QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (G1) and Investec Derby (G1) prospect Willie John became the highest-priced colt in training ever sold in Europe when he was knocked down to Roger Varian for 1.9 million guineas ($2,845,070) on the second and final day of the Tattersalls February sale.
The result pushed turnover for the sale into record territory for the fourth year in a row, with the 299 lots sold bringing a total of 8,037,150 guineas ($12,005,523), which is a 40% increase over 2017. The average of 26,880 guineas ($40,152) was also a record and the median came in at 7,000 guineas ($10,430).
Willie John impressed many with his debut victory at Yarmouth, and with an outstanding pedigree and classic dreams alive, the Tattersalls ring swelled with potential buyers.
Oliver St. Lawrence kicked off the bidding at 200,000 guineas and with trainer Ed Dunlop, the pair traded blows to take the price toward seven figures. Newsells Park Stud's Julian Dollar joined the fray, along with agents Anthony Stroud, Hugo Lascelles, and Ed Sackville, as the price raced past 1 million guineas. Cheveley Park Stud's Chris Richardson soon joined in the battle to secure the colt, as did trainer Roger Varian, with the latter proving successful.
"He is for Sheikh Mohammed Obaid," Varian said. "He already has a Dubawi from the family and he identified this colt as one that he would like. We were very happy to do the steering. Willie John was an impressive winner of his maiden at Yarmouth and those autumn maidens at the track can be very strong races.
"It is not often you get the chance to buy a horse such as this. It is unusual circumstances, but we look forward to getting him home and getting to know him. He is a very promising horse with a great pedigree."
The son of Dansili is out of the dual group 1 winner Izzi Top and from the Meon Valley family of Zee Zee Top, Kayf Tara, Opera House, and Necklace. He was originally purchased at Book 1 of the 2016 October yearling sale for 325,000 guineas ($438,200) and raced for China Horse Club and Markus Jooste. He was consigned to the February sale by William Haggas' Somerville Lodge.
The colt from the family already in Sheikh Mohammed Obaid's ownership is the 2-year-old Dubawi half brother to Willie John, bought by Varian at Book 1 of the Tattersalls October yearling sale for 2.6 million guineas ($3,624,621) and named Prince Eiji.
"Last year's Tattersalls February sale reached unprecedented levels for this fixture, with turnover of more than double the record 2016 sale and an average price up 56%, so to surpass those figures is another phenomenal achievement, especially with a smaller catalog," said Tattersalls chairman Edmond Mahony at the conclusion of the sale.
"The obvious highlight was the 1.9 million guineas sale of the outstanding classic prospect Willie John, and it is a wonderful endorsement of the February sale that, although one of our newer and smaller sales, it now holds the distinction of producing the highest-priced colt in training ever sold at public auction in Europe. Willie John is a colt of enormous potential, from an outstanding Meon Valley family, and the number of bidders above the million guineas mark shows the sustained demand for the very best European bloodstock that is very much the hallmark of sales at Tattersalls.
"The 500,000 guineas previous record price for the February sale has been surpassed four times in the past two days, demonstrating beyond any doubt that the February sale is a sale which consistently produces optimum prices for quality Thoroughbreds, while at the same time serving as a perfect seasonal outlet for stock at all levels of the market. As ever, the international demand has been a feature of the sale, and in addition to strong European participation, buyers from throughout the Gulf region, America, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Africa have all made a significant contribution to a record-breaking start to 2018 at Tattersalls."