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Sparkling Plenty a Buyback Despite $10.2 Million Bid

French Oaks winner was offered at the Goffs London Sale June 17.

Sparkling Plenty after her French Oaks win

Sparkling Plenty after her French Oaks win

Mathea Kelley

Sparkling Plenty, winner of the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1) a little more than 26 hours earlier, was hammered down for a gasp-inducing £8,100,000 (US$10,287,688) at the boutique Goffs London Sale in Kensington Palace Gardens June 17, only for it to transpire that the classic-winning filly had, remarkably, been bought back by owner Jean-Pierre-Joseph Dubois. 

Goffs' French representative Amanda Zetterholm was bidding while taking instructions over the phone and saw off the attentions of Narvick International agent Emmanuel de Seroux, who bid £8 million, and Amo Racing's Kia Joorabchian, who bid £7.8 million after consulting with Evangelos Marinakis, owner of Nottingham Forest Football Club. 

However, the affair was far from over when the hammer fell. A lengthy period of deliberation ensued, and once the dust had settled it emerged that a deal had been struck that saw Al Shaqab Racing take a 50% stake in Sparkling Plenty at a cost of £5 million (US$6.35 million). 

The operation's principal, Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, had been present at the auction but was not involved in the showdown among Zetterholm, De Seroux, and Joorabchian.

Sheikh Joaan is, of course, the brother of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, whose Wathnan Racing outfit has also been on a pre-Royal Ascot spending spree, securing the likes of Haatem, Shadow Army, and Torito

Sparkling Plenty is not engaged to run at Royal Ascot, and Al Shaqab's bloodstock adviser Nicolas de Watrigant confirmed the filly would remain on the same program with trainer Patrice Cottier. 

"She'll stay with the same trainer and the same team," said de Watrigant. "The trainer will target the Nassau Stakes, the Prix de l'Opéra, and maybe the Arc at the end of the year. We've been following the filly for a long time. She probably should've won the French Guineas [finished sixth], she was very unlucky in that race, but she ran some very good split figures. We like her physically; she keeps progressing and won the Sandringham very easily and she's got a beautiful page, she's by a great stallion, she's got everything going for her."

Commenting on the circumstances around the striking of the private deal, de Watrigant said: "Sheikh Joaan is delighted to have her. He's been patient and we negotiated afterwards. This is the first horse in partnership [between Al Shaqab and Dubois] but we've often partnered on horses. With Place Du Carrousel we partnered with Ballylinch Stud and with Brametot we partnered with Mr. Augustin-Normand. It works well and we're happy to do so again."

Goffs' group chief executive Henry Beeby was the auctioneer on duty during the bidding, and said: "Much to our shock, when the hammer came down at £8.1m it turned out the vendor had bought the horse back. As I said to somebody earlier, I've auctioneered for 39 years and worked for an auction house for 42 years, and I've never seen anything quite so complicated as this has turned out to be. It's certainly a day I won't forget. 

"I was bid £8 million by a live bidder, I was bid £7.8m by a second live bidder, but it's the owner's prerogative, it's his horse. If he chooses to buy it back, he's entitled to do that. The conditions of sale allow somebody to appoint one person to bid for them and that's what he did." 

Although Joorabchian was unable to secure Sparkling Plenty, the Amo Racing principal did not walk away empty-handed. His first signing was a Kingman  filly out of Laurens, who was offered by Oaks Farm Stables and signed for by bloodstock agent Hamish Macauley at £650,000 (US$825,560). Joorabchian indicated the filly would go into training with Ralph Beckett. 

"She's bred in the purple and has a massive pedigree," said Macauley. "She came highly recommended by Mark Dwyer, who pre-trained her, and she's a collector's item at the end of the day. We're delighted to get her. This is a great event but the horses are expensive, aren't they?" 

The filly is the second foal out of Laurens and the second of her offspring to hit the market in recent times. Her first foal, the Invincible Spirit colt named First Ambition, was knocked down to Harriet Jones at 42,000gns at the Tattersalls Guineas Horses in Training Sale. Weatherbys records indicate the colt is registered as being in training with Karl Burke, who saddled Laurens to victory in the Fillies' Mile (G1), Prix Saint-Alary (G2), Prix de Diane (G1), Matron Stakes (G1), Sun Chariot Stakes (G1), and the Prix Rothschild (G1).