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Charlie Brooks:

What recession? There’s a vibrant bloodstock market at the Tattersalls Derby Sale

While the Irish Derby is always a significant race, the Tattersalls Derby Sale, held down the road from The Curragh at Ratoath, Co Meath, over the preceding days, always gives an insight into which yards are getting their hands on the most promising National Hunt talent.

In a vibrant market, the aggregate for a similar number of horses – approx 500 – was €10.5 million (£9.3 million), up by a staggering €3 million (£2.6 million) on last year.

The world record for a store horse was smashed when Sizing Europe’s owner, Alan Potts, paid €340,000 (£302,000) for a three-year-old son of Presenting.

Whether that horse was worth €165,000 more than the second top lot, a gelding by King’s Theatre, which will be trained by Paul Nicholls, only time will tell.

Mr Potts has relieved all of the English trainers that he’d been patronising of his horses and decamped them to be trained in Ireland and France next season. His main Irish trainers will be Henry de Bromhead and Willie Mullins.

There was no shortage of ‘Irish’ money in the ring across a market that found its ‘middle’ again. So we can look forward to a healthy Irish invasion at the Cheltenham Festival in two years time. Not everyone in Ireland had their money in the banks!

It was by no means all gloom and doom for the top English trainers, however. Grand National-winning owner Trevor Hemmings was back buying a considerable number of horses for the first time in a few years and they will be crossing the Irish Sea in time to be trained.

English agents David Minton and Anthony Bromley of Highflyer Bloodstock were the most prolific buyers over the two-day sale, picking up 35 of the nicest horses on offer. Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson will be the most significant recipient of this talent, indicating that his charge to regain the trainers’ title is gaining pace.

Jonjo O’Neill was, as ever, also smiling. He qualifies as Irish and English in this context and will have ammunition coming his way.

As for the stand out of the week. It may well have been Lot 266, bought by Highflyer Bloodstock for €58,000 (£51,500). This stunning three year-old is by High Chaparral, the sire of So You Think, out of a high-class mare. And it will only take a couple of years to find out. (I own a hoof but I’ve not told the wife).

Roy gets no joy from the Government

There seems to be something of a witch-hunt out for Paul Roy, the chairman of the British Horseracing Board. One of the anti-Roy mantras is that he backed the wrong horse twice in the race for the Tote. But this is utter nonsense. Roy was not trying to pick a winner; he was attempting to steer the Government in the direction that he felt would be most beneficial to racing. It wasn’t a tipping competition.

The collapse of Levy returns from the bookmakers is also no fault of Roy. As a member of the Levy Board, he has tried in vain to galvanise it to take a tougher line with the bookmakers. But the independent Government appointees out number him and lack his commitment.

There is, however, one major battle that will be keeping Roy awake at night. He has to convince the Government that racing in this country will become a ‘Third World’ sport with ‘Third World’ levels of integrity and funding if betting operators based offshore are allowed to use the sport’s product without signing up to a license which binds them to acceptable conduct.

The Government has a duty of care to its citizens, and allowing offshore bookmakers to take money from UK citizens is a dereliction of that care. The case of Fred Done’s Gibraltar operation refusing to pay out the winning bets on Barney Curley’s most recent good, old-fashioned coup is a case in point.

Yes. The same Fred Done who has just acquired the Tote from the Government. You couldn’t make it up.

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