Balding pursues bargains as prices gallop ahead at sales


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For any trainer striving to break into the elite, the opening session of this yearling sale can only have been a demoralising experience. Whatever might be happening in the real world, the yearling market is galloping headlong out of recession and the median yesterday was soon soaring 30 per cent up on last year.

At least Andrew Balding had arrived knowing that few could have overlooked his recent achievements with those youngsters he recruited a year ago. Over the past three weeks he has won juvenile maidens at Salisbury, Sandown and Pontefract as well as two just down the road on the Rowley Mile itself. On Saturday he returns there with Spiritual Star, perhaps the most impressive of the lot and supplemented this week for the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes.

By a stallion with few pretensions to stardom, in Soviet Star, he changed hands as a yearling for 80,000 guineas. And Bonfire, a son of Manduro who will likewise be fast-tracked to Group One company after his success at Salisbury, was another solid middle-market buy at 90,000 guineas. "But I didn't buy either of them," Balding stressed. "John Warren bought Bonfire, and Will Edmeades found Spiritual Star. As things stand, they both look very well bought. But that's where we're at. I haven't got the punters to go for the top horses, and we have to duck and dive a bit. So, yes, it's great to have some nice prospects coming through. But you can never be too confident in this business, and I'm at least as excited by the fact that we're going to have a very strong team of older horses staying in training."

These include Side Glance, who ran a fine fourth in Canada last month and will now seek scraps from Frankel's table in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Saturday week. "He was drawn wide in the Woodbine Mile and didn't get the best of trips," Balding said. "But he was still beaten less than a length and a half. He'll be taking on the best milers in the world at Ascot, but we know he loves the track and he might go on somewhere like Hong Kong later on."

As for the next wave of talent at Kingsclere, Balding has had to be patient. "A lot of the two-year-olds weren't quite right in midsummer," he said. "But then the vast majority of them would be later-maturing, autumn sorts anyway. It's obviously a big leap for Spiritual Star, straight from a maiden. But he has always looked a nice horse, couldn't have been more impressive, and you only get one shot at a Dewhurst. It is a bit of a punt but as these things go, it looks reasonable value: a 20 grand supplement for a 300 grand race."

Bonfire is, meanwhile, being trained for the Critérium International at Saint-Cloud on 30 October. "We had one just touched off in that race three years ago, and this would appear to be a better type," Balding reasoned.

As evening fell, Balding was under-bidder on an Oasis Dream colt sold to John Magnier for 700,000 guineas. Perhaps Paul Makin should give him some consideration. For the carousel here never turned more smoothly than when a three-parts sister to Pour Moi entered the ring just minutes after another one, Kissed, had won impressively on her debut at Navan. Kissed is trained for Magnier and his partners at Ballydoyle, but they ceded the last say on her little sister to Makin at 800,000 guineas.

Turf Account

* Chris McGrath's nap

Flipping (4.10 Ayr)

Hit form on similar ground last autumn.

* next best

Smart Step (4.40 Ayr)

Took a while to click but has done so on this ground.

* One to watch

Aniseed (William Haggas) did very well, given her lack of experience, at Newmarket last Saturday.

* Where the money's going

So You Think may yet be turned out for the Qipco Champion Stakes and is 2-1 from 11-4 with Boylesports.