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Prices for Young Racehorses Surge as Sheikh Mohammed Spends

Prices for Young Racehorses Surge
A one-year-old untrained thoroughbred racehorse - during the first two days at Tattersalls, Europe’s biggest bloodstock auctioneer, was 139,641 guineas ($226,254). Photographer: Sergio Dionisio/Bloomberg

Prices for top young race horses at Europe’s biggest auction jumped 30 percent following a slow-down in breeding and increased demand from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

The average price paid for a yearling - a one-year-old untrained thoroughbred racehorse - during the first two days at Tattersalls, Europe’s biggest bloodstock auctioneer, was 139,641 guineas ($226,254). The average price over the entire three-day sale last year was 107,445 guineas. The guinea, no longer in use and equivalent to 1.05 pounds, was the unit of currency often paid to artists and professionals.

“Quality, that’s what these guys want,” Jimmy George, marketing director of Tattersalls, said in an interview near the auction ring where the auction finishes today. “If they land on a catalogue full of beautifully bred, very good-looking yearlings, then they are going to have fun and enjoy themselves and they are going to buy.”

Top young racehorses have also become more expensive as breeding slowed amid the global economic downturn, George said. About 500 thoroughbreds were in the auction this year, compared with 689 horses during last year’s sales.

“There is actually a decline in the numbers of animals being produced,” George said. “So we can tighten up the catalogue and you get supply and demand coming more in line, and that’s what everybody needs. Breeding thoroughbreds sadly is not a process you can just stop. Last year was the last of the pre-recession foal crop.”

Sheikh’s Spending

Accompanied by his chief buyer John Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed has been the top buyer so far at Tattersalls, spending 5.4 million guineas. That’s 68 percent more than what the Dubai ruler spent over the entire auction last year. Irish millionaire John Magnier is the second-biggest spender with 3.6 million guineas.

Total turnover over the first two days was 33.9 million guineas, compared with 48.2 million guineas over three days in 2010. The median price paid for a yearling so far is 100,000 guineas, or 30,000 guineas higher than last year.

The most expensive yearling of the first two days was a bay filly by Galileo, which was sold for 800,000 guineas to Australian owner and breeder Paul Makin. He outbid Magnier for the filly, a half-sister of this year’s Derby winner Pour Moi. Galileo is the leading stallion of Magnier’s Coolmore operation.

Another Galileo filly was bought by Alan Cooper for 700,000 guineas on behalf of the Greek Niarchos family. Magnier spent the same amount on a colt by Oasis Dream out of a Galileo mare.

‘Tricky Week’

It could have been “a tricky week,” to be selling Europe’s best young racehorses, given the global economic downturn and uncertainty about Europe’s debt crisis, Harry Herbert, managing director of Newbury, England-based Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, said in an interview at Tattersalls.

“But at the moment, it’s not affecting the top end of our market,” he said. “Sheikh Mohammed is here and so is his brother Sheikh Hamdan, continuing their remarkable investment and support which the industry now is very dependent upon.”

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