WHEN does the flat season REALLY start?

For me, it’s the classic trials at Newmarket which run from next Tuesday to Thursday. Of course, the Craven meeting also means the Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up Sale, which starts on Monday at 9.30am with the breezes and sees all horses offered for sale after racing on the Tuesday and Wednesday.

If it’s true that European breeze up sales have transformed in the past 20 years then it is the Craven Sale which has led the way. You can still get cheap speed (three of seven lowest-priced horses at last year’s sale to have raced have won multiple times) but it is now commonplace for this sale to produce Group 1 scorers and even classic winners.

Twice in the past three years this sale has produced the highest-rated two-year-old in Britain, in the shape of European champion Native Trail and dual Group 1 winner Vandeek. Recent 1000 Guineas winner Cachet is another prized graduate.

Next week’s catalogue features 180 high quality juveniles, all of whom are eligible for the £250,000 Tattersalls Royal Ascot/Group 1 Bonus which was won in 2023 by Vandeek.

Bonus scheme

The scheme offers a £125,000 bonus for the first Craven Breeze Up winner of any of the six two-year-old races at the Royal meeting and an additional £125,000 bonus to the first Craven Breeze Up winner of any of the 15 European Group 1 races open to two-year-olds.

The catalogue features own or half-brothers and sisters to 29 group or listed winners, including the Mehmas half-brother to the aforementioned Cachet.

Mehmas will also be represented by half-brothers to last year’s Group 2 Coventry Stakes winner River Tiber.

Other colts with top-class siblings include the Holy Roman Emperor half-brother to the multiple Group 1 runner-up Light Infantry and the Siyouni half-brother to Grade 3-winning sire Demarchelier out of an own-sister to Group 1 winners Yesterday and Quarter Moon.

The last crop of the peerless Galileo will be represented by a three-parts brother to listed winner Hidden Dimples, who will be offered by Vandeek’s consignors, Roderick Kavanagh’s Glending Stables.

In addition there are a further 23 two-year-olds out of group or listed-winning mares catalogued, including the Frankel colt out of the listed winner Bahia Breeze, already the dam of Group 2 winner Beshaayir, and the No Nay Never colt out of Group 1 winning two-year-old Cloth Of Cloud.

Further Group/Grade 1 winning dams include US Grade 1 winners Funny Moon and Roslaind, both blacktype producers who are represented by a filly by classic-winning first season sire Tiz The Law and a colt by multiple Grade 1 producer Twirling Candy respectively.

Leading sires

No fewer than 49 of the sires represented in the catalogue have already produced classic or Group 1 winners including Acclamation, Australia, Blue Point, Churchill, Dark Angel, Fastnet Rock, Frankel, Galileo, Havana Grey, Invincible Spirit, Kingman, Kodiac, Mehmas, New Bay, No Nay Never, Oasis Dream, Sea The Moon, Sea The Stars, Showcasing, Siyouni, Starspangledbanner, Too Darn Hot, Wootton Bassett, Zarak and Zoustar.

Last year’s champion first season sire Blue Point has the highest number of two-year-olds catalogued at 14, including fillies out of group winners Missunited and Killachy Loose, and the listed performer Dubai Fashion. They will be joined by colts from several exceptional families including a son of the listed perfomer and producer Nyarhini, a sister to Group 1 winner Rebecca Sharp and to Fleche D’Or, the dam of European champion Golden Horn, a colt out of a half-sister to Anna Law, the dam of European champion sprinter Battash, and a colt out of a sister to Juddmonte’s Group 1 winners Passage Of Time and Timepiece.

There are 13 two-year-olds catalogued by Whitsbury Manor Stud’s sire sensation Havana Grey, the leading second crop sire last year.

American stallions

A strong contingent of USA-based stallions are represented including proven Grade 1 sires American Pharoah, Bernardini, City Of Light, Good Magic, Kitten’s Joy, Medaglia D’Oro, More Than Ready, Munnings, Not This Time, Practical Joke, Speightstown, Street Sense, Twirling Candy and Upstart, as well as exciting first-season sires Improbable and Tiz The Law.

Their domestic contemporaries are equally impressive with Arizona, Earthlight, Far Above, Ghaiyyath, Hello Youmzain, Kameko, King Of Change, Mohaather, Persian King, Pinatubo, Sergei Prokofiev, Sottsass and Without Parole all represented by their first crops of two-year-olds.

Willie Browne’s Mocklershill will offer the largest consignment with 15 juveniles catalogued, followed by Thomond O’Mara’s Knockanglass Stables with 10 and Con Marnane’s Bansha House Stables with nine.

Top vendor

Norman Williamson’s Oak Tree Farm, last year’s leading consignor and the vendor of Native Trail in 2022, has five well-bred colts catalogued and Roderic Kavanagh’s Glending Stables, who consigned last year’s joint sale topper Vandeek, will offer six juveniles.

In addition to all lots being eligible for the £250,000 Tattersalls Craven Royal Ascot/Group 1 Bonus, there are 11 two-year-olds eligible for French Owners’ Premiums, 21 lots entered in the Swedish Derby and Oaks Series, and four fillies registered for the Great British Bonus Scheme.

There are also several lots entered in lucrative Tattersalls sales races including the £100,000 Tattersalls Somerville Auction Stakes and the £150,000 Tattersalls October Auction Stakes (at Newmarket) and the €250,000 Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Stakes at Fairyhouse, as well as the ever popular £25,000 Tattersalls October Book 1 Bonus scheme.

Sale info

Sale: Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up Sale at Newmarket.

Date/time: Monday, April 15th (breeze), sale starts 5.45pm Tuesday, April 16th and 5.45pm Wednesday, April 17th.

Lots: 180

Web: tattersalls.com

Big season ahead for sale-topper Vandeek

VANDEEK was the joint top lot at last year’s Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up Sale and more than justified his 625,000gns purchase price by winning all four of his starts at two, including the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket, the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville and the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Goodwood.

Joint trainers Simon and Ed Crisford have mapped out an exciting potential sprint campaign this season for the three-year-old son of Havana Grey beginning with the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock at the end of next month.

Ed Crisford told Tattersalls: “He’s done extremely well – the strong neck on him, his hind quarters and he has grown. He’s filled his frame and has shown all the right signs of a horse from two to three.

“He has been doing two canters up Warren Hill for a couple of weeks. We’re not going to start him until the Sandy Lane [May 25th]. It’s then a four-week run into [Royal] Ascot.”

Looking at engagements for his seasonal return and beyond, Ed added: “If all goes to plan, it’s Sandy Lane and Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. Then you’ve got July Cups, Maurice de Gheests, Haydock Sprint Cups and Champions Sprints – you’ve got a whole host of races.

“Shaikh Khalid [of KHK racing, Vandeek’s owner] is all about what fits with the horse, and I think if everything is going well, the sprint division is where we are going to stay. Obviously, the horse will tell us how he is doing before each race, but to win at Royal Ascot would be huge - for us, for the horse and for Shaikh Khalid, so that would be the first big target and after that it will sort itself out.”

Vandeek’s success to date may have been helped by his remarkably laid-back nature both at home and on the racecourse. Ed said: “He is a very relaxed character and is a really nice person. Even when he came in from the sales, he always had an amazing mind.

“Ahead of the Prix Morny, I went to get the saddle and he was walking around out the back at Deauville. We had him in the sun, and he was falling asleep as I was putting the saddle on before a Group 1. I was thinking ‘is he okay?’ and then he went and won.”

When asked if stepping up in trip is a consideration for the Newmarket based handlers, Ed responded: “Watching his racing style in his first three races, we always thought he could step up, certainly to seven [furlongs], but after the Middle Park he showed such raw natural speed, that was the first time we thought ‘well hang on, he looks like an out and out sprinter’. His pedigree also suggests he’s a sprinter, although he doesn’t necessarily look like one – he is a tall and leggy horse, he isn’t the mould of your typical sprinter.”

The Crisford team plan to increase Vandeek’s workload in the coming weeks to ensure he is in prime condition for his seasonal return. Ed said “In the next 10 days or so he will be ready to come into some fast work. He will do half speeds then into some fast work. We’ve been able to take our time with him this year because of his race date.

“I think every horse is entitled to improve from their first run of the season. Especially given he wouldn’t have run since the end of September. It’s a long time off for any athlete so it is just about what you can do with them at home, getting them as fit as possible and having that [first] race under your belt. Once you have that race under your belt it is off and away into the season you can go.”