Racing: Godolphin splash out £5.3m on Storm Cat colt

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The Independent Online

His absence from the final auction ring exchanges was perhaps a surprise, for the bay was a half-brother to the talented Godolphin flag bearer Grandera. But anyway, he was bought by John Magnier as his associates for 1,150,000 guineas and is now known as George Washington, the ante-post favourite for the next 2,000 Guineas.

The search for the three-year-old stars of 2007 is now under way and at the Kentucky dollarfest that is this week's Keeneland September marketplace, Mohammed nailed his colours to the mast by outbidding the Coolmore axis for a colt by Storm Cat, arguably the world's most desirable stallion. The price paid was a staggering $9.7m (£5.33m), making the 19-month-old youngster the third most expensive yearling ever sold.

That he was well-bred (his sire, who commands a fee of $500,000 per tryst, has fathered a legion of champions, Giant's Causeway being but one; his dam Tranquility Lake is a dual Grade 1 winner in the States) and handsome (a strong, elegant dark bay with his father's two white socks and star) goes without saying. But then so were the infamous pair who are above him on the all-time leader board.

Mohammed and his advisors will be fervently hoping that their latest purchase does rather better than either Seattle Dancer, who cost Robert Sangster and his one-time partner Stavros Niarchos $13.1m in 1985 and from whom Vincent O'Brien managed to extract a couple of soft Irish group races, or Snaafi Dancer, the $10.2m 1983 Maktoum purchase who proved an across-the-board embarrassment by failing to make the racecourse and firing blanks at stud.

At the first two sessions of the auction, Mohammed's shopping bill in this most rarefied of emporia came to some $40m, but if just one of his choices proves to be a champion athlete and the founder of a dynasty, the books will ultimately balance.

Take Coolmore supersire Sadler's Wells's earning potential, for instance. At the height of his virility he was covering more than 150 mares a season; at £250,000 a go, that meant income of £37.5m. And this year was his 21st at stud.

Because of a well-documented glut of yearlings, this autumn's round of sales had been awaited with some trepidation by those who make their living in the commercial sector, but the US crop, though large, seems to be of exceptional vintage in the top echelons.

Tuesday night's business brought a record turnover of $98,502,000 and a windfall for Martin Wygod, of California, who bred the Storm Cat sale-topper. Because of his extraordinary price, the celebrity colt's every step will henceforth be tracked. "Very rarely do you have a horse where there is very little to criticise," said John Ferguson, the Sheikh's bloodstock manager. "This is one of the very special ones." So far, at least. The sale-ring circus comes to Britain early next month and the yearling out of Bordighera, dam of Grandera and George Washington, is waiting in the Newmarket catalogue.

Luckily, horses have no airs about what they cost, how they are bred or who owns them. And happily, cost and worth are not always the same. Derby winner Motivator had a price tag of just 75,000gns in the Tattersalls arena two years ago, slipping through unnoticed by all the high-rollers. Hopes that the son of Montjeu might remain in training at four to further entertain the members of the Royal Ascot Racing Club, whose colours he carries, were removed yesterday. The Michael Bell-trained colt is to begin his second career next year at the Queen's place, the Royal Studs at Sandringham in Norfolk and has just two more outings planned, the Arc and the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Richard Edmondson

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