Sheikh Mohammed, Qatari Royals Push Thoroughbred Sale to Record

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and members of the Qatari royal family helped push sales at the annual auction of Europe’s top young racehorses to a record this week.

Buyers spent 48 million guineas ($80 million) on 279 yearlings during the first two days of the three-day auction at Tattersalls in Newmarket, eastern England. That’s the most over the first two days since the yearling auction started in 2003. Two yearlings -- untrained one-year-old thoroughbred racehorses -- were sold for more than 1 million guineas yesterday, while 17 changed hands for more than 500,000 guineas.

“It might seem a little bizarre bearing in mind the continued economic uncertainty but the sales have been remarkably resilient,” Jimmy George, marketing director of Tattersalls, said in an interview. “Top yearlings will bring the top buyers out. There are some very good stallions standing in Britain and Ireland at the moment.”

The sales mark the first time the first crop of foals by Sea the Stars, the 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner in 2009, have come to auction.

Although Sheikh Mohammed, the world’s biggest owner of race horses, and Irish millionaire John Magnier’s Coolmore operation were still the top spenders, the sales are attracting “a wider cross section of top-end buyers,” George said.

Sheikh Mohammed spent more than 6 million guineas on 25 horses, while Magnier bought 10 yearlings for more than 5 million guineas. The guinea, no longer in use and equivalent to 1 pound, 5 pence, was the unit of currency often paid to artists and professionals.

Qatar Racing

Sheikh Fahad bin Abdullah Al Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal family, stood a few yards away from the Dubai ruler as he checked out some of the horses being walked around the paddock.

“We always look for value, we never try to overpay for any lot,” Sheikh Fahad said in an interview. “It depends on the pedigree, it depends on the individual horse. We put a value on a horse, and we stick to that.”

Dunaden, which Sheikh Fahad bought for 120,000 euros ($155,000) in 2010, won the Melbourne Cup, the world’s richest turf race, last year.

Sheikh Fahad said his brother, Sheikh Hamad, is now also involved in thoroughbred racing. The pair are purchasing horses under the banner of Qatar Racing.

David Redvers, Sheikh Fahad’s bloodstock manager, yesterday bought two Sea the Stars colts, one for 430,000 guineas and the other for 575,000 guineas.

“The emergence of the Qatari royal family as a major force on the global racing scene has obviously had a big impact,” George said.

Increased Demand

Sales have also held up because breeders cut back on producing horses after the global financial crisis of 2008, and increased demand from buyers in the U.S., Australia, Japan and Hong Kong, George added.

The top lot after two days was a Galileo bay filly, sold to Nicolas de Watrigant’s Artassenx, France-based Mandore International Agency for 1.5 million guineas.

“She is one that you would like on your farm,” de Watrigant, who outbid Magnier, said in comments on the Tattersalls website. “She is a lovely filly with a Classic pedigree, and she moves very well.”

The auction concludes today.

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