THE top-priced three horses at the Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale on Wednesday fetched a total of 1.6 million guineas and all three of these three-year-olds are heading to Australia to race.
Top of the pile was, predictably, English King, the Lingfield Derby Trial winner trained by Ed Walker for owner Bjorn Nielsen.
The son of Camelot became the highest-priced colt ever sold at this sale when the hammer came down at 925,000gns (£971,250).
The colt was purchased by agent Armando Duarte and will be trained by Mike Moroney, who is based in New Zealand but has stables at Flemington in Melbourne.
Auctioneer John O'Kelly ended up conducting a battling match between Ted Voute, sat to the rostrum's right, and Armando Duarte, standing outside and bidding to spotter Richard Botterill.
The pair traded blows all through the higher echelons – both bidders talking to their global contacts, Voute again taking instructions from the Middle East over the phone via facetime, Duarte talking via mobile to his clients.
Voute and his client at one point called it quits, but returned just before the hammer fell to bid 900,000gns, to chuckles from the small sale ring crowd, but Duarte hit back pretty quickly with the final winning bid of 925,000gns.
Walker was on hand to give his congratulations to Duarte, though obviously a little regretful as to what might have been.
"It is a bit bittersweet, I rather have win that money on the track, I'd have far rather won the Derby!" rued Walker. "It has been a perfect storm, in a normal year Bjorn may have sold more yearlings and he may have been up for competing internationally with this horse from home, but when I tried to persuade Bjorn to keep him and aim for all these big races in Australia and Hong Kong and around the world, quite rightly Bjorn was worried as to whether we'd be able to race in those races? Will racing be happening? Will we be able to travel? Will the horse be able to travel?
"Unfortunately it is perfect storm. I would have loved to hang on to him, but a great result and Bjorn puts a lot into the game and it is great to get a big result like that.
"I am very grateful to the guys who bought him and wish them every bit of luck, and I hope he wins the Melbourne Cup for them. I think he is tailor-made for the Cup - he'll stay, he travels, he loves fast ground and I will be thrilled if he does that for them."
Paul Moroney, via Duarte, said: "We’ve bought him for a syndicate headed by two New Zealand businessman and a collection of Ballymore Stables’ Australian clients.
"He’s certainly an exciting addition to the team and our first time playing at this very high level so one could say the pressure is on for him to perform. He will head Down Under in December to join Mike [Moroney's] Flemington stable early January and playthings by ear. He will likely race in our autumn, but next spring will be the main focus going forward."
English King finished fifth in the Derby and was well beaten on his final two starts for Walker, finishing third in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes and fourth the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris.
A little earlier Duarte, acting for the same conections, paid 350,000gns for Emissary, who was trained by Hugo Palmer for Juddmonte Farms and recently won a handicap at Yarmouth.
Trainer Ed Dunlop was underbidder on the colt, who is rated 103 and is a Kingman three-year-old half-brother to the 2010 champion three-year-old and Epsom Derby winner Workforce.
Duarte said: "We have probably paid a bit more than we expected to, but he is a nice horse. Hopefully he is a nice horse for next year, he is improving all the time and he has not had many runs, he is rated 103 and he is by a good sire.
"This sort of horse does not come onto the market very often. The background family, the first dam and second dam, is very important to the buyers, and this horse passed the vet too, which is very hard, and he has to be at the right price."
"He is 16.2hh, and there is plenty more to come from him, he could be special horse in Australia."
Chris Waller will be the new trainer of Bullfinch, who was sold out of Roger Charlton's yard for 370,000gns. It was the Australian trainer's fourth purchase so far at this week's four-day sale.
A three-year-old by Kodiac out of Group 1 winner Thistle Bird, Bullfinch has run five times, won three times and is BHA rated 103.
Agent John Ferguson, who acted on behalf of Waller, said: "Bullfinch he has got undoubted ability, he has been beautifully trained and the mare [Thistle Bird] went on to be a champion older mare. She was wonderful," said Ferguson.
"His sire [Kodiac] has had the winner of the Caulfield Cup in Best Solution, whom we bought as a yearling a few years ago. So, from an Australian point of view, there are a lot of reasons to think Bullfinch could be a lot of fun."
The sale concludes on Thursday.
READ LEO POWELL'S FULL SALE REPORT IN THE IRISH FIELD NEXT WEEKEND