English champion Playful Act shattered the world record for a broodmare or broodmare prospect sold at public auction when her price soared to $10.5 million Nov. 5 on the opening day of the Keeneland breeding stock sale in Lexington. A furious bidding battle between Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, and his biggest rival, the Coolmore Stud team led by John Magnier, sparked the spectacular financial fireworks.
Ferguson emerged the winner, signing the ticket in the back of the sale pavilion behind the auction stand and saying Sheikh Mohammed's determination to buy Playful Act was, in part, a tribute to the late Robert Sangster, who bred the 5-year-old daughter of Sadler's Wells in the name of his Swettenham Stud.
John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency consigned Playful Act for the Swettenham dispersal that is being conducted by Sangster's heirs. Sangster, who died in 2004, was a longtime Coolmore associate. Playful Act had been in foal to Kingmambo but aborted the foal. She produced her first foal this year, a Giant's Causeway filly.
"My father would have loved it, absolutely loved it; he would have been thrilled to bits," said Sangster's son, Ben. "He was a horse trader and in trading horses, he was always game. He would have thoroughly enjoyed that situation. That's what's the whole game is about."
Of the racing and buying rivalry between Coolmore and Sheikh Mohammed when Robert Sangster was alive, Ben Sangster said: "They had a lot of respect for each other across the years in racing. They were in the game for a long time, and when one man had a winner, the other would congratulate him. They were very respectful of each other."
Playful Act, raced by the Sangster family, captured the 2004 Meon Valley Stud Mile (Eng-I) and a pair of group II events, She also finished second in the 2005 Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I).
The former world mark of 4.6 million guineas ($9,358,608) was established last November by group I winner Magical Romance (in foal to Pivotal) at Tattersalls in England. James Wigan of London Thoroughbred Services purchased her for Lady Rothschild. The former North American record was the $9 million paid by Sheikh Mohammed for champion Ashado during the 2005 Keeneland November sale.
Produced from the group III winner Magnificient Style, Playful Act is a full sister to group II winner Percussionist and a half-sister to group II winner Echoes in Eternity and added-money winners Stylelistick and Petara Bay.
"From a European standpoint, she was an outstanding filly on the racetrack," said Ferguson of Playful Act. "Sadler's Wells has proven to be a great broodmare sire, as we all know, but most importantly, Sheikh Mohammed was determined to have this mare because of Robert Sangster, Swettenham Stud, and for everything Robert achieved. He (Sheikh Mohammed) felt very strongly that this was a mare that he very, very much wanted to own."
Click HERE to watch an exclusive interview with Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency's John Sikura.