Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Au revoir, Frankie

Great excitement.  Today has seen Newmarket's first raceday of the year, the first day of the Craven Meeting (now a two-day meeting not covered by terrestrial TV, formerly a televised three-day meeting).  Its decline, in both length and exposure, suggests that it is not what it used to be, and that's probably fair enough; but, even so, it's still a big deal as far as the new season kicking into gear goes, and a particular big deal in these parts.  And the Craven Meeting nowadays comes with the Craven Breeze-Up Sale attached, which is a big deal for those who get excited by the thought of a succession of people spending £250,000 time and time again to try to win the odd race worth maybe 1% of that sum.

I'm sure that in one recent season this sale fell upon the same day as an Ascot Sale, with the median at Newmarket being something like 120,000 gns and the median at Ascot being something like 1,200 gns.  The Racing Post carried the two sales' returns on adjacent pages without any trace of irony, and tactfully managed to avoid pointing out that the likelihood was many of the horses going through the Newmarket breeze-up sale today would be going through the Ascot sale tomorrow, as it were.  As it was this year, though, the Ascot Sale was yesterday, not today - and I know that because I was there (even if, until realising the error of my ways on Monday morning, I had been working until then on the incorrect assumption that the Ascot Sale was today, rather than yesterday).

We bade farewell to Frankie (Douchkirk) at Ascot yesterday, which was sad because it's always sad to say 'Goodbye' to a friend - but, happily, in this case I'm sure that we've merely said 'Au revoir', rather than 'Adieu', because he's gone to a stable where he is likely to remain strongly on our radar.  He was bought to join the stable of a nice man whom I know well, John O'Shea, who is a good man and a good horseman to whom I would happily entrust a horse.  So Frankie's in safe hands and it'll be easy to keep in touch with him, which is great.

I'm very disappointed on behalf of Frankie's erstwhile owners, the Beverley Hillbillies, that he wasn't able to (or, rather, didn't) win for them.  But he ran a few places so it wasn't all bad.  All was progressing nicely until I made the mistake last May of running him on horrible ground at Worcester (the official line, I think, was that the ground was 'good', but I'd have described it as 'firm in the back straight, soft in the home straight) and he had a bad experience there, putting out a splint during the race and being sore and sorry for himself afterwards.  That race left its mark and he has never been the same horse since then, as he has seemingly worked out that it's probably wisest and safest to be cautious.  One can't blame him for that, but it has just meant that, while he generally runs well, he never quite allows himself to run well enough.

I'm sure that Frankie will win a race, but it'll be a toss of a coin whether all the planets align for him on his next run or in another ten or so runs' time.  But, as he'd been beaten in sellers the last two times he's run, it probably was the right time for connections to decide that there had been enough disappointment, and to move him on.  And the good thing from his connections' point of view was that his price was good, better than one might have expected.  When he had been third in the selling hurdle at Stratford three weeks ago, there had been no bid at 2,900 gns for the winner (who won quite easily) so it seemed likely that Frankie's value would be less than that.  On that basis, £4,200 seems a good sum.

However, one should point out that there is, of course, an advantage in buying out of a sale, rather than a selling race, because one can thoroughly assess the horse at the sale, whereas after the seller one can't examine the animal - who, conceivably, despite having just won, might well be on his last legs for all one knows.  One can examine all one likes at the sale, which explains why a horse might fetch more on sale-day than on race-day.  As it was, though, while there was plenty of interest yesterday in Frankie (pictured in this paragraph at the sale - and the other pictures are just shots taken at, or after, exercise over the past few glorious spring days), nobody really gave him more than a cursory inspection, which I took as a compliment: I'd like to think that I have a reputation both for honesty and for knowing the horses whom I train (if for nothing else) so I found it quite a compliment that the bidders in general came to me and asked for my assessment of the horse, both as regards his strengths and his weaknesses, and in general seemed happy to accept my word that he was a sound and serviceable racing prospect, without their feeling the need to arm themselves with what amounted to a second opinion.


Cat Wood said...

Hi John - as always, a great blog.

Just as a query further to your comments re "return on investment"…a conundrum from the Inglis Easter Sale -regularly Angus Gold and Shadwell Stud buy expensive, well bred youngsters (albeit some with conformation queries…) yet only some stay in Australia with the majority going to South Africa…WHY??? its not as if prize money or black type status is of the same level as Aust/NZ…and with quarantine laws ex South Africa not making it easy to export to Dubai, what's the purpose? The South Africans do buy at the lower end of the scale in Aust/NZ and do come away with some great purchases that have gone on to great success over there….as I said, a conundrum...

John Berry said...

Yes, it seems rather odd, Cat, doesn't it. I think it's that Sheikh Hamdan has fallen under the spell of Mike De Kock, having seen Mike De Kock bring a stream of horses from South Africa (some bred in SA, some bred in Aus) to Dubai to win big races there for Sheikh Hamdan's relative Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum. So he's asked De Kock to do the same thing for him, getting a team of southern hemisphere-breds running for them in South Africa and then bringing the best of them to Dubai to win there. They've had some winners there with their Aus-breds, even if the best one to emerge from this pipeline (Soft Falling Rain) is South African-bred. Basically, it's a very convoluted and unnecessarily expensive way of doing things - but if you're a Maktoum, expense isn't a factor.