Sometimes in life we just need a distraction or two from the real world.
As Britain hurtles towards a potentially disastrous No Deal Brexit, amid the news that the UK’s economy shrunk by 0.2% between April and June – its worst performance in seven years, seeking solace elsewhere is wise.
One place that a good time is always ensured is horse racing, and there was a little story recently that caught my eye.
As you may know, thoroughbred breeding is big business, with horses bred from fine stock changing hands for incredible sums of money – usually before they’ve even made their debut on the track.
One of the big ‘meetings’ for breeders and owners is Tattersalls’ October Yearling Sale, and last year there were some eye-catching transactions taking place.
One such saw Volkan Star, a juvenile, purchased for the other-worldly sum of 1,000,000gns – just over £1 million in regular parlance – by the Stroud Coleman Bloodstock from Longview Stud. He made his debut in a ‘newcomers’ race at Newmarket on August 9.
Longview’s manager, Diego Romeo, said: “He’s a gorgeous colt and we’ve loved him from the beginning. Everything has gone to plan with him, and he is very straightforward. We’re very happy.”
So how can such a young potential racehorse, who has never set foot on the track for a ‘proper’ race, change hands for such a fortune? Simple: it’s all in the genes.
Volkan Star is the son of Sea the Stars, a prolific Grade 1 winner and considered one of the greatest horses of all time prior to his retirement in 2009.
The powerhouse won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the Epsom Derby, the Irish Champion Stakes and the 2000 Guineas, amongst other things, in a stellar campaign that saw him win more than £4 million in prize money.
Having the genetic material of the former world number one ranked thoroughbred is big business, particularly as his progeny since going to stud includes Taghrooda (winner of the Epsom Oaks and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes), Harzand (Epsom Derby, Irish Derby), Crystal Ocean (Prince of Wales’s Stakes) and Stradivarius (3x Goodwood Cup, 2x Ascot Gold Cup).
So the presumption, and it is a presumption, is that Volkan Star will enjoy a rather glittering career too.
All of which got me thinking: which are the most expensive racehorses of all time, and how much did they pocket for their breeders or owners?
Fusaichi Pegasus (£52 million)
The mere milly paid for Volkan Star is dwarfed by the epic sum dished out for Fusaichi Pegasus, a Kentucky Derby winner over in the USA.
Otherwise, it wasn’t a stellar career in racing with little over $2 million made, but it’s in stud where the world’s most expensive horse has earned his keep.
Shuffled between stud farms in the US and Australia, the Coolmore owned daddy has sired a number of Grade 1 winners, including Bandini, Roman Ruler and Haradasun.
That said, he’s never quite lived up to his reputation, and has nowhere near recouped the amount spent on him at the sales.
Shareef Dancer (£33 million)
Originally purchased by Maktoum Al Maktoum for just over £3 million, winning three of his five outings for Sir Michael Stoute including the Irish Derby and the King Edward VII Stakes.
He was then sold to stud for £33 million, and while none of his direct progeny have won a ‘major’ he is still blessed with success on his bloodline.
Glory of Dancer won the Dante Stakes, Rock Hopper won the Hardwicke, Mudahim won the Cleeve Hurdle and Spartan Shareef won the September Stakes.
He is also the grandfather of Dubai Millennium, a Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Dubai World Cup champion.
The Green Monkey (£13 million)
The example of The Green Monkey shows why owners should be very careful how they spend their money at the blood sales.
Purchased as a never-raced two-year-old, the horse was a disappointment on the track, failing to win in a three-race career.
But as a descendant of Northern Dancer and Secretariat, there was a assumption that his bloodline would lead to a phenomenal breeding.
However, that did not prove to be the case, as despite a few low-keys win in America none of The Green Monkey’s progeny enjoyed particular success. An expensive mistake, you might say.
Seattle Dancer (£10.5 million)
When Nijinsky is your sire, big things can be expected of your racing/breeding career.
Seattle Dancer was sold for more than £10 million as a yearling – meaning he had never raced before, and that was a brave call from a consortium that included Susa Magnier, who now famously works with champion trainer Aidan O’Brien.
But a virus at the Ballydoyle yard delayed his debut, and in the end he would never win a single Grade 1 race in a career that was beset by bad luck as much as a lack of talent.
At stud, Seattle Dancer has sired 37 winners, including Pike Place Dancer, who prevailed in the Kentucky Oaks in 1996, and Que Belle, who was a champion filly over in Germany.