PRE-SALE anticipation that the first test of the market this spring for National Hunt store horses would prove to be selective were realised when Tuesday’s Goffs Doncaster Spring Store Sale produced a clearance rate of 69%, down from 81% last year.

The average fell 12% and the median price dropped 13%, fuelled by a significant fall in point-to-point sales activity in recent months. Nice horses still sold well, and the catalogues for the other main store sales at Goffs and Tattersalls Ireland read well in terms of quality.

The strength at the top of the market was demonstrated by the fact that, like last year, five horses broke the £100,000 mark, while another 11 made £50,000 or more.

This year’s top price of £135,000 was paid by bloodstock agent Tom Malone and trainer Paul Nicholls for a well-related Jukebox Jury gelding from Willie and Mandy Bryan’s Worthen Hall Stables in Shrewsbury. The couple topped the vendor’s list, two of their three lots sold realising six-figure sums.

The sale-topper is out of a half-sister to the great two-mile chaser Master Minded and arrived at the Spring Store Sale with a significant update, He is a full-brother to the four-year-old He Can’t Dance, an impressive winner on his debut for Rob James at Monksgrange and who sold for £300,000 at the Goffs Aintree Sale last month.

Malone said: “Paul had Master Minded, and the brother made serious money at the Aintree Sale after winning so well. Rob James said he was an absolute machine. The two brothers are very similar types, although they’re different colours. This one had plenty of substance and scope. I loved him.”

Just a handful of lots earlier, Worthen Hall sold a Walk In The Park half-sister to blacktype mares Lady Adare and Sabrina to Ryan Mahon and Dan Skelton for £105,000. Two years ago, they sold the same sire’s son Regent’s Stroll for £175,000 and he is unbeaten after winning the valuable Goffs UK Spring Sale Bumper at Newbury in March.

“We condition them well from foals and they’re lunged all the way through the winter, they never stand still, so they learn their job really well and they’re ready for their trainers to get on with,” said Willie Bryan. “My dad [Bill] was much, much better at it than me. He did it for about 55 years. He could walk into a field, see 20 mares and foals, pick out three, and they were the best three.

“A few things must’ve rubbed off from my dad and I’ve tried to build on it and evolve a bit. You’ve got to be commercial in three years, not the day you buy them. They were my strongest stock, the Walk In The Park filly particularly. I think she’ll win the sales race next year as she’s head and shoulders the best filly I’ve ever had.”

Worthen Hall’s draft of four, one of which did not sell, realised £280,000, and he sourced all of them from Co Westmeath breeder Louis Vambeck as foals.

Johnny Collins enjoys a bumper payday

BROWN Island Stables’ Johnny Collins landed a touch when selling Authorised Speed for €155,000 at the Goffs Arkle Sale in 2020, and he had another nice payday after parting with the gelding’s half-brother on Tuesday. The French-bred Beaumec De Houelle gelding, out of flat listed-winning Vertical Speed mare Tangaspeed, was bought by Tom Malone on behalf of Paul Nicholls for £110,000. He is already named Beau Speed.

“I bought him as a foal out in France,” reported Collins. “He’s a very straightforward horse who showed himself well all week. All the right people were on him and hopefully he’ll be lucky for Mr Malone. I didn’t know much about the stallion when I bought him because he’d had no runners at that point. I just liked the look of the horse, and I’d sold his brother as well.” Five lots by the Martaline stallion Beaumec De Houelle sold for an average of £45,600.

Trainer Jamie Snowden paid £100,000 for John Bleahen’s Ballinasloe-based Lakefield Farm’s gelding Style De Folie, a son of Vol De Nuit and a half-brother to Cheltenham Festival Grade 3 Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle runner-up Style De Garde.

Snowden said: “This horse has a great page and he’s a lovely model of a horse, which is what we like buying. He floated over the ground in his show and walked around the parade ring like he owned the place. He was just a real standout.”

Goldford Stud

Completing the list of six-figure sales, Goldford Stud sold a filly by No Risk At All to Ryan Mahon and Dan Skelton for £100,000. “The No Risk At All filly had never left the farm until Saturday; she’d been there her entire life,” said Sally Aston. “It’s the same with the Kapgarde filly [sold for £70,000 to Bobby O’Ryan and Nicky Henderson]; they actually lived together at home.

“They’ve been spot on from day one. They were lovely foals and have turned into beautiful three-year-olds. They were very popular here, so our expectations had been rising throughout the viewing.”

A half-sister to a winning mare, the No Risk At All is out of a half-sister to the outstanding racemare Vroum Vroum Mag, winner of three Grade 1 hurdle races.

All agree on the market conditions

THERE was agreement in general from buyers on the state of the market, one that left some vendors with disappointment after the sale took time to warm up. However, it is still early days to make definitive statements, with some of the better catalogues to be presented.

Bloodstock agent Tom Malone summed it up in a word, saying it was “patchy, while Jamie Snowden pointed out that “good horses are making money, while the middle market is less good.”

Goffs UK managing director Tim Kent commented: “The Spring Store Sale is always met with much anticipation. However, this was further heightened after a number of recent sales that proved difficult away from the very top, whilst we are all very aware of the challenges that the point-to-point vendors have faced during the last 12 months.

“Despite all of this, we were obviously hopeful of a healthy sale, and whilst we feel that plenty of people achieved this today, we cannot escape the fact that it has been a tough day for some. As ever, the top of the market has been very strong and those who had the desired lots sold very well – as demonstrated by the five horses that sold for £100,000 or more.

“However, other levels of the market have certainly softened, as witnessed by the drop in numbers sold, though it has been encouraging to see a lot of horses sold outside the ring, showing that demand is there if vendors are prepared to trade. We have worked extremely hard to promote this sale, and this ensured that we had a strong catalogue of horses that were viewed by a diverse buying bench. It may not have been plain sailing but there are a lot of positives to take away from today.”