FRENCH breeding was again to the fore on day one of the Goffs Arkle Sale.

By the end of trade on Tuesday, eight of the top 12 lots were foaled in France and sold by Irish or British vendors.

Of the 218 lots offered, 177 found buyers, producing a clearance rate of 81%.

The average price was €51,260 and the median was running at €45,000, compared to the 2023 equivalents of €53,248 and the median €50,000.

Malone & Nicholls Top The Table

The leading purchasers on Tuesday were Tom Malone and Paul Nicholls with a spend of €638,000 for six lots, followed by Highflyer Bloodstock at €508,000 (10 lots), Paul Holden at €433,000 (9 lots), Monbeg Stables at €408,000 (10 lots) and Cobajay Stables at €329,000 (5 lots).

Shrewd pinhookers

The growing trend of pinhookers sourcing foals privately in France was vindicated by Tuesday’s joint top lots at €160,000. Ian Ferguson spent the sum on a No Risk At All gelding named Techno Davis, offered by Niall Bleahen’s Liss House.

"We thought the No Risk At All was a very good horse right from the word go,” said Bleahen. “He’s a bit of a beauty and the right people showed up when he went through the ring. We bought the gelding as a foal along with a yearling filly from the same family who turned out to be Swing Davis. Denis Murphy bought her off us last year, and she came back and made €320,000 at the Goffs Punchestown Sale. Brian Acheson bought her, and she looks like a lovely filly.”

Gordon Elliott matched that price for a Doctor Dino half-brother to Syrita, a listed winner on the flat. It marked a second six-figure sale on the day for Sluggara Farm, with Walter Connors’ operation earlier selling another son of Doctor Dino to Kevin Ross for €150,000.

The latter gelding will also enter training with Elliott, having been bought on behalf of the Sloan family, owners of The Storyteller.

“I was looking forward to selling both horses this week and I’m delighted with the way they sold,” said Connors. “Before the sale I was a bit uncertain as to what trade would be like, but the resilience of this industry never ceases to amaze me. Just when it looks like things are going to be bad, it finds a way back up.

“I’m very pleased the geldings are going to Gordon as we’ve had a lot of luck together and hopefully it continues now. Mind you, they’re good judges: they usually manage to pick the fillet steak!”

Both sons of Doctor Dino were bought out of the field in France, leading to Connors praising his eyes and ears in that country.

“Seamus Murphy is my man on the ground over there,” he said. “He’s a good operator, and we’re very lucky to have him on our side.”

And asked what he thought of the sire who netted him €310,000 in those two transactions he replied with a laugh: “I like Doctor Dino but I can’t say more than that. It’s like asking me to pick my favourite child.”

It was no surprise to see Tom Malone and Paul Nicholls stretch to €155,000, a half-brother to the trainer’s Grade 2 hurdle winner Blueking D'Oroux.

The role of underbidder fell to Gavin Cromwell, who trains the gelding’s graded-placed half-brother Path d’Oroux. Consigned by Johnny Collins' Brown Island Stables, the three-year-old is by Polish-bred sire Tunis, who was Grade 1 placed over hurdles himself.

Later in the session Malone and Nicholls paid €150,000 for a three-year-old No Risk At All half-brother to this year's Grade 1 winning mare Jade De Grugy, consigned by Norman Williamson's Oak Tree Farm.

“I've purchased 10 today and five of them are going to Paul Nicholls, including the Tunis from Johnny Collins,” he said. “We've got a mixture of horses going back. We showed Paul the shortlist of horses we thought would work for him this morning and he fell in love with them.

“We also bought a No Risk At All from Norman Williamson who is exactly Paul's type of horse, and a lovely Motivator from Norman too. We've also bought a very nice Blue Bresil and earlier in the morning we got a Maxios from the Bleahens to get rocking and rolling.”

Malone was also keeping his eye out for talented horses for increasingly prolific owner Lynne Maclennan, whose colours were carried by this year’s Goffs Nickel Coin Mares' Bumper winner Diva Luna, a €50,000 purchase from this sale two years ago.

“We've bought three for Lynne, and they will go to Scobie Fitzgerald to be broken in,” said Malone. “He will decide which way they go, whether they stay pointing with him or go to run under rules.”

Reflecting on overall trade at Goffs, he added: “There was a bit of doom and gloom about the market before the sale but thankfully that hasn't transpired. Every time I walk in to buy what I perceive to be a nice horse the market is strong. There’s absolutely no lack of strength in depth to trade at the minute and it’s brilliant to see.”

Brook Lodge Farm enjoyed an impressive return on their Diamond Boy gelding, who they sold to Mags O’Toole for €150,000. Out of dual Listed winner Cap Soleil, the April-born bay was sourced by Tom Howley and Caoimhe Doherty’s operation at the Goffs Yorton Sale for £35,000. The gelding is from the family of Blood Destiny and Romeo Coolio.

“We’ve had a couple sell for €125,000 in the last few years but that’s a new top price for us,” said an overjoyed Howley. “I had a few nerves coming in here with the way the market is, but I always knew we had a very nice horse. I just kind of kept quiet about it and let the horse do the talking, and he did exactly that all week.

“He’s just superb, every show he did was the same, he’s one of those horses that just loves doing things. I’m delighted for the horse that he made that much, and that he’s going to a good home. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

The Diamond Boy gelding gave his vendor a tidy profit, as he was bought for just £35,000 as a short yearling at the Goffs December January Sale.

“Back then, if you were trying to buy a nice foal by a fancier sire you had to give 50 or 60 grand, and I was stretched up to my limit at £35,000,” reflected Howley.

“His dam was very good, as was his page, it was just a case of taking a chance on Diamond Boy, but I believed in him. I knew Venetia Williams’ horse (L’Homme Presse) was coming along, and then Willie Mullins’ horse (Impaire Et Passe) did too, and so in the end everything aligned – we had a lovely horse by a sire who was going really well. There’s always a lot of fortune involved in this game.”

Brook Lodge Farm, based in Athenry, Co Galway, is certainly going up in the world.

“It’s only a small farm and we’ve been doing this for the last six or seven years,” said a modest Howley. “I’m trying to push it to make more of a business out of it, though, by gradually having nicer horses.

“We buy eight or 10 National Hunt foals each year, and we want to keep the quality up. Caoimhe has even pushed me into flat pinhooks now.”

Goldford Stud

Only three weeks after Goldford Stud sold a No Risk At All filly for £100,000 at the Doncaster Spring Store Sale on behalf of client Dominic Burke, the widely respected operation repeated the trick.

On Tuesday Goldford sold another filly by the sire of superstars Allaho and Epatante bred by Burke, this one an attractive bay out of the Grade 2-placed King’s Theatre mare Baby Shine, to Sonny Carey for €105,000.

“The fillies were both so nice that I decided I had to split them up; they couldn’t go to the same sale,” said an ecstatic Sally Aston. “We don’t board for many people now, but we keep a few high-class mares for Dominic. He has a full-sister and a half-sister to her in training, so this one was always going to be sold.

“She was born at home and has always been a lovely filly. She actually looked more like a gelding, you don’t get many fillies like that. It’s a lovely page, too, of course.

“She has a wonderful temperament, she took it all really well. She hadn’t left the farm before the weekend, but hasn’t put a foot wrong since arriving here on Saturday night. She’s an absolute queen.

“She had about 60 viewings and I didn’t see a single person who didn’t like her.”

The No Risk At All filly’s new custodian was equally over the moon. Carey reported: “She’s a beautiful filly, who had the physical and page, the full package. I thought she’d end up making close to €100,000 as she’s the nicest filly in the sale for me. We’ll take her home, break her in and I’ll train her myself for an owner. She’s been bought as a breeding prospect in the long term.”

McManus purchase

Kieran McManus, accompanied by Frank Berry, struck the winning bid of €100,000 for a Peter Nolan Bloodstock-consigned son of Blue Bresil.

The gelding is the first produce of The Milan Girl, a winning Milan half-sister to high-class racemares Lady Adare and Sabrina out of Auteuil listed hurdle winner En Vedette, by Astarabad.

“He’s a nice horse and we’ll take him home and decide what to do with him,” reported Berry. “There are no firm plans yet.”

The Blue Bresil gelding was a successful pinhook for his vendors, having been bought as a yearling for €28,000.

Rathturtin Stud achieved a fine result when selling a Milan half-brother to Kauto Star Novices’ Chase winner Slate House to Cobajay Stables for €92,000.

The transaction was bittersweet, though, as the gelding had been sourced from a dispersal of the late Kieran Lennon’s stock. The horseman was widely admired in the industry, and was a firm friend of Rathturtin Stud’s Cummins family.

Luke Cummins said: “Our thoughts have always been with our late friend Kieran Lennon and his wife Breda. When the decision was made for his stock to be dispersed at auction we were keen to support the sale.

“This is the fruits of his labour and reaffirms the fact that he had an exceptional eye for horse talent, be it with thoroughbreds or eventers and sport horses.

“He was a lifelong friend of ours and we like to think he had some divine influence on this result today.”

The sale continues on Wednesday.