings by each other's sires, has taken its toll on the upper market.

"The market's good at the moment," said John Wall, manager for Chrysalis Records owner Chris Wright's Stratford Place Stud. "The vendors have cut their expectations and are happy to get 450,000 or 500,000 guineas for a top horse. We'll be lucky to get a million-guinea yearling now. But Coolmore won't buy Darley and Darley won't buy Coolmore, and they've got the best stallions. It is difficult, and it's not helping the industry."

But the Coolmore-Darley standoff has presented opportunities for other buyers, like agent Michael Goodbody's client Thomas Barr, to pick up horses for prices that undoubtedly are lower than they would have been when Magnier and the Maktoums' duels pushed individual yearlings to multimillion-dollar prices. Goodbody successfully outbid Sheikh Mohammed Wednesday for a $751,275 Pivotal half-brother to classic-placed Group 3 winner Fantasia.

Bidders may be emboldened, but the Maktoums, in particular, remain formidable foes in the bidding arena, as underbidder Goodbody (not representing Barr this time) found in battling Sheikh Hamdan for the $1,085,175 Pivotal-Briolette colt.

"Fortune favors the brave," quipped agent Luke Lillingston after falling short himself against Sheikh Mohammed when underbidder for a $767,970 Dubawi half-sister to group-placed Yankee Doodle.

Lillingston's client, Olivia Hoare, stood next to him as he bid, hoping to add the filly to her new stud farm in Co. Limerick, Ireland. But the price was a bid too far, and Lillingston turned his back to the auctioneer with a vigorous shake of his head. But even Lillingston and Hoare earlier benefited from the Maktoums' refusal to lift a finger for a Coolmore-sired horse.

"She bought a lovely filly last night by Hurricane Run," Lillingston said of his client. "I think for the really well-bred fillies, you have to expect to pay a lot of money, because there aren't very many of them.

"I have to wonder," he added, "if the Hurricane Run filly wasn't by a Coolmore stallion, whether we wouldn't have gotten her last night."

The division between Maktoum and Coolmore has added another factor for breeders to consider when they mate their mares.

"There are two men paying a lot of money for Coolmore sires: Robert Ogden and Michael Goodbody, probably partly because they face no competition from the Maktoum family," said consignor Ted Voute. "The very nice yearlings by Coolmore stallions are still making plenty of money. It's a thinner market right now for the Coolmore horses, but at the moment they stand more proven horses. There's a thicker market for the Darley stallions, because you have four chances to sell to the big money in the sale: Sheikh Mohammed, Sheikh Hamdan, then Rabbah Bloodstock, then Princess Haya."

The Tattersalls October sale was to continue through Thursday at Park Paddocks in Newmarket.