A sleek bay daughter of Sadler's Wells shattered the European record for yearling filly sold at public auction when she brought the top price of 2.1 million guineas (approximately $3,451,350) Wednesday during the opening session of the Tattersalls Houghton sale in England. She also became the most expensive yearling sold anywhere in the world this year, racing past the previous peak of $3.1 million for a Storm Cat -- Tacha colt at Keeneland in July.
"She's a great filly, a collector's item, isn't she?" said Coolmore Stud's agent Demi O'Byrne after signing the sale ticket. The immediate underbidder was Michael Goodbody, who represents Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum's Gainsborough Stud.
The former European mark was set earlier this year when an Indian Ridge filly sold for 2 million euros ($1,967,200)at Deauville in France. The Houghton sales record for a filly was previously held by a daughter of Great Nephew that brought one million guineas way back in 1984.
O'Byrne stood with Coolmore managing partner John Magnier and Michael Tabor while they battled Goodbody for the filly by Coolmore's premier stallion. The Coolmore team was perched on the stairs overlooking the chute where the yearlings enter the sale ring in the Tattersalls pavilion. Goodbody leaned against the wall below them. British bloodstock agent Johnny McKeever and French bloodstock agent Jean-Louis Branere were among the early pursuers, but they dropped out well before the price reached one million guineas.
"She's a very athletic filly with a good pedigree, but that's a lot of money to spend," Goodbody said. "I didn't think she would bring that much."
Produced from the unraced Darshaan mare Sharata, the record-setting filly is a full sister to English, Italian, and German group winner Crimson Tide. She is a half-sister to American grade II and French group III winner Pharatta (by Fairy King) and to American added-money winner La Vida Loca (by Caerleon). Mr. and Mrs. David Nagle's Barronstown Stud of Ireland consigned the filly to the auction. Barronstown bred her in partnership with an entity known as Orpendale, which has close ties to Coolmore.
O'Byrne said the filly would race for Magnier and Tabor.
Boosted by the European record, the Houghton sale got off to a solid start. The 62 yearlings sold grossed 14,287,000 guineas ($23,480,685) and averaged 230,435 guineas ($378,720). The median price was 150,000 guineas ($246,525). This year's auction is two sessions, down from three a year ago. So, Tattersalls compared the first 99 lots catalogued this year to the first 99 catalogued in 2001. The number sold fell by 1.6%, but the gross inched upward by 1.7%. The average increased by 3.3% while the median dropped by 11.8%. The buy-back rate slipped from 26.7% last year to 25.3% this year. The results were impressive considering that losses of 20% or more were common at select sales in America this year.
"We have to be very pleased," said Jimmy George, a Tattersalls director who handles marketing duties. "In the context of the other select sales this year, we didn't have a right to expect the sale average to be up, but as I said before, we have an exceptional catalogue this year, especially for the fillies."
O'Byrne was the session's leading buyer, spending 5,655,000 guineas ($9,293,993) for 10 yearlings. His purchases included the most expensive colt sold, a son of In the Wings -- Park Special that brought 675,000 guineas ($1,109,363) and was consigned by Lodge Park Stud of Ireland. John Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager, ranked second, paying 1,120,000 guineas ($1,840,720) for three yearlings, and Gainsborough was third, spending 1,010,000 guineas ($1,659,935) for four.
The final session of the Houghton sale is scheduled for Thursday.