Racing: Maktoums switch spending to Ireland

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A WEEK after refusing to spend its petrodollars at Newmarket's Tattersalls Sales, the Maktoum family was gushing money again at the Irish Yearlings Sale yesterday.

Between them, the four brothers dispersed the best part of IR2m guineas as they acquired more than a dozen of the top thoroughbreds available at Goffs Sales.

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum bought yearlings by the top sires Rainbow Quest, Riverman and Caerleon, but saved his most serious efforts to claim a full brother to his champion three-year-old filly of 1990, Salsabil.

Conducting his own bidding, the Sheikh had to go to 560,000 gns to beat off the challenge of Vincent O'Brien. The colt will go into training with John Dunlop, who guided Salsabil to her 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Irish Derby wins.

The appearance of Sheikh Hamdan, and his younger brother Sheikh Ahmed, was clearly a relief to the Goffs management. 'We are very pleased at the level of trade, which late in the afternoon was running 15 per cent ahead of last year's figures,' Philip Myerscough, the company's managing director, said. 'There are plenty of buyers as well as the main Arab purchasers who have made a welcome return.'

This level of investment must have been disturbing, however, for Tattersalls, who did not receive a single penny of Maktoum money last week. Britain's leading bloodstock auctioneers are now reviewing whether they will have to leave the country to avoid restrictive VAT penalties. While sales on these shores attract a rate of 17 1/2 per cent, the tax in Ireland is 2.7 per cent and in France 5.5 per cent.

'All businesses have to review what is going on and we are no different,' Andrew Howland, Tattersalls' director of marketing, said yesterday. 'We discussed the situation with everyone at last week's sales and will do so again during the October Sales next week.

'To put it in perspective, we had three sales days last week and we've got another 19 sales days to go this year. We've got to monitor the buying patterns and hopefully we'll be monitoring movement in the government towards helping the sixth largest employer in the nation.'

Tattersalls' aspiration is for a lower level of VAT to help them compete, though the government is loath to make adjustments for the purchase of what is a luxury item. 'They have agreed that it is legally allowable to give us a low rate of VAT, though they say it is politically unacceptable,' Howland said. 'We think it's politically unacceptable to allow the sixth largest employer in the nation to gradually sink without trace.'

The percentage of horses unsold at Newmarket last week was up from 21 per cent in 1991 to 27 per cent, and the average was down to 46,000 gns from 82,000 gns, though Tattersalls point out that product was not quite as good. 'It was a different sale last year because it was the cream of the yearling crop, while this year it was the cream and top milk,' Howland said.

'But it would certainly be fair to say we missed the Maktoums. Last year they bought 43 horses and spent over 4m guineas. They have said the scaling down of their operations would depend on how the situation developed. It's up to us to watch the situation develop and up to government to allow the situation to develop and then we'll know what boat we're in come 1993.'

The brighter news for Tattersalls is the announcement that Lord Carnarvon is to sell his his multiple juvenile winner Lyric Fantasy at their December Sales. The owner hopes the 'pocket rocket' will persude those with deep pockets to reach a sales price of close to pounds 1m.