Tattersalls' Houghton sale ended its two-day run in England Thursday with small increases in both its average and median, reversing a downward trend that has been seen at other select yearling auctions this year. The median was an auction record, and the average was the second-highest ever in the sale's history. Results at similar elite auctions in America experienced downturns of 20% or more.
"To have exceeded last year's figures would have been more than satisfactory under any circumstances," said Tattersalls chairman Edmond Mahony. "But in the prevailing economic climate, we would have to be delighted with the outcome of the sale. It has not been an easy year at this level of the market."
The 124 horses sold grossed 28,220,000 guineas ($46,379,570) and averaged 227,580 guineas ($374,028). The median was 160,000 guineas ($262,960). Compared to a year ago, when 130 horses were sold, the gross remained about the same, declining by 1.2%. The average and median increased by 3.6% and 3.2%, respectively. Meanwhile, the buy-back rate increased from 21.7% last year to 24.4% this year.
Coolmore Stud and the Maktoum family of Dubai were the dominant buyers. Combined, they purchased 43 yearlings for 16,785,000 guineas ($27,586,148), which represented 59.4% of the auction's gross. Coolmore's agent, Demi O'Byrne, was the biggest spender, paying 8,205,000 guineas ($13,484,918) for 16 head. Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Estate Company spent 3,875,000 guineas ($6,368,563) for 11 head. John Ferguson, the bloodstock manager for Sheikh Mohammed, paid 2,635,000 guineas ($4,330,623) for eight horses. And Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum's Gainsborough Stud Management spent 2,070,000 guineas ($3,402,045) for eight yearlings.
The Houghton catalogue was widely viewed as the sale's strongest in years, with fillies receiving the most praise. A European record for a yearling filly sold at public auction was shattered during the first session, Wednesday when the price for a daughter of Sadler's Wells out of Sharata soared to 2.1 million guineas ($3,451,350). She is the most expensive yearling sold anywhere in the world this year. She also is the first filly to top the Houghton sale since Bosra Sham in 1994.
On Thursday, another Sadler's Wells offspring was in the spotlight. Sheikh Hamdan was the winning bidder, paying 1.1 million guineas ($1,807,850) for the bay filly that is the first foal out of European champion Dazzling Park (by Warning). The filly's second dam, Park Express, was also a champion.
The immediate underbidder was David Thompson of Cheveley Park Stud.
"We never even discussed it (the price)," said Angus Gold, Sheikh Hamdan's racing manager. " I thought she would be 750,000 (guineas), but when you get up in that range, you just don't know what they are going to make. Cheveley Park gave it a real good lash. We had to readjust and readjust."
Gold added: "She's out of a good race mare, whose dam was a good race mare, and she's by the top stallion around. Sheikh Hamdan fell in love with her."
Seamus Burns' Lodge Park Stud of Ireland consigned the session topper.
"I was told all week that she was the nicest filly in the sale," Burns said. "She's always been beautiful, from the moment she was born. I hope she's a runner for them."
The previous Houghton record for a filly was established way back in 1984 when a daughter of Great Nephew sold for 1 million guineas.
During Thursday's session, 62 horses were sold for a gross of 13,933,000 guineas ($22,898,886) and an average of 224,725 guineas ($369,336). The median was 160,000 guineas ($262,960).