By John Gilmore
Bloodstock agents, trainers, and owners worldwide will soon descend on the seaside town of Deauville in Northern France for Arqana's prestigious annual international yearling sale.
To be held Aug. 18-21, the sale sets the European standard for later important auctions in Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany. This year 464 yearlings are featured in the catalog, split into two parts—183 lots will be offered during the first two days to a largely international clientele, while 281 lots on the later two days will appeal more to the local market.
A key draw to the sale is Deauville itself. Live racing is held down the road from the sales grounds at the Deauville-La Touques Racecourse several days a week. The meet runs from the last weekend in July throughout August and features five group I races contested over four Sundays. Adding to the glamour are famous restaurants, luxury shops, and a glorious beach and boardwalk all within easy walking distance.
|More Photos from Deauville, France|
Big attraction at this year's sale will undoubtedly be the first yearlings by 2009 European Horse of the Year Sea The Stars, a son of Cape Cross out of Urban Sea. The stallion had the highest-priced European foals last year, when one of his progeny sold for €850,000 and two others fetched €800,000, at Goff's Ireland November sale. The seven yearlings being offered at Deauville may test last year's €1.7 million ($2,445,180) top price, paid by Australian Paul Fudge's Waratah Thoroughbreds for a daughter of Galileo out of Sanjida.
No sale in Europe has graduated a higher number of group I winners since 2011—10 individual winners of 12 group I races. These group I winners include Dabirsim, Europe's champion 2-year-old colt of 2011, and Most Improved, recent winner of the St James's Palace Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot.
"Marked by the arrival on the market of the first yearlings by the outstanding Sea The Stars, we have decided to launch a fully dedicated website (www.seathestars.com) featuring in great detail all the lots by this phenomenal horse," said Olivier Delloye, Arqana's manager director. Other major stallions represented include 10 by Galileo, the sire of undefeated star Frankel.
One to watch will be Hip 32, a chestnut son of Galileo out of four-time graded/group stakes winner Naissance Royale.The late Montjeu, the sire of Camelot who won this year's Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), and group I Epsom and Irish Derbys, will be represented by eight yearlings
Despite the economic recession of the past few years, the Deauville August yearling sales have proved remarkably resilient, with just one blip. After four years of successive average price increases totalling 40% from €81,344 in 2006 to €113,663 in 2009, the sale experienced a 16.8% correction in 2010. In the midst of a worldwide economic crisis, the Deauville sale average fell to €94,500. Some recovery occurred in 2011 when the average rose to €95,924. The clearance rate on the 438 yearlings presented last year was 74.9%, a significant improvement from 67.6% rate in 2010.
France has become an attractive proposition for owners and breeders compared with either Great Britain or Ireland because of a better-funded system for racing and breeding. An average racehorse can expect to recoup 56% of its training costs from prizemoney winnings and premiums in France, compared to 28% in Ireland and 22% in England.
Income for French breeders doesn't stop after a yearling sale. They receive 14% of any prizemoney won later in open races by horses they have bred. A conservative breeding policy over the years has seen only a minimal fall in foal numbers born during the economic recession, from 5,386 in 2007 to 5,082 in 2010. By contrast in Ireland foal numbers fell from 12,633 in 2007 to 7,588 in 2010, which had coincided with a dramatic fall in yearling prices at Irish auctions. With more sensible foal numbers, 2011 saw a dramatic recovery in average Irish auction prices.
Arqana is always looking at new ways to interest new buyers and make the stay more rewarding.
"When promoting the Deauville sales in the U.S. we like to remind people that Deauville is at the heart of Normandy, only a few miles from the D-Day landing beaches," said Delloye. "It is a real point of attraction for American people—even the younger generation.
"This year for the first time ever Arqana has partnered with a Deauville-based agency that offers one or two days customized tours to those historical sites, with an English-speaking guide. We will also welcome our clients to the new Nuit De Galop, a prestige party co-organized with France Galop on the eve of the sale. Details of the party are confidential at this stage, but it should be a memorable souvenir for those attending."