Sea dreams spark gold rush

Arc winner proves value of good pedigree to competing buyers at the yearling sales
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The Independent Online

you hope they know what they are doing. But then it is easy to see why people might be prepared to overlook even the temporary nuisance of a global economic crash, with the timeless example of Sea The Stars so fresh in their minds.

For whatever else he did in Paris on Sunday, the champion reiterated the role of pedigree and physique in exalting himself above the herd. As a physical paragon, whose mother not only won the Arc herself but had already produced a brilliant racehorse and stallion in Galileo, Sea The Stars could only nourish the gold-rush economics of the yearling sales.

As it happens, his breeders raced him in their own name, meaning that he was never valued in the sort of deranged bazaar that resumed here yesterday, in the opening session of the October Yearling Sale at Tattersalls. Now the Tsui family find themselves in a still more rarefied market, where telephone numbers are not treated merely as a means of getting in touch.

They have implied that they might yet keep him for his next career, as well, even though he could be the first retiring racehorse valued at nine figures, in dollars at any rate. But the Turf is full of men who consider themselves rich until they receive a phone call from Sheikh Mohammed.

The ruler of Dubai has already invested massively in the renewal of a stagnant racing empire, and inevitably there are rumours that he already has a deal. To him, it would not have to make financial sense. But other studs plainly think they could make Sea The Stars pay his way, and perhaps the Tsui family might do the same. In doing so, moreover, it might be argued that they would extend the integrity of his story, so far, into the sequel.

In the hands of John Oxx, his trainer, Sea The Stars has been immune from the jealousies and agendas that might have flavoured his profile elsewhere. Oxx is one of the Turf's unimpeachable figures, respected and trusted by all. He was here yesterday, seeking a horse to fill that empty stall next year, but it was not easy for him to get around, such were the constant congratulations and handshakes.

But some of those same hands, remember, will be raised when the champion's first yearlings go through the ring in 2012. And, by that stage, the euphoria unanimously professed in Sea The Stars may have been complicated by all the moral feints and follies, all the avarice and credulity, that underpins the melodrama of a yearling sale.

For the notorious schism between the bloodstock superpowers – between Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers, on the one hand, and John Magnier and his partners in Coolmore – means that anyone trying to make a fast buck will do so from neutral ground. Sea The Stars would not get quite the same mares, either from the Maktoums or Coolmore, were the Tsui family to retain all or part of their champion and stand him somewhere like the Irish National Stud (where he was foaled himself). But nor would he become exorbitantly dependent on either camp, when it came to selling his progeny. Breeders could then dream of hitting the jackpot by matching Magnier and the Sheikh in one of those bull-headed duels of theirs.

Yesterday, for instance, Magnier spent 400,000 guineas on a half-sister to Mastercraftsman – who has excelled for his stable this year – by Coolmore's debut sire, Holy Roman Emperor. Sheikh Mohammed, wandering around in a sort of French policeman's kepi, would not have bought this filly with a farthing he had found in the street; instead the under-bidders included Harry Findlay, the professional gambler who is clearly in deadly earnest about upgrading his string of Flat horses.

Of course, this business comes with no guarantees, even for Sea The Stars. George Washington was the top lot at this very sale, five years ago. He seemed to vindicate his price tag by proving a champion miler, but then the self-fulfilling cycle abruptly broke down when he proved infertile. Restored to training, his story ended tragically in the slop of Monmouth Park. Today the one and only George Washington yearling, a filly out of Flawlessly, enters the ring as lot 405 – a precious racing and breeding prospect, and a priceless rebuke.

Turf account: Chris McGrath


French Art (9.20 Kempton) Plunged down handicap when disappointing earlier in the season, but lasted longer over 10f at Redcar. Foiled in a photo when dropped back to a mile at Ayr, pulling a long way clear. Everything in place off a 2lb lower mark this time.

Next best

Lady Artemisia (4.40 Nottingham) Unlucky at Doncaster last time. Had previously run well, without getting home over a longer trip, in Group company and looks potentially better than present rating.

One to watch

Over 7f, One Way Or Another (JR Gask) was well backed at Newmarket and just failed to get up. Proven over further and remains on feasible mark.

Where the money's going

With Kieren Fallon on board, Sariska is 5-1 from 6-1 with Paddy Power for the Emirates Airline Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday week.