Friday, September 08, 2006

How to bore one's readers in no more than 10,000 words

It's been a long and tiring week, but I hope a worthwhile one. We have a new blogger, Monstarex, which is good - welcome aboard. We also have two new horses - welcome to them too. Let's hope that they enjoy their time here and that we can help them to enjoy racing successfully.

The week started tiringly, with a fruitless trip to Newcastle. It could have been worse: at least I wasn't driving. John Ryan had the wheel, and he got us plus horses there and back in good time. Unfortunately neither equine passengers could make the journey worthwhile. Jolizero was - again - an enigma, although that puzzle is less confusing since Carol Whitwood's visit this morning. She diagnosed pulled gluteal muscles in his hindquarters. It is easy to see how a horse could come home strained after galloping on turf which was best described as very holding. Joli loves wet tracks, but unfortunately the track, although "soft" - and the times confirmed this - was dry, albeit very holding. Huge amounts of rain had made the track heavy, but then two days of dry, sunny and windy weather had dried it out to the extent that horses and jockeys came off the track without a speck of mud on them - and very tired. I think Joli just couldn't act on the track, strange though that may seem for a horse who we presumed would love it. Jack, however, kept stable morale up with another grand run at Warwick. How many times is that now that he has come to our rescue?

Tuesday was another very early start as Emma and I headed for Stansted for our overnight trip to Ireland. We've had some good horses come out of Fairyhouse - Rocco Tower, Seaside, Diamond Joshua and Jill Dawson would be the best of them - so the plan was to see if we could stumble upon another inexpensive, but potentially smart, young horse. Jill's sister - ie Jack's half-sister - was the first we wished to inspect, lot 93. We know that the offspring of Dream Of Jenny tend not to start to look particularly impressive until they get a bit older, so it was no surprise that this filly was a nice little horse, but no more imposing than that. I'd have been very happy to recruit her, the price being the question. As it was, I didn't get a bid in, as the bidding took off smartly and my first opportunity to join the fray would have been by coming in as a fresh bidder to trump what turned out to be Gill Richardson's winning bid of 18,000 Euros. Rightly or wrongly, I wasn't bold enough at that stage to do that.

For the rest of the day, I homed in on five horses - obviously there would be more than that if one were operating on a bigger budget, but I'm only really considering horses which lack obvious appeal to the fashion-conscious and which therefore have some possibility of being available to the smaller spenders - so I'll briefly bore you with their details. I bid on lot 103, a UAE-bred Darley reject, a Halling filly from a Belong To Me mare who was bought by Paul Blockley for 35,000 Euros. I bet she will do very well next year. Then we had lot 111, a Spectrum colt from a very good staying family. My bid of 16,000 Euros made me the underbidder behind Co. Kildare trainer John Quinn. Lot 129 was an Orpen filly, who shares her second dam Klarifi (daughter of Sorbus and dam of Fracas) with our former inmate A Fortuante Life and her Classic-placed half-brother Decado. More of her shortly. Then we had lot 233, for whom I made the largest bid I have ever made in Ireland, 20,000 Euros. She was a smashing filly, very closely related to Alamshar: she and Alamshar share Aliysa's dam Alannya as their third dam, and this filly is by Alamshar's sire Key Of Luck. Furthermore, she shares Alamshar's solid but unremarkable medium-sized bay frame and his kind outlook. She now heads to the Curragh stable of young trainer David Myerscough, at 27,000 Euros. I'll follow her career with great interest. Finally, we had the fourth last lot of the night, lot 243, a Mtoto colt. Again this was a Darley reject, but unfortunately we weren't the only people to realise that Mtoto has been a hugely under-appreciated stallion. This colt's dam is a half-sister to the talented but very quirky Mtoto horse Maylane, and the bidding rose so swiftly (ultimately to 32,000 Euros) that I was unable to register my interest.

Oh yes, the Orpen filly. Before I move on, I'll just comment that this was the type of auction which gives horse sales a bad name. This lovely filly, by the very good but unfashionable Orpen, looks to have a very bright future and could well end up worth more than the 100,000 Euros at which she is now supposedly valued, but the current valuation must be treated with extreme caution. I've never seen the bidding shoot up so swiftly with the auctioneer showing such little interest in locating any genuine bids. And as soon as it got to 100,000, he knocked it down, without waiting to see if there was more bidding to come (although I'm not sure that 'more' is the correct term, because that implies that there had already been some). This filly appeared to have been bought as a foal by the advisers of Mr and Mrs O'Flynn, owners of her relative Decado. She stood them in for £29,000, so one of them told me in advance, when he was telling me how much interest there was in her. The purchaser on Tuesday was Ken Condon, one of the O'Flynn's trainers. I'm sure she will race in the green, white and gold colours. What was going on God only knows, but what wasn't going on was a good old straightforward all-above-board sale. I thought we were trying to move on from this sort of thing - aren't I naive? (And before Gavin Pritchard-Gordon, Henry Beeby or Jamie Railton get upset and rant that I'm questioning the integrity of the British bloodstock industry, I must reiterate that the actors in this drama are Irish and that the charade took place in Ireland, not in England, and particularly not in Doncaster).

So that was day one of Fairyhouse over - but not for us. We still had a treat. John Burke, breeder of Jill Dawson, had been kind enough to invite Emma and I to stay at his farm in Baltinglass, about 55 miles away to the south. The fact that we wouldn't get there until 9.30 was not a problem, and a great steak dinner in his local pub - which serves good food and plenty of it until late - would await us. He and his wife Catherine were wonderful hosts, and it made a lovely way to end an enjoyable, interesting but tiring day. We slept like logs until 8.30, and then enjoyed an after-breakfast treat of making the acquaintance of dear 19-year-old Dream Of Jenny (plus her Catcher In The Rye filly foal, both pictured), and thanking her for breeding two lovely horses who between them have won twelve races from this stable. The other horse on the property was also a mighty animal: a big strong bay who competes in events every weekend ridden by John and Catherine's second son, 12-year-old Niall, who must have a good future ahead of him as a rider.

Eventually we got back to Fairyhouse: having allowed more time to get back than the time it had taken us to drive down in the quiet of the night, we found the journey taking even longer than anticipated as a result of a previous crash on the M50. Ah, Dublin traffic - and the (omnipresent) Ryder Cup hasn't even started yet. I'd fancied having a semi-interested look at a few early on Wednesday, but they'd been and gone by the time we reached the sale, which left us with a few to inspect, the plan for day two being to buy something only if a really nice horse was for sale at a really nice price. Having been spoiled by the sight of some really nice, but unbuyable, horses the previous day, I wasn't too fussed about buying on day two, but one, and only one, horse caught my eye as a potential purchase. And I bought her, after a fairly tame bidding duel which inched up in 500s, for 11,000 Euros. She's actually from the same family as the Key Of Luck filly whom I'd failed to buy the previous day, and a similar type. She's one generation farther down the line from the great horses in the family, but it's still a pedigree awash with class. She's by Diktat and is the first foal of Docklands Princess, who is by Desert Prince from Alamiya (dam of five winners), who is a Doyoun half-sister to Prix du Jockey-Club runner-up Altayan and to the dam of 1,000 Guineas place-getter Alasha. Alamshar and Aliysa etc. are in the next remove. When one stands next to her she is quite small, but she struck me as a fair size, because she's so well-proportioned and strides out so boldly that she carries herself like a bigger horse. I like Diktat as a sire of fillies (Falmouth Stakes winner Rajeem, plus Classic place-getters Short Skirt and Vista Bella), and another interesting little touch is that she's bred on the same lines as Cape Cross (who is by Green Desert from Park Appeal): Diktat's dam is out of Park Appeal, and Desert Prince is by Green Desert. The aim is to syndicate this filly; my thoughts on this are in the final paragraph of this posting, so if you're getting bored and have no interest in this plan, you can skip that when you (shortly, I hope) get there.

After leaving the sale, we drove to the Curragh, where Emma photographed nine horses in John Oxx's stable for the Darley website. It was, as always, a pleasure to visit the stable of a master trainer, and the task was made easy by the efficient supervision of Jason McAuley, who was great company during the shoot. It was good to hear from him that my friend (and his) Declan O'Shea is back at the Curragh as assistant trainer to David Myerscough, so if the Key Of Luck filly does indeed do well, I'm sure that Declan will be playing a big part in her success. After that we headed back to the airport in plenty of time for our flight home, where food, drink and another outstanding Michael Connolly book (The Black Echo) made the time fly. It had been a smashing two-day trip, enhanced by several people and by the weather. To John and Catherine Burke many thanks, and to the numerous friendly faces whose company made wandering around the sales complex so enjoyable. As ever, it was a pleasure to catch up with Britain's best and most decent bloodstock agent Larry Stratton (well, he would be, being a Kiwi), and with Alan Swinbank, who always seems to end up buying most of the colts I've liked the most. A particularly nice touch with which to leave Fairyhouse was when we passed the auctioneer Philip Myerscough - who had knocked the Diktat filly down to me and whose son had bought the Key Of Luck filly - on the way out and he wished us well with our purchase, and added that he was pleased we'd finally been able to get one. It's little touches like that that make Fairyhouse such a nice sale to attend.

Syndication - if anyone's interesting in getting involved in the Diktat filly, my aim is to syndicate her into ten shares which will each cost probably £120 per month, the syndicate starting on 1/1/07. This will cover all costs (which will be itemised), and anything remaining in the kitty (which may or may not be bolstered by prize money) will be divided out at the end of the term (which isn't specified, although the aim is to race her for three years, which term could be extended if she's doing very well, or cut down to two if she isn't). Anyone can drop out at any time, but at the end of each year whatever's in the kitty (bar a sum yet to be decided, a small amount of thousands, which will be retained into the following year) will be divided among current members. If she earns nothing, there won't be any worthwhile sum remaining. The members won't have the expense of buying the filly but will lease her from me - but at the termination will have the option of buying their share for £1,000 + VAT; ie, if the filly depreciates in value I'll be the loser, not the members, but if she appreciates the members will have a share of that profit. That's the rough idea. Anyone even remotely interested, please get in touch with me. If there is some interest in this, I'm thinking of trying to buy another yearling at either Goffs or Newmarket and doing something similar with that, so any feedback - positive or negative - on this plan will be welcome.


Stato-man said...

Good job Wath, so bored nobody has even bothered to comment - so I will try maintain some life on the site for you.

Is the John Burke of Baltinglass the same John Burke that worked in Australia for Mike Becker?
If so, I'm sure you would have had a mighty time brahmising with him.

I will need an introduction to Diktat...(sounds a wee bit like Kentucky Wildcat!)
Does he grow on you like KYWC?

westtip said...

Oh dear, oh dear. Stato-man has to forfeit whatever slender claim he ever had to being a bloodstock guru. Need to be filled in on Diktat? Shame on you, Stato-man. He's a son of Warning, from a Sadler's Wells half-sister to Cape Cross (very good family), and in his mighty father's image. Top-class sprinter/miler, initially for David Loder and then for Saeed bin Suroor. Very tough, consistent, strong horse. The Wath itemised a few of his best offspring on the original posting. His oldest are only four-year-olds.

I think the Mike Becker protege is the John Bourke of Hyde Park Stud in Westmeath, which is nowhere near Baltinglass (and the two Johns seem to spell their similarly-sounding surnames differently), so presumably the Wath's friend is a different one. Although I'm sure the Wath will correct me if I'm wrong.

Stato-man said...

I am quite comfortable being enlightened about stallions of which I am not familiar, but if I live in Australia, how can I possibly be familiar with all UK and Ire sires?
You probably wouldn't be familiar with all the sires out here, so can you enlighten me without all the un-necessary condescending scarcasm such as "oh dear' and "shame on you" etc

Futhermore I have never claimed any fame as a bloodstock guru and have no aspirations to.