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Coolmore, Godolphin Clash Over €2.3M Justify Colt

Records for top price and total sales set at 2-year-old breeze-up sale in Deauville.

The Justify colt consigned as Lot 110 walks the ring as a bidding war progresses toward a sale-record final price of €2.3 million at the Arqana Breeze-Up Sale

The Justify colt consigned as Lot 110 walks the ring as a bidding war progresses toward a sale-record final price of €2.3 million at the Arqana Breeze-Up Sale

Courtesy of Arqana/Zuzanna Lupa Photography

Unstoppable force meets immovable object. That is what transpired in the sales ring at the Arqana Breeze-Up Sale May 11 when old foes Coolmore and Godolphin engaged in a prolonged seven-figure bidding bout. A Justify  colt presented by Norman Williamson's Oak Tree Farm was the 2-year-old in the crosshairs, and it soon became clear neither party intended to back down. 

Nicolas de Watrigant, flanked by M.V. Magnier and Paul Shanahan in the shadows on the top deck of the auditorium, was bidding on behalf of the Irish firm. The Godolphin buying team, comprising Anthony Stroud, Charlie Appleby, and David Loder, huddled down the corridor almost directly below. 

The price had already reached an Arqana Breeze-Up record by the time a lengthy debate broke out in the Coolmore camp, the result of which saw De Watrigant roll the price from €1.8 million to €2 million in one fell swoop. 

But the tactic failed to have the desired effect as the raise was swiftly met with another €100,000 increase from below. De Watrigant gave an assertive nod in the direction of auctioneer Ludovic Cornuel to move the board on to €2.2 million. However, that play proved Coolmore's last, as another €100,000 increase from Godolphin saw the hammer drop at an unprecedented €2.3 million (US$2,481,355, €1=US$1.08). 

The price comfortably eclipses the previous high mark at this sale, which was set in 2017 when Kerri Radcliffe went to €1.4 million for Walk in the Sun on behalf of Phoenix Thoroughbreds.

Asked if he had anticipated the bidding battle lasting so long, Stroud said: "I wish it hadn't! But when you get a nice horse in the ring, and Coolmore are fantastic judges, you're going to be bidding against someone like them because he's an outstanding individual." 

Saturday's result provided Williamson with a stunning pinhooking return as he sourced the colt from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale last fall at US$150,000 from the consignment of Nursery Place, agent.

The youngster is out of Inchargeofme, a British-bred daughter of High Chaparral who ran third in the 2018 Mint Julep Handicap (G3T) at Churchill Downs. The dam is a sibling to two top-level performers in 2013 Racing Post Trophy Stakes (G1) runner-up Johann Strauss and 2019 Criterium de Saint-Cloud (G1) third Mythical. The Justify colt was bred by Nursery Place, Manfuso and Wilhite.

View Lot 110's enhanced catalog page.

Williamson expanded on the colt's appeal at the yearling stage, saying: "I think he looked like a European turf horse. The Justifys in America are big, strong horses, like Eddie (O'Leary)'s horse that made a million earlier. 

"That's what the Americans like, but I thought this fella would suit Europe. There's a lot of High Chaparral about him. I liked that as I had a good horse by him called Contributer, so everything was right for me anyway." 

Although the record-priced colt was the second seven-figure lot of the day—both for Justify—and third from this year's European breeze-up circuit, the unprecedented strength at the top of the market was not mirrored through the middle and lower tiers of trade. 

Reflecting on the state of trade, Williamson said: "It's tougher than ever and buyers have gone very particular about timings. You need the good ones to pay for the others." 

Stroud echoed those sentiments as he shared a buyer's perspective on proceedings, saying: "At the breeze-up sales you have, say, 200 horses and there's a percentage that perform very well. They will be in demand, but there's a percentage that don't hit the charts, so it's very polarized. If you're a consignor, it's a very difficult discipline to get right. But when it goes right, it can mean a big payday. 

"They deserve everything they achieve because a lot of good horses have come out of the breeze-ups. Vandeek came out of these sales last year, Native Trail came out the year before. Over the years a lot of very good horses have come out of these sales."

Another justify colt hits seven figures

Kia Joorabchian's Amo Racing made a big statement during the opening stages of the sale going to €1 million for another Kentucky-bred Justify colt out of a Galileo sister to Churchill offered by Eddie O'Leary's Lynn Lodge Stud.

Agent Alex Elliott went up against the likes of Jamie McCalmont, taking instructions from the Coolmore buying crew, but pushed the bid board into seven-figure territory to seal the deal.

2024 Arqana Breeze Up Sale, Lot 62<br>
Arqana, Deauville, 11/05/2024, photo: Zuzanna Lupa
Photo: Courtesy of Arqana/Zuzanna Lupa Photography
The Justify colt consigned as Lot 62 sells for €1 million at the Arqana Breeze-Up Sale

"For the way the stallion has gone, even since September when this horse was bought, he's been doing unbelievable things," Elliott said. "He's been bought for Amo Racing and we're trying to buy the best we can. Hopefully he's one of them. 

"We've got a very big horse in the stable called King of Steel. If we can get this horse anywhere near emulating what he's done then we'll all be very happy. He's got size, scope, strength, pedigree, his dam's a sister to Churchill." 

The colt is out of Curlylocks, a placed sister to not only four-time group 1 winner Churchill but also 2017 Cheveley Park Stakes (G1) winner Clemmie and the group 3-winning Blenheim Palace. Despite such an illustrious pedigree, the youngster was secured for a shrewd-looking $135,000 by Mags O'Toole at Keeneland last September from Ballysax Bloodstock, agent.

View Lot 62's enhanced catalog page.

"I was expecting him to sell well because he was very popular and the right guys were on him," said O'Leary. "It was a magic result and I hope he's seriously lucky for Amo Racing. 

"He's just like his dad, an absolute double of him. I even have a photo of his dad as a yearling to show people how like him he was." 

Ashford Stud's Justify has been on a steep upward trajectory since his first crop reached the racecourse in 2022. His stud record now features 49 black-type performers and six group/grade 1 winners. The seven-figure colt is bred on the same cross as last year's European champion 2-year-old colt City of Troy, who remains well fancied for the Epsom Derby (G1) despite his Two Thousand Guineas (G1) disappointment.

"He's an unbelievable stallion, so it's great to have two of them this week," continued O'Leary.

"You could buy them at Keeneland last September but you'll never be allowed to buy them again. This is magic and it won't happen again, so we better enjoy it. It's a fantastic result but what they all make put together is what counts.

The improving profile of his sire was not the only thing to recommend the colt, as the strapping youngster put in one of the quickest breezes during the May 9 presale workouts.

"For a big horse to do what he did during the breeze, I think he could be an unnatural talent," said O'Leary. "He could be a freak. He's so big yet he's so agile and he knows where his feet are. His knees are closed and his joints are like steel and he can do what he did on Thursday. For me, it's just luck. He found me, I didn't find him."

Records fall

The seven-figure spree at the head of the market duly contributed to an average price of €166,175 (US$179,278), a new sale record and a 10% increase on last year's corresponding figure. Total sales also rose, climbing by 2% to €21,775,500 (US$23,492,498), another new high mark for the Deauville breeze-up sale.

However, the median dropped by 9% to €100,000 (US$107,885), having been €110,000 12 months ago, while the clearance rate dipped from 83% in 2023 to 75% this time around. From 174 offered, 131 juveniles found a buyer, with 37 of those transactions taking place outside the ring.

Additional American connections

American buyers in Deauville included Repole Stables and Bobby Flay. Repole, fresh off buying a Japan-bred 2-year-old at Japan's Chiba Thoroughbred Sale May 10, made two purchases: Lot 10, a colt by Too Darn Hot for €250,000, and Lot 165, a colt by Siyouni for €360,000. Flay went to €230,000 for Lot 98, a Night of Thunder filly.

American sire lines were also well-represented in the sale, with six of the top 10 lots, and half of the top 20, sired by American-based stallions. In addition to four lots by Justify, other stallions represented in the top lots were McKinzie , Not This Time , Bolt d'Oro , Omaha Beach , Medaglia d'Oro , and Street Sense .

Of note among American pedigrees, Blandford Bloodstock went to €650,000 for Lot 40, a son of Gainesway freshman sire McKinzie out of Belle's Finale, by Ghostzapper . Lot 40 is a half brother to 2023 United States champion turf male Up to the Mark .

Wycombe House Stud plucked the McKinzie colt out of Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky October Yearling Sale for $200,000 from Taylor Made Sales, agent.

2024 Arqana Breeze Up Sale, Lot 40 Arqana, Deauville, 11/05/2024, photo: Zuzanna Lupa
Photo: Courtesy of Arqana/Zuzanna Lupa Photography
Lot 40, a McKinzie colt and half to 2023 champion turf male Up to the Mark sells for €650,000 at the Arqana Breeze-Up Sale