Racing: Barron loses a bitter battle to take Bluff

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ONE OF racing's public spats came to a conclusion yesterday with the sale of the one-time top-class sprinter Coastal Bluff for 17,000 guineas at the Newmarket Autumn Sales. The giant grey was knocked down to bloodstock agent Linda Tate, who outbid one of his quarrelling owners, David Sharp. The other, trainer David Barron, watched in some distress as the battle for possession of his favourite horse went beyond his means.

Coastal Bluff dead-heated with Ya Malak for last year's Nunthorpe Stakes, having graduated to Group One company after winning the Stewards' and Ayr Gold Cups the previous season, and has earned more than pounds 200,000. But this term, at the age of six, the horse - who has a history of breathing problems - was down the field in both his runs and seemed past his sell- by date.

Nonetheless, Sharp, the majority shareholder, opted for the auction ring to break up his partnership with Barron, who wished to retire the horse to a life of ease. The trainer dropped out of the bidding before Sharp entered at 10,000 guineas.

Barron, who acquired Coastal Bluff as a yearling for 2,700 guineas and sold three-quarters of him as a two-year-old to Sharp for pounds 6,000, had tears in his eyes as he bade farewell to his good servant. "This is a dreadful day," he said. "I just can't afford to pay that sort of money to retire a horse but I would have given my share to the other owner if he had promised not to race him again. But my gate is always open to Coastal Bluff if his new owners ever want to find somewhere for him. And he'd never have a saddle put on his back again."

Not wishing to be branded as the man who shot Bambi, Tate's client remained anonymous. But the agent confirmed that the plan is to keep Coastal Bluff in training.