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Harty, Martin and Halford look ahead to yearling sales

Three trainers give their top tips and share their tales of success

Friday, September 17, 2021

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 getting underway.

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 off.”

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 remain paramount.

“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 afterwards.”

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 HartyPat Martin and Michael Halford.

New blood is always exciting for a trainer, it’s like having new toys as a kid - Pat Martin

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