The Irish Outsider: Sales Lustre and Aussie Bluster

Good and bad value at Tatts Autumn sale

Good and bad value at Tatts Autumn sale

The Irish Outsider – November 12th, 2013, by Tony Keenan

The Autumn Horses in Training Sale, held at Tattersalls in late-October, tends to produce some crazy results – horses that seem much too expensive, others that appear great value – though there’s likely a story behind every one, and not all of them that you’d want to know. ‘Why is the horse being sold?’ is a question that needs to be asked, but it’s a rhetorical one in most cases: connections want rid as it has a problem or its mark has gone too high.

There is certainly the risk that one is buying a crock and it’s very much a case of caveat emptor. However, that can be placed alongside stories like Bold Thady Quill: he was lame when he went through the ring at Goffs in October 2011 but came from that to rise 21lbs in the weights at his peak and win a Listed race amongst others. With that tale of hope in mind, let’s forage for gold among this year’s returns.

Of the Irish yards, it was notable that both Johnny Murtagh and Andy Oliver cleared the decks. Murtagh got rid of Sweet Lightening, Rich Coast, Campanology, Benbecula and Pillow and I suspect this is because a raft of new talent is coming across from the UK, his patron Andrew Tinkler having tended to move horses from his English trainers to Ireland of late. Given the success Murtagh had for him in 2013, particularly with Royal Diamond, he should be given the keys to the safe to retool the yard though it was notable that Royal Diamond (140,000gns) and, on a lower level Cyclone (16,000gns), were bought back by the vendor.

Oliver has tended to be a very good judge of cheap horses in the past and bought extensively at this sale last year; he was much more a seller this time around though they did buy back Shipyard for 20,000gns which was surprising given his mark looks high enough; he could be one to note. On the whole, Oliver had a down year but he did have his gallops re-laid early on which could have set him back. Of those he sold, Stephen Hero (21,000gns to Dan Skelton) was the most interesting.

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As ever, the trade among middle-distance flat horses held up well; this is mainly down to such animals having two markets, the jumping boys and the Australians. The likes of Murphy’s Delight and Beyond Thankful were both bought by Chris Waller to continue their careers down under. Of those remaining around here, Zip Wire (65,000gns) from Eddie Lynam to Donald McCain took the eye; he looked an unlikely mover given he had shaped like a well-handicapped horse on recent starts but perhaps the price was too big to refuse. Lynam is one that has a keen eye for value, doing well with relatively inexpensive horses, and his purchase of Eighteen Summers (7,500gns from Jim Bolger, who is not known for leaving much to work on) was a strange one on the face of it. Eighteen Summers did show glimmers of ability, notably with an eye-catching fifth at Galway, and it’s possibly he got lost in the ruck in Coolcullen and may benefit from a switch to a smaller operation.

Among the bargain basket, Damian English looked to get some excellent value for small money. English has made a fine start to his training career, doing well with horses moving into his yard, and he has a few acquisitions that could be winning handicaps next year. He was kind enough to give me a few words on the new horses last week:

Ask Dad (1,000gns): ‘was well-regarded last year with Murtagh’s, has shown glimpses and will be gelded soon so should have chances off his dropping mark’

Tribal Path (3,000gns): ‘massive horse, 17 hands and still growing, has dropped 10lbs since opening mark, will be gelded and has had a wind op and run well since’

Vallar (4,500gns): ‘unraced but really like him, well-bred  and came to us with a dirty nose, lovely horse.’

Of the other cheap ones, Diamond Pro cost next to nothing at 1,000gns for Jason Titley out of the John Murphy yard; he’s only rated 54 on the flat but has good attitude and should jump a hurdle. Secret Recipe’s price of 12,500gns seems too good to be true for Dandy Nicholls out of the Weld yard, and soft ground might be a requirement, but his new trainer does well with cast-offs and he has plenty of talent.


                It’s easy to dismiss Peter Moody’s recent comments about European trainers as typical Aussie bombast, perhaps even arrogance. And maybe I’m rising to the bait of what was nothing more than a quality rant about how Australian trainers are ‘the equal [of], if not the best trainers in the world.’ But I do have to take issue with some of his views: a belief that Gai Waterhouse would do better than Aidan O’Brien granted the same firepower and that her Fiorente would hold his own in any mile to twelve furlong weight-for-age race in the world, while in a European yard he’s a ‘steeplechaser.’

Moody goes on to imply that the English raiders only came for the Melbourne Cup because they saw the favourite Fiorente’s English form and thought he was beatable. On the contrary, they came for the prize-money and prestige as they do every year. I’m risking becoming completely parochial here – surely everyone knows that Irish trainers are the best in the world 😉 – and attempting to compare apples with oranges in two totally different jurisdictions, but the debate needs some balance.

An English trainer will win a Melbourne Cup and likely quite soon – they had the four horses to chase home Fiorente this year when we add Simenon into the mix; it is somewhat reminiscent of saying Aidan O’Brien won’t win an Epsom Derby when he thinks he has five Derby horses. Narrow defeats in Australia’s banner race shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat European trainers as the margins of defeat are so small.

The Australians may come over to Britain and win big sprints with the likes of Black Caviar and Choisir but this is where the home team are weakest; European sprinters, taken as a group and with the historical context of ratings from other distances, are a terrible group that produce depressed figures every year, Oasis Dream in 2003 perhaps the last real topper.

In the races over eight, ten and twelve furlongs, the focus of European racing, the Australians are much quieter. It could be argued here that’s because they don’t train horses for such races or at least they are run at a totally different tempo but here it’s time to wheel out exhibit number one, So You Think (he really is the story that keeps on giving).

Supposedly one of the best Australian racehorses ever, he rocks up with Aidan O’Brien, a trainer with a fine record with stable switches and Australian ones in particular, and he is…a 125 horse, perhaps the most talked about 125 horse ever, but a 125 horse nonetheless. I rest my case.

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