A RECORD number of five-figure sales, together with consistently strong clearance rates, marked the unqualified success of the 2021 sport horse sales year.
The indications had been good from the get go, and although there was another lockdown in May, a form of normality was soon restored. Buyers returned to the sales’ yards in their droves, while at the same time, confidence in remote bidding gathered pace. The combination of these two buying powers was, of course, a winner for vendors, breeders, and the auction houses alike.
While 2020 saw the rise of online marketing, 2021 saw its fruition. Private sellers joined the professionals in producing slick, comprehensive videos of their stock, and, as a sales tool, the medium is invaluable. Social media marketing especially, has proved unparalleled in its ability to reach the private buyers directly and this, in tandem with the improvement of the online auction videos, was reflected by the prices received.
If there were losers during the year, it was possibly the commercial traders who, at times, found the escalating figures hard to contend with.
Interesting tables trend
The end of year tables makes for interesting reading. The sheer choice of stallions on offer to breeders has had an obvious knock-on effect in that a total of 90 individual stallions sired the 123 horses listed in the tables.
This illustrates an increase from the 79 sires featured last year, and while there were some changes in among the most popular and therefore most commercial sires, the top spot went for the fourth successive year to the enduringly popular Sligo Candy Boy. This year however, Padraig Howley’s prepotent ISH sire shared the honours with Slyguff Stud’s thoroughbred stallion Pointilliste, both of whom featured eight times apiece.
The former was especially notable for not only siring the year’s overall sale-topper, but appearing in every single age group table, where he delivered an improved average – albeit with a big outlier - of €19,825 (€10,942 without the outlier). Having made steady headway over the past few seasons, Pointilliste featured in three of the four tables, to average €9,669.
Although once again, these tables are dominated by the end of year specialist sales, the most cheering and significant feature of the year was the rise in prices throughout the country.
Reports from Cavan, Goresbridge and Mullingar consistently produced big clearance rates and five-figure returns, most notably in the older horse sectors.
While the figures for all age groups improved, the standout trade of the year fell to the older sector. Demand for well-produced, well-marketed, easy animals seemed insatiable, and while the top prices were incongruously below those of 12 months ago, the depth of this demand resulted in a multitude of five-figure returns in comparison to just 12 in 2020.
This was particularly noticeable in the sales around the country, where at Cavan and Goresbridge especially, the older stock regularly headed the returns.
The year’s top price of €30,000 (€29,000 in 2020) went to Fortside Farm’s well-known jumper European Cruise, an 11-year-old gelding by Cruising (ISH) out of Hortensia De Litrange (Quel Hero de Muze). Heading a very strong end of year sale at Cavan in November, the former RDS six-year-old campaigner had, in the past three years, clocked up no less 87 individual wins under Robyn Moran and, bred by Clement Stapleton, was bought as a schoolmaster by Colm McGrath.
Robyn Moran with Fortside Farm's European Cruise who changed hands at Cavan Equestrian for €30,000 in 2021 \ Laurence Dunne Jumpinaction.net
Unsurprisingly the most consistent returns emerged from the continentally sired lots, and sharing top billing at €24,000 apiece (€29,000 in 2020) were Dan Dennehy’s Danos Lola and Noel Ryan’s RVS Cupid. The first of the duo was a home-bred five-year-old mare by Carrera VDL out of the TIH dam Abigail Cruise (Cruising), while the second was a five-year-old son of Quidam Junior, bred by Noel Harris, out of the Ricardo Z-sired Ballinafauna Cavalier.
Gemma Phelan rode both of these smart performers who changed hands at the Goresbridge Go For Gold sale in November and will event in Ireland and the UK next season.
In comparison to last year, the thoroughbred-sired stock delivered fewer five-figure prices but were better clustered. Heading this group at €10,400 (€28,000 in 2020) was Sue Ryan’s traditionally bred SBT Stanley, a lightly competed six-year-old by the former Jim Bolger charge Luan Cincise (Rock of Gibralter). DJ O’Sullivan was in the saddle to showcase this smart sort who, bred by Bernard Stanford in Co Galway, was out of Newtown Roana by Royal Persian.
Following a similar pattern to the older stock, the four-year-old market was significant for its strength and also its depth. It was also notable for the polished production line of top vendors Brian Higgins and Meabh Bolger, who creditably headed every table and were responsible for the top two lots nationally.
At €79,000 (€50,000), the age group blue riband went to their MBK Major Lazer K, an imported four-year-old gelding by Emir R (dam by Landsieger). Sold at the Goresbridge Go For Gold sale in November, and sourced in Holland earlier in the year, the gelding was immaculately produced by Bolger and eventually knocked down to Andrew Williams of GHF Equestrian.
Brian Flynn and Meabh Bolger's (Lot 15) MBF Major Lazer K, a four-year-old by Emir R fetched €79,000 at the 2021 Go For Gold Sale to top the four-year-old trade in 2021 \ Tadhg Ryan Bit-Media
Another interesting lot at the Go For Gold Sale was Flynn and Bolger’s four-year-old MBF Celtic Claddagh, who had lifted the age group show jumping title at the RDS in August. A good moving sort bred by Etter Sport Horses, and by their Belmont Stud’s Zangersheide sire Celtic Hero BZ, the bay was bought locally as a yearling and at €49,000 was secured online by the UK-based Barrington Sport Horses.
Specialist sales aside, the Flynn/Bolger partnership also produced the top priced four-year-olds in the country. Sold at Goresbridge in October, this accolade at €15,500 fell to MBF Broken Blue, a gelding by the ISH sire Bonmahon Master Blue out of the traditionally bred Landsdown Lady by Landsdown. Sourced unbroken from breeder Michael Fanning, he was secured by British-based trader James White.
Speaking to The Irish Field, White, who was the most prolific of the overseas buyers, commented: “We are super busy at the moment and good horses are hard found. We are always willing to give money for a good one and this is a particularly nice sort.”
Trade remained solid in the country, and while the thoroughbred table dipped a little from 12 months ago, it was respectively topped by three individual horses at €13,000 apiece. The first of the trio was Brian Flynn and Meabh Bolger’s traditionally bred MBF Total Eclipse by Chinook Eclipse out of Lady Poggi (Grange Bouncer). This eyecatcher, who was sold at Goresbridge in July, was bred by Marie Smiddy in Co Cork, and bought as a two-year-old.
The remaining duo, who changed hands at the Goresbridge Go For Gold Sale, were Sue Ryan’s SBT Solo, a gelding by In Seclusion (dam by Boherdeal Clover and bred by Patrick Corbett) and Raymond McChesney’s gelding by Pointilliste (dam by Master Imp), bred by Simon McCarthy.
The three-year-old sector stood out as the only age group to better last year’s returns in all divisions. The appetite was avaricious for the top ranked lots, and once again the growing significance of thoroughbred blood was notable.
Those by continental sires/ISH sires out of thoroughbred dams were particularly coveted, and one such example was Meabh Bolger and Brian Flynn’s American-bound MBF Starburst who, selling at the Go For Gold Sale, headed the annual figures at a whopping €82,000.
Home-bred by the couple, who capped a phenomenal year by getting married on November 27th, the filly was by Sligo Candy Boy (ISH) out of the Terimon-sired thoroughbred mare Monalease. The dam has paid back her breeders in spades, as her last year’s three-year-old (by Ramiro B) realised €47,000 at the same venue.
It was heartening to see the fillies reaping the rewards in this age group, and another to shine at €48,000 was Jason Higgins’s beautiful Flirtation. A daughter of Je T’Aime Flamenco out of Kilglass Arkansas (VDL Arkansas), she was bred by Robert Grey in Co Sligo and sold through the Go For Gold. The latter sale closed with its best ever clearance of 87% and overall average of €23,984.
The annual Monart sale, now confined to three-year-olds enjoyed a very good dispersal which was topped by a daughter of Luidam at €35,500. Consigned by producer Henry Foley, the filly was bred by Cynthia Murphy Kearney out of Kilcoltrim Blue Diamond (Plot Blue).
Monart also led the thoroughbred-sired ranks, where a gelding by Grennanfort achieved the best price of €32,000. Bred in Co Down by Patrick Lavery, he was out of Glenaguille (Jacksons Drift) and carried around 85% thoroughbred blood. Although The Irish Field did not receive a set of official returns from Monart, a spokesperson cited an 82% clearance together with an average of €15,281.
The first of the special sales took place at Cavan in August, where the Elite Sale catalogue of around 70 lots garnered a top price of €42,000.
The clearance was not as solid as usual, but the sale did produce a very worthy sale-topper in Elizabeth Ahern and Felicity Ward’s EPA Evolution, a well-marketed gelding by Urano de Cartigny out of Lalors Cross by Coevers Diamond Boy. Bought from his breeder Pat Duggan earlier in the year, the impressive gelding was knocked down to Patrick Delaney and Robert Buckley of RP Stables, Limerick.
October saw the launch of a new sale in Goresbridge, specifically for three-year-olds. Offering a catalogue of 30 pre-selected lots, this inaugural fixture delivered a top return of €35,000 which went to Patrick Kehoe’s well-related ABC Copperhead Road, a gelding by Je T’Aime Flamenco out of ABC Tiny Dancer.
Out in the country it was the same story, with auction houses reporting some of the best three-year-old returns – certainly for many years and possibly to date.
Five-figure prices appeared in multiples, and heading them at €20,000 in Goresbridge in September was Clive Cather’s chesnut filly by Beach Ball. A stand out in terms of jumping ability, this home-bred was the first foal out of Roadside Clover by Pacino. Several bidders were in at the business end, but the final nod went to Derek Reid of Co Tyrone.
Headlines were also made in the elite foal sector, where trade for the well-bred fillies was again phenomenal. In direct contrast to the general foal sales, it was the fillies that made the money, leaving the colts in their wake.
The top price of €35,000 was shared by two pioneers in professional foal production, namely Stephen Reilly and Patrick Connolly. Both men have set a high benchmark in terms of breeding plans and presentation, and it was the former who hit the jackpot at the Elite Foal Sale in Cavan.
Heading a very lively evening, Reilly’s offering was Creevyquin Evangelia, a filly by Tangelo Van’t Zuuthoeve out of the good broodmare Boraya VD (Argentinus). David Scally, on behalf of the American-based Freestyling Farms, signed the docket for this one.
Stephen Reilly's Tangelo van du Zuuthoeve filly fetched €35,000 at Cavan Elite Foal Sale in September 2021 \ Laurence Dunne Jumpinaction.net
This was a great sale for the top-end pedigrees, and while a few vendors opted not to sell at seemingly decent prices, there appeared to be no shortage of customers on hand. As a result, the sale delivered a 77% clearance, together with an average of €11,385.
Equalling the price at Goresbridge in October was Patrick Connolly’s CSF Willow, a young filly by Zirocco Blue out of the well related CSF Telly Cruz (Cruising). In a most fortuitous piece of timing, the filly’s half-sibling CSF James Kann Cruz (1.50m) had just changed hands for a reputed six-figure return, and it was later disclosed that the successful bidder was indeed Anne Gannon, the vendor of James Kann Cruz.
The Goresbridge Supreme/Breeders Classic fixture at Barnadown also garnered some rewarding results as did the Mayo and Roscommon foal renewal later in the season. The former, which traditionally has a very small catalogue of just 15 lots, enjoyed a good sale accompanied by a clearance of 80%. The top spot here at €19,000 went to GBBS Ltd’s filly by Emerald Van’t Ruysterhof out of the well-related MHS Malbec (Plot Blue).
Now in its fourth year, the well run and equally well supported Mayo and Roscommon Breeder’s showcase broke records of its own and closed with a top price of €13,500. This fell to Niall Barrett’s colt by Diamant de Semilly out of Bright Eyes R&D (Indoctro).
As the pinhookers moved into gear, the foal sales were well supported. As always there was a big monetary divide between the top-drawer show jumping foals and the remainder, but foal prices are, overall, slowly making headway.
The sires in the continental table made headway from 12 months ago and the thoroughbreds also showed well. While their prices were modest in comparison, the top price of €7,400 far exceeded last year (€4,500) and went to Charlie Carter’s attractive colt by the Co Wexford-based Jack The Robin out of Ballyquirke Quality (OBOS Quality). It was therefore disappointing to note the ISH table disappointingly lose ground. The best price of €6,000 (€12,500 in 2020) which was delivered at the Mayo sale went to a filly by Castlefield Kingdom.
Last but by no means least, the pony trade in 2021 was on fire. Giving both breeders and producers a very welcome boost, the returns from both the performance sector and the Connemara sales at Clifden regularly smashed records leading to a glut of five-figure returns.
Prices of €14,000, €12,500 and €12,000 were recorded at Clifden in both August and December, while selling at Cavan in November and heading the remaining sales at €15,500 was Sean Killoran’s Connemara jumping pony Lincoln Rowan (by Murvey Ronan).
Seamus Killoran’s 148cms gelding Lincoln Rowan was knocked down to Ballinasloe’s Laura Geraghty for €15,500 \ Cavan EC
Top-priced older horse
Fortside Farm’s European Cruise, 11yo gelding by Cruising (dam by Quel Hero de Muze) €30,000.
Brian Flynn and Meabh Bolger’s MBK Major Lazer K, 4yo gelding by Emir R (dam by Landsieger) €79,000.
Brian Flynn and Meabh Bolger’s MBF Starburst, 3yo filly by Sligo Candy Boy (dam by Terimon) €82,000.
Patrick Connolly’s CSF Willow, filly foal by Zirocco Blue (dam by Cruising) €35,000 and Stephen Reilly’s Creeveyquinn Evangelia, filly foal by Tangelo Van’t Zuuthoeve (dam by Argentinus) €35,000.
Brian Flynn and Meabh Bolger’s MBF Starburst, 3yo filly by Sligo Candy Boy (dam by Terimon) €82,000.