The Tattersalls Cheltenham December Sale took place after racing last Friday, and the usual suspects were on the hunt for future jump racing stars.
County Wexford trainers stole the show, providing the most sought after stock. Clondaw Cracker went for £120,000, just 15 months after being bought for €25,000 by Michael Goff, who had trained him to win a point-to-point at Glenbane last month. The buyer was Roger Brookhouse, a regular big hitter at the sale and owner of Champagne West, who came close to claiming the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup a day later.
Racehorse trainer and regular trader Ronnie O’Leary topped the sale in November when selling Three Ways for £190,000, and he completed a valuable double this month. This time the four-year-old Keeper Hill, a son of Westerner who had won a bumper at Market Rasen, went for £110,000. The buyer was Highflyer Bloodstock’s Tessa Greatrex, wife of in-form trainer Warren.
After the sale O’Leary said: “He’s a lovely horse and we have always thought a lot of him. It’s been a good day, because I sold Baden here in May to Highflyer, and he finished second this afternoon (at Cheltenham) for Nicky Henderson’s stable.”
Another to make a six-figure sum was Minella Beau, trained by Colin Bowe for owner John Nallen. Anthony Bromley, a colleague of Greatrex’s at Highflyer Bloodstock, made the winning bid of £100,000. Minella Beau, a son of King’s Theatre, will head to the powerful Willie Mullins stable.
It’s no surprise to see horses under the guidance of Colin Bowe fetching huge figures at the sales. Another based in County Wexford, he has come a long way in a relatively short period. Bowe cut his teeth with the likes of Jim Bolger and Aidan O’Brien before starting out in point to points back in 2005.
Like many Irish Point handlers, he made his name training horses that he sought to sell after success between the flags. The most notable to come from Bowe’s yard included the Grade 1 chaser Snowy Morning and the Grade 1 winning novice hurdler Shinrock Paddy. Indeed, the former was Bowe’s first winner between the flags when prevailing at Clonmel in May 2005. In his final season as an out-and-out point-to-point trainer in 2009/10, he won the prestigious Leading Handler title.
Bowe started out under rules in 2010 and has progressed steadily in recent years. However, this winter things appear to have stepped up a gear or two. Currently running at a lofty 23% strike rate he has 12 wins from just 53 runs. Shantou Flyer has proved something of a star since being sent over fences.
He became the trainer’s first Cheltenham winner in October when staying on strongly to take the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase. Bowe had saddled just a handful of previous runners on British soil without success. He followed up at Punchestown, before failing to cope with a step up in class at Fairyhouse behind the talented No More Heroes. That run came over an inadequate trip, and there’s every chance that Bowe's charge could return to Cheltenham in March for the four-mile National Hunt Chase.
After his successful jaunt to Prestbury Park in October the trainer said: “I think this is my third runner at Cheltenham, so it's great to get a winner. I didn't think he was going to win when he was nearly brought down by the horse that fell and then he missed the second last, but he's gone and done it well in the end. He's only a five-year-old and is still learning his trade. We could maybe bring him back here for the four-miler.”
Up until recently it fell to a pair of mares to fly the flag for the yard. Askanna won a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Punchestown in 2011 before taking a Grade 3 chase at Fairyhouse a year later. The stable then produced the dynamic yet diminutive Little King Robin, who became something of a sensation, even having the audacity to defeat Arctic Fire in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle in 2014.
He may be some way from the dizzy heights reached by Gordon Elliott, but Bowe’s path from points to rules does appear to be gathering pace. It should be interesting to trace his progression during this winter campaign.