Group I-placed Sovereign Debt brought the highest price at the Tattersalls February sale Feb. 6 at Park Paddocks in Newmarket, selling for 145,000 guineas ($248,289 in United States funds) to trainer David Nicholls.
Commanding the spotlight earlier in the sale was the catalog's star attraction, Scarlet Empire, a three-quarter sister to 2013 One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) winner Sky Lantern. She was offered in foal to New Approach but she failed to meet her reserve on a final bid of 290,000 guineas ($496,578).
Trade was solid throughout the one-day sale, which closed with market indicators up across the board, the highest aggregate since 2008, and a record median.
There were 172 horses sold for total receipts of 2,166,600 guineas ($3,709,955), up 24% from last year, when 190 horses were sold. The unprecedented median of 6,750 guineas ($115,582) soared 35% while the average price of 12,597 guineas ($21,570) ballooned 37%.
The year 2013 "was a record-breaking year for Tattersalls with every sale showing growth and our first sale of 2014 has continued the sequence," Tattersalls chairman Edmund Mahony said. "The Tattersalls February sale may not be the most high profile sale at Park Paddocks, but it never fails to attract a diverse cross section of buyers from throughout the world and this year has been no exception."
The sale-topping price for Sovereign Debt, runner-up to Farhh in last year's Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I), is a record for any colt or gelding in training offered at the February sale.
Nicholls outbid trainer Brian Ellison as well as Lillingston Bloodstock's Barry Lynch to secure the 5-year-old Dark Angel gelding out of stakes-placed Kelsey Rose, by Most Welcome, from Michael Bell's Fitzroy House Stables. With four wins and six seconds from 20 career starts, Sovereign Debt's record also includes a runner-up finish in the 2012 Sovereign Stakes (Eng-III) at Salisbury and a $206,228 bankroll.
"I'd rather spend this sort of money on a horse such as this than a yearling," Nicholls said of the half brother to group III winner Puff. "He has ability and you don't lose that, and we will be hoping that one of my clients will buy him. We'll look to run him in all the top races in England, Ireland, Europe, anywhere. Michael Bell recommended him."
The sale's top-priced filly at 90,000 guineas ($154,110) was 3-year-old Enharmonic, a daughter of E Dubai, who heads to stud. Consigned by Juddmonte Farms, the half sister to the 1999 Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-I) winner and sire Distant Music was knocked down to Blandford Bloodstock's Tom Goff after a drawn out bidding duel with Charlie Gordon-Watson Bloodstock's Will Douglass.
"She has a lovely pedigree," Goff said of the bay filly out of the winning Nijinsky II mare Musicanti, whose family includes U.S. champions Temperence Hill and Vanlandingham. "You don't beat being a half to a Dewhurst winner. I saw her a lot when she was in training with John Gosden and she definitely had ability."
Scarlet Empire, an unraced 8-year-old daughter of Red Ransom, was consigned by Dwayne and Wendyll Woods' Brook Stud. She is the dam of three foals, her first being John Smith's Cup winner Danchai, a 5-year old son of Authorized now in Australia with champion trainer Chris Waller. Her second foal, a 3-year-old New Approach colt named Imperial Power, has yet to start after selling for 320,000 guineas out of the elite Book 1 catalog of the 2011 Tattersalls October yearling sale.