Whether returning after a lengthy absence
or continuing a tradition spanning generations, there remains a unique buzz
when it comes to identifying future winners at this time of year, writes
Ahead of upcoming yearling sales at Tattersalls Ireland
(September 21-22) and Goffs (September 28-October 1), we’ve been catching up
with trainers across Ireland to find out their top tips ahead of the auctions
Patrick Harty is among those who will be running his
expert eye over yearlings in the coming weeks and there will be a new emphasis
on discussions for the Curragh-based trainer, who is coming to the end of his
first season on a joint-licence with father Eddie.
The pair made history as Ireland’s first joint-trainers
when their partnership was confirmed in May and Whatucallher provided the
perfect start to their link-up with victory at Punchestown – the seven-year-old
was back in the winners’ enclosure at Ballinrobe on Friday night.
“I’m very proud to have another rung on the ladder for
the Harty family,” said Patrick, whose family have been part of the furniture
in Irish racing since the 1860s.
“Things have changed more than I was anticipating but in
a good way. I’ve felt a bit more pressure when horses go to the races,
especially with a chance, but there’s also been a lot of satisfaction and I’ve
had a great thrill from having my name on the licence.
“It’s a lot easier, especially around sales, as when
you’re pitching to someone you can say ‘give me a chance’, you’re not saying
‘give my father a chance’. It’s a lot easier when you’re speaking for yourself.
“Generally, we like a horse with a nice, easy action, a
kind eye and a nice-looking horse. My grandfather always told me that when you
bring a horse home from sales for a client, you need to be proud to show it
Harty’s excitement for this year’s sales has been raised
by the return of the Goffs Million, which first ran between 2006 and 2009 and
will return in September next year.
Entry will be exclusive to Goffs Orby graduates from the
upcoming sales and Harty hopes to have a live chance on home soil at the
Curragh – though the long-term prospects of horses he picks up from the sales
“The rejuvenation of the Goffs Million is a big incentive
for owners and potential clients to get involved and target a big pot,” said
Harty, who has sourced the likes of California Levee and Sir Psycho, sold on to
Hong Kong and Paul Nicholls respectively, at yearling sales in the past.
“We want to have a couple of darts to throw at that. It
would be fantastic to have a runner in it and even better to have one that
could bring back some prize money.
“But we are trying to avoid having that as the be all and
end all. We’d like a horse that can go on and have a career as a three and
four-year-old. We don’t want it to have a two-year-old season then nothing
Harty admits an open mind and forgiving attitude are
required at the sales, particularly when working to a tight budget – thoughts
echoed by Pat Martin.
The Navan-based trainer is back at the yearling sales
this year and looking forward to plucking out his next generation of winners.
“New blood is always exciting for a trainer, it’s like
having new toys as a kid,” he said.
“I’ve bought a few yearlings over the years but more often
than not they get sent to me, so this is kind of an exciting adventure for us.
“The first thing I look for is first impressions, do they
look athletic? Do they have something about them that makes them look like
they’d be a racehorse?
“I’m never too worried about legs. I tend to think that
most horses are trainable and the engine is usually the biggest problem as
opposed to being able to keep them sound.”
One of the best engines in Martin’s yard over the past
decade has belonged to Reckless Lad, now 11, a Dundalk specialist who has won a
remarkable ten races at the County Louth venue.
“He was very difficult to train, he wasn’t particularly
correct and not particularly big, but he had a great engine and it’s the part
you can’t see that is probably the most important bit,” he said.
“Between their head and the engine, that’s the magic
part. You can’t really identify that at a sales, that’s just something you find
out as you go along.”
As a familiar face at Irish sales for many years who has
seen his selections enjoy success at home and abroad, Michael Halford is a
well-placed judge when it comes to what to look out for.
Halford provided Zhang Yuesheng with his first stakes
winner, Yulong Baobei, at the 2016 Tipperary Stakes, while Playa Del Puente has
performed well in several Hong Kong Group 1s.
“Over the last couple of years, I’ve found that the sales
are a big part of what we do,” he said.
“Sometimes you have to be trading as much as training.
It’s important to go there, look for a bit of value and then once we get form
with them, there’s great demand all over the world for Irish horses.
“You have to keep an open mind and when you see one you
like, always have a value in your head for them before you go into the ring so
that you don’t get carried away.
“Just keep looking at them because you don’t know where a
gem is going to come from, especially when you don’t have big budgets.”
Halford is also among the trainers to have benefited from
the IRE incentive, a Horse Racing Ireland scheme which awards a Sales voucher
of €10,000 to owners of Irish-bred winners of up to 150 selected races across
the Flat and National Hunt programmes in Ireland and Britain in 2021.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “Any incentives are great and
they’re encouraging to get people in.
“Everybody loves to get a voucher like that and it
certainly makes a difference. If they can do what it was set out to do and help
the breeders, which in turn helps the trainers and the owners that are
investing money, I think it works very well for everybody.”
If you are interested in sourcing a horse at the
upcoming Yearling Sale, now is your chance to contact a trainer and begin your
journey to owning a Royal Ascot or Irish Champions weekend winner. Click here to
find a trainer and start your journey.
To find out more about the trainers featured in this
article, visit the websites of Patrick
Martin and Michael