Captain Al's progeny command a legion of European buyers at Cape Premier Sale
Time is running out for buyers to secure yearlings from the final crop of South African champion sire Captain Al, and that caused fevered demand for his progeny at the Cape Premier Yearling Sale in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Trade was headed by a daughter of Captain Al and the Fort Wood mare Pagan Princess who fetched R4 million (£221,530/€254,085). While the filly's pedigree is unmistakably South African, it was two European buyers who battled it out, with Anthony Stroud seeing off a determined Peter Doyle with a seven-figure bid that equalled last year's high price.
"She's a lovely filly and I think she'll be trained by Justin Snaith," said Stroud, who was bidding from a table shared with Bjorn Nielsen, owner of Stradivarius, and Investec chief executive Bernard Kantor.
"She was bought for an old client of mine who's down here on holiday and has a connection to South Africa, so he wanted to have a go."
The filly, consigned by Klawervlei Stud, is a sister to William Longsword, who landed the Group 1 Kenilworth Cape Guineas before taking up covering duty at Klawervlei.
"It's nice to come here and be involved as they do a great job," added Stroud, a regular visitor to Cape Thoroughbred Sales' flagship event, which is now in its eighth year. "If South Africa can get the quarantine situation sorted this sale will take off - and I think it's very important that happens."
Stroud entered the fray again later in the session when securing a Var colt offered by Maine Chance Farms for R2m.
This year's Cape Premier Sale catalogue featured two lots by Frankel, including a filly out of the Dark Angel mare Lost In Love who went the way of Grant Pritchard-Gordon for R1m.
Pritchard-Gordon, who with his son Tom, operates under the Badgers Bloodstock banner, was already well acquainted with the Frankel filly, having formed part of the Cape Thoroughbred Sales selection team who compiled the catalogue.
"I've been involved in the selection process so it's been really interesting to come to the sale and see how these horses have progressed with a few more months on their backs," he said. "It was fascinating going around the farms and seeing the countryside where these horses are bred and meeting the breeders. Some of the staff here are really good too, they do a great job."
Of the Frankel filly, who was offered by Klawervlei Stud, Pritchard-Gordon added: "She's changed quite a lot since I first saw her, I didn't actually give her a very high mark in September but she's really strengthened up and started moving well. She'll stay here in Cape Town but we haven't confirmed who'll train her yet."
The filly's second dam is the Listed-winning Cover Girl, whose progeny record also includes the Listed scorers Mister Manannan and Shermeen - the dam of Phoenix Stakes winner Sudirman.
The other Frankel, a colt from the family of Harzand, was knocked down to John Freeman for R400,000.
The single-session sale concluded with turnover of R83.135m (£4,604,620/€5,287,380), a 25 per cent drop on the figure recorded at last year's sale.
The average was down by 14 per cent to R432,995 (£23,990/€27,545), while the median remained static at R300,000 (£16,615/€19,085). A total of 17 lots fetched a seven-figure sum, down from 28 in 2018.
Of the 217 offered yearlings, 192 sold for a clearance rate of 88 per cent.
Despite the declines shown by key market metrics - returns not helped by the absence of notable buyers like the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Shadwell, both of whom were active 12 months ago - Cape Thoroughbred Sales' chief executive Wehann Smith felt there was still plenty of positives to take from the sale.
"There was such a positive vibe before the sale that perhaps we got our expectations slightly high," he said.
"Overall though I think it's still been a good sale as we're under tough economic coniditions at the moment. There were some real stand-out horses who made good money and a really diverse buying bench and a lot of international buyers, which is also a positive.
"It's always been the dream for this sale to showcase South African breeding to the world and I think we're on the right track with that."