THE pre-sale portents of gloom that hung over the Goffs Arkle Sale dissipated somewhat when trade on Tuesday and Wednesday in Part 1 of the three-day auction was completed.

All is not rosy, and the declines are there for all to see, with fewer horses selling in a catalogue that is certain to contain some National Hunt stars of the future.

These facts were acknowledged by Henry Beeby when Part 1 concluded. He said: “It is no secret that there was a feeling of trepidation as the sale approached, as it has been a tough year in several ways, not least with the weather that played such havoc with the point-to-point season, but the overriding vibe from the two days was a sale of vibrancy and strength, with the familiar refrain that it is ‘hard to buy the good ones’ regularly heard.

“While the statistics are behind last year, they have only been bettered by the last two amazing renewals of the sale, and we must put the trade into the context of the world today, which is a much different place to 12 months ago, and therefore derive a level of satisfaction from the results. That said, we recognise that the market has contracted to an extent, and a reduced clearance rate is always a cause for concern as it means less success for our loyal vendors.”

On Tuesday, bloodstock agent Tom Malone, one of the most active buyers of the week, said: “There was massive doom and gloom here yesterday, but thankfully that hasn’t transpired. Every time that I walked in to buy what I perceived is a nice horse, the market has been strong. There is absolutely no lack of strength in this market at the minute, and it is brilliant to see.”

All buyers of the top lots continue to report that purchasing a nice individual with a pedigree was as difficult as ever, while vendors had to adjust their valuations to the new reality. The 2023 clearance rate of 89% was out of reach, and it fell to a still respectable 80% in the circumstances. The sale aggregate dropped by 19%, the average was back 7%, while the median was €42,000, down 12%. Sixteen lots realised six-figure sums compared with 24 a year ago.

Bleahen family

Three of the top 10 lots were supplied by the Bleahen family from Ballinasloe, Co Galway. A year ago, Lakefield Farm’s John Bleahen, Liss House’s Niall, and Clifton Farm’s Hugh sold stock at the Arkle sale that had a combined value just shy of €2 million, and this week their contribution to the sale reached €1,819,000.

Niall sold two of the week’s top three offerings, the highlight coming on Wednesday when Harold Kirk and Willie Mullins outbattled Tom Malone and Paul Nicholls to take home the appropriately-named Leader Des Bordes at €210,000 from Liss House.

He was one of a pair of lots in the sale by the Polish-bred, Grade 2-winning hurdler Tunis, the other selling on day one for €155,000. The sale topper is a half-brother to seven winners, four of which have been successful in blacktype races over jumps in France. The best of that quartet is the Grade 1 Prix Maurice Gillois 4YO Grand Steeplechase winner Utopie Des Bordes.

A smiling Kirk spoke about his acquisition. “I always knew he was going to be very popular, as he’s a stunning horse with a huge pedigree. His half-brother [Kopek Des Bordes] won the Tattersalls Ireland George Mernagh Memorial Bumper last season, and we’ll be hoping this one can win the Goffs Defender Bumper next year. That’ll be the first plan anyway. The whole page is very good. The mare is an excellent producer, and we like Tunis.”

On Tuesday, Bleahen sold Techno Davis, a French-bred son of No Risk At All from the family of Arthur Moore’s great two-mile chaser Klairon Davis, and the gelding matched the price of last year’s first day top lot when selling for €160,000 to Ian Ferguson, who was taking instructions on the telephone.

Ferguson was unaware that he was standing beside the Bleahen clan throughout the bidding. “A lovely horse, and the sire speaks for himself,” the agent commented. “I loved the horse when I saw him this morning, and he was just the one I wanted to try and buy. He will stay in Ireland, he’ll come back to my place and be broken in, and then it will be decided where he will be sent after that.”

“I thought she was the star of the show” was how Harold Kirk described Manister House Stud’s daughter of Goliath Du Berlais, after he spent €120,000 to secure her for an owner in Willie Mullins’ yard. “We knew the dam was very good when she raced in France, and the sire is probably going to be a new sensation. She was all quality, and I took Willie to see her and he loved her too. The last horse that I bought off the vendor was Wicklow Brave. She is a beautiful filly and a great colour too.”

The filly’s Al Namix dam Daring Rose won twice on the flat and three times over hurdles, and was placed in a Grade 3 contest. Daring Rose’s first produce, the Saint Des Saints mare Just A Rose, sold for £175,000 to Paul Nicholls in December after she won a point-to-point.

Big demand for No Risk At All progeny

FATHER and son, Aiden and Olly Murphy, took home the star in the consignment of John Bleahen’s Lakefield Farm in Co Galway, a French-bred daughter of No Risk At All out of the Group 3 Prix Exbury winner Pearl Sky. She cost the pair €125,000 and was the week’s top-priced filly.

A talented runner, Pearl Sky had Irish Wells behind her when she ran second in the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt, while she was runner-up to Macleya in the Group 2 Prix de Pomone, with Group 1 winner Montare third. The best of her four winning offspring is Kazarov, Runner-up in a listed hurdle race, eight of nine victories were over jumps. The filly’s grandam is a full-sister to the Group 1 Prix de Diane-French Oaks winner Lypharita.

“She’s a lovely filly with a very good pedigree,” said Aiden. “The dam was very good and won four on the flat. I wouldn’t mind having a van full of No Risk At All horses, and being out of a Kahyasi mare wouldn’t do her any harm; he’s a good broodmare sire. Time will tell. She is from a good farm – the Bleahen family are unbelievable.”

Another daughter of No Risk At All to star was the only offering from Sally Aston’s Goldford Stud. The three-year-old sold to Sonny Carey for €105,000. Standing with his wife, Goffs bloodstock team member Mary Kilduff, Carey said: “The plan is to get her home, break her and tip away with her, and see how she goes. She is a beautiful filly, the full package. Hopefully she’s lucky now.

“She is for a client but will come back to us. Hopefully she is a long-term broodmare. She was the one we wanted, and I’m delighted to get her.”

The filly is out of the seven-time winner Baby Shine who placed in listed bumpers, hurdle races and chases. Baby Shine also won a point-to-point, and her Alan King-trained Flemensfirth daughter Baby Sage won a bumper last year.

At the Goffs UK Spring Store Sale Aston sold another daughter of No Risk At All for £100,000 to Ryan Mahon and Dan Skelton Racing.

There was no shortage of demand for daughters of No Risk At All, and a third to make six figures was Ti’mamzel. “Very happy with that. She’s a gorgeous big filly, has size and scope, and comes from a very good vendor,” commented Ed Bailey after he spent €105,000 on Treannahow Stables’ filly. She is out of a full-sister to French Grade 2 chase winner Al Buco.

He added: “I am very pleased to get her to be honest. She’s been bought for a new client to me. We will get her back to England and take it from there. She has a great pedigree for down the line.”

Completing the line-up of fillies among the six-figure lots during the week was Zhanma Enki at €100,000. Johnny Collins’ Brown Island Stables sold this daughter of Zarak to Highflyer Bloodstock’s Anthony Bromley. She is a half-sister to Yala Enki, a Grade 3 winner at Cheltenham and Haydock. The vendor said: “I’d have been disappointed with much less, but you have to see the trade value.”

Bromley said that the filly will sport the colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, and goes to Stuart Crawford. “I’m a fan of the sire, and he is on everyone’s radar, standing for €60,000 now, and it certainly was a standout page. She’s a strong mare with a nice bit of scope.”

Doctor Dino double for Walter Connors’ Sluggara

WALTER Connors’ Sluggara Farm sold a couple of the sale’s best lots, getting €160,000 and €150,000 for a pair of three-year-old sons of Doctor Dino.

Bloodstock agents Kevin Ross and Ross Doyle took each other on for a striking son of the leading French sire, and it was the former who had the final sale at €150,000. He was happy with his buy. “We are delighted with that. We wanted to buy something by a proven sire. He is a lovely, athletic horse; we were very keen on him. He is for the Sloans, and they bought The Storyteller here in the past, and he is a similar type. He is going to Gordon [Elliott].”

The gelding is the first foal of Black Luna whose six victories over obstacles included a listed hurdle. There are plenty of quality jumpers in the family, as Black Luna is a half-sister to the French Grade 3 chase winner Jazz In Montreux. The pedigree also contains the Henry de Bromhead-trained Hiddenvalley Lake, winner of this year’s Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan.

Later, Eddie O’Leary paid €160,000 for Sluggara Farm’s son of Doctor Dino who is a half-brother to five winners. O’Leary passed the baton to Gordon Elliott who did not divulge an owner, but was thrilled to have bought “a very nice individual”.

Racecourse updates prove valuable for Johnny Collins

BLOODSTOCK agent Tom Malone was not going to be denied when the first of two sons of Tunis in the catalogue came up for sale from Johnny Collins’ Brown Island Stables.

Blackswan D’Oroux, a son of the Polish-born, Grade 2 hurdle winner, is the fourth produce of Belle Du Bresil, a winner over jumps in France and the dam of two smart performers with her first two starters. Malone had to go to €155,000 to secure the prize.

Collins told how the gelding come into his possession, and of his good fortune since buying him. He said: “We bought him as a foal in France, and always loved him, but then he got two very good updates.

“One of his half-brothers is Path D’Oroux. Gavin Cromwell has him and he underbid this horse today. Another is Blueking D’Oroux who is with Paul Nicholls and he won the bidding battle. I must admit I didn’t know a whole lot about the sire, I just loved the individual. He’s a lovely, big horse who did everything easily. I’m very pleased with the result. When you have a horse of his calibre, these things can happen.”

Malone was also on the mark for another of the sale’s best. Norman Williamson’s Oak Tree Farm had one of the best-bred offerings by No Risk At All, a half-brother to Grade 1 hurdle winner Jade De Grugy.

Their dam Diane De Grugy is an unraced half-sister to the great Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy. Malone and Paul Nicholls secured Louxor De Grugy for €150,000.

Mags O’Toole signed for a son of Diamond Boy for €150,000, and he is the first foal of the listed bumper and hurdle winner Cap Soleil, and he had cost £35,000 as a short yearling. Brook Lodge Stud, owned by Tom Howley and Caoimhe Doherty, consigned the gelding.

“We’ve had a couple sell for €125,000 in the last few years, but that’s a new top price for us,” said 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.”