The name Goffs has been synonymous with Irish bloodstock sales for 150 years.
Robert J. Goff was appointed official auctioneer to the Turf Club in 1866 when the following announcement in the Irish Racing Calendar ushered in a new era for bloodstock vendors:
When the newly appointed official auctioneer conducted his first sale at the Royal Dublin Society Sales Paddocks in Dublin, the facilities were rudimentary, with only half a dozen boxes and a makeshift parade ring. However the merit of supporting a local sales company, rather than the cross-channel alternatives, was not lost on Irish breeders and the new venture flourished steadily over the years. The first lot sold under the R. J. Goff hammer was a brown filly by the stallion Arbitrator for 350 guineas.
In 1907, after Robert Goff's death, Patrick J. Brophy of Newbridge became a partner with Richard F. Gannon and Mrs. Goff. The Company was run by these three until 1922 when it became a limited company under the chairmanship of Edward Kennedy, the renowned breeder of "the spotted wonder", The Tetrarch. A board of directors consisting of Frederick S. Myerscough, Patrick J. Brophy, Senator J. J. Parkinson and Col. A. J. Blake completed the new management team.
In 1925, on the death of Edward Kennedy, Frederick Myerscough became chairman and managing director. This was forging a connection with the company which was destined to continue for three generations through his son, Cyril, and two grandsons, Robert and Philip Myerscough. Under Frederick Myerscough, a branch office was maintained in Newbridge but the company established its main offices in Dublin at Sewell & Son and Simpson's Yard in Mount Street where sales were held in addition to those at the R.D.S.
Indeed Goffs has a strong tradition of family involvements. Captain Michael Hall, the popular Manager of Goffs for a long number of years, is even today still remembered by many current Goffs clients and his son Robert was a member of the auctioneers' panel for many years until his retirement in 2011.
The sales firm made its greatest impact in the National Hunt sphere in these formative years, contributing to the worldwide reputation of the Irish steeplechaser. During World War II, greyhound sales were held successfully by Goffs at Harolds Cross for a brief period. Goffs still have more Grand National, Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle winners than any other bloodstock sales company.
Grand National winners sold by Goffs include Sergeant Murphy, Tipperary Tim, Gregalach, Shaun Goilin, Grakle, Caughoo, Sheila's Cottage, Freebooter, Quare Times, Sundew, Nicholas Silver, Team Spirit, Foinavon, L'Escargot, West Tip, Bindaree and Ballabriggs. The most unlucky loser in the historic steeplechase, H.M. Queen Elizabeth's Devon Loch, was purchased at Goffs, as, appropriately, had been his conqueror, E.S.B.
Two National Hunt "greats", Golden Miller, who won the Grand National in 1934, and the mighty Arkle, were both acquired as yearlings at Goffs Sales. Golden Miller was bought in 1928 for a mere 100 guineas, while Arkle was purchased by Anne, Duchess of Westminster, for 1,150 guineas as a three year old.
To these illustrious names can be added triple Grand National winner Red Rum, sold by Goffs as a Yearling in 1966 for 406 guineas. Arguably the most outstanding Goffs bargain of them all, however, must surely have been the celebrated Hatton's Grace who cost a mere 18 guineas!
In 1953 Frederick Myerscough retired and the chairmanship was taken over by Col. A. J. Blake who continued in this position until 1963 when Cyril Myerscough took over the reins. During this period, an impressive tally of flat race champions were sold at Goffs - the Roll of Honour includes Epsom Derby winners Hard Ridden and Larkspur: Irish Derby winners Dark Warrior, Thirteen of Diamonds, Talgo, Sindon, Fidalgo, Chamour, Ragusa and Meadow Court, thereby laying the foundations of a tradition which has been carried on up to the present day by top group winners such as Generous, Kooyonga, Oath, Island Sands, Snurge and Desert King.
The mid-seventies marked a major turning point for Goffs. The cause was the sale in 1973 by the Royal Dublin Society of their sales paddocks at Ballsbridge in Dublin where Goffs had been selling for so many years. To survive, Goffs were obliged to seek a new site and a large injection of capital for the construction of a complete new sales complex. The selected location was a 78 acre property strategically located on the main arterial route between Dublin and The Curragh at Kill in Co. Kildare.
Robert J. Goff & Co plc. was transformed into a new public unquoted company with 500 shareholders, the majority of whom were thoroughbred breeders, under the chairmanship of Patrick W. McGrath. Large international shareholders involved in the company as a result of these changes include Fasig Tipton Inc., Bertram R. Firestone, Walter Haefner, Robert Sangster and Khalid Abdullah. The task was to persuade the Irish breeders, who were still selling 60% of their bloodstock by value abroad, to support an indigenous sales company.
In tandem with building the most modern sales complex ever undertaken, Goffs management set about convincing Irish breeders that as from September 1975, the launch date for the new Kildare Paddocks, there would no longer be any necessity to travel to Newmarket or Doncaster, both located towards the east of England, to find international buyers. Even as late as 1974, only 18% of all Irish bloodstock was offered in Ireland. The outcome can only be described as spectacular. By the end of 1981 there had been a dramatic swing. Goffs had achieved over 50% of the Irish horses sold at public auction in United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.
From sales of £2.6 million in 1974, turnover leaped to £5m in 1975, one of the highlights being a new European record for a yearling at 127,000 gns. The yearling was named Be My Guest and was later syndicated as a three year old for £800,000 before becoming European Champion Sire in 1982.
By 1977, the new company reported its first operating profit of £59,400. Goffs were never afraid to innovate and a variety of ancillary activities were introduced to supplement the main function. A comprehensive equine insurance service was launched; a bloodstock transport company formed; and the prestige sales complex at Kill was utilised for many different purposes, including stage shows television programmes, pedigree cattle sales, conferences, exhibitions, and the Benson & Hedges Irish Masters Snooker Tournament.
New international contacts were forged by the Goffs' sales team and top buyers from all over the world were lured to Kill. Auctioneers were in turn supplied by the Kill based firm to sales companies in France, Australia, California, Kentucky, South Africa and Zimbabwe. These early contacts were followed in 1978 by the company's purchase of a controlling interest in France's oldest and most famous bloodstock auctioneering house. In the first year of trading, Goffs France got off to a flying start by establishing a world record for a foal at public auction - FF 2,450,000 (£283,000), for a colt by Riverman out of Valita.
Since then many successful horses have passed through their sales ring. The Goffs France Arc de Triomphe Sale became the best Horses in Training Sale in Europe. Apart from its success as a sales company, Goffs France expanded the Group's influence in Europe, in addition to strengthening the strong ties developed with the French themselves. In 2006 Goffs France merged with the other major French Bloodstock Auction House Agence Francais to form Arqana who now conduct highly successful sales from bases in Deauville and St Cloud Racecourse.
By 1984/85 group turnover had soared to 43.4 million guineas, with 2,073 horses sold. Several new sales "highs" had been set along the way, including the 900,000 guineas European record for Arkadina at the 1981 November Breeding Stock Sales, a record which was only beaten when Turkish Treasure was sold at the 1985 November Breeding Stock Sales for a new European record price of 1.2 million guineas. However, none of the records set by Goffs exemplified the growth of the company, or that of the Irish thoroughbred industry, as dramatically as the 3.1 million guineas bid by agent Tote Cherry-Downes, on behalf of Sheik Mohammed for Camas Park Stud’s son of Shergar at the 1984 Invitation Yearling Sale. Even now that price has never been beaten for an Irish Yearling.
In 1986 Dr Paddy McGrath stepped down as Chairman of Robert J Goff after thirteen years and on his retirement was appointed to the position of Honorary Life President of the Group. Dr Michael Dargan took over the Chairmanship in 1986 which he held until 2004 and was also later appointed Honorary Life President.
Goffs pioneered the concept of incentive races allied to major sales in Europe in the mid-eighties. The Cartier Million was developed with gusto by Chief Executive Jonathan Irwin, and contributed significantly to the growth of business at Goffs. The race and sale helped to establish the name of Goffs on an even greater international stage.
A number of significant records have been set at Goffs over the years and the steady stream of top class winners emerging from the sales continues unabated. Few years have been as notable on the racecourse as 1999 with five European Classic winners having been purchased at Goffs, although 2008 was also a year of incredible success with the English Derby, Irish Derby and Irish 1000 Guineas all falling to Goffs graduates. Indeed a year hardly passes without a Goffs sold Classic winner whilst Goffs graduates regularly win at the highest level around the globe.
In 1996, Goffs established the Goffs Land Rover Sale, associated with the world's richest bumper, which has been one of the great successes in the National Hunt industry. In more recent times Goffs has further diversified its National Hunt side by launching the Goffs Punchestown Sale, selling young NH horses with form after racing at the Punchestown Festival with enormous success. Goffs work in the National Hunt sector has reaped huge rewards and many of the leading NH performers of recent years have passed through the sales ring at Goffs, including Brave Inca, Hardy Eustace, Beef Or Salmon, Newmill, Imperial Commander, Big Zeb and Finians Rainbow etc as well as the world record holder for Group 1/Grade 1 wins Hurricane Fly.
In 2005 Goffs took full advantage of the booming Irish economy and brought incentive races to a new level with the introduction of the Goffs Million concept under the Chairmanship of Eimear Mulhern, in which graduates of the company's flagship yearling sale competed for the richest juvenile prizes in European racing. The huge prize fund peaked for yearlings sold at Goffs in 2007 with a potential €5,300,000 in prize money which made it the most valuable Sales Race incentive in the world at the time.
In March 2007 Goffs held a highly successful Breeze-Up sale on the Polytrack surface at Kempton Racecourse in London. A ground-breaking foray for Goffs, this was the company's first sale to be staged in the UK and the first ever Polytrack Breeze-Up in Europe. The sale has quickly established itself as key part of the European Breeze-Up calendar and has seen winners at Royal Ascot and beyond in its short history. In 2014 it evolved into the London Sale held at The Orangery, Kensington Palace on the eve of Royal Ascot.
In 1999 Goffs appointed a Group Chief Executive in Oliver O'Reilly to work alongside the Bloodstock Managing Director, initially Phillip Myerscough and latterly Matt Mitchell. O'Reilly succeeded Michael Osborne as Chairman of Robert J. Goff in 2005 before retiring as CEO in 2007 and Chairman in 2008. Eimear Mulhern, who had chaired Goffs Bloodstock Sales since 2005, was appointed Chairman of the Group in March 2008.
One of the most significant chapters in the history of Goffs came in 2007 with the landmark merger of Goffs and Doncaster Bloodstock Sales Ltd (DBS) under the Robert J. Goff and Co. Plc. banner which saw Henry Beeby of DBS take up the position of Group Chief Executive.
Goffs is Ireland's leading Bloodstock Sales Company and DBS is the second largest and fastest growing Thoroughbred Auction House in the UK. Combined with a shareholding in the leading French Sales company Arqana, the Group is committed to becoming the leading European Sales Company by offering an unrivalled customer focused service to the Bloodstock Industry.
Like virtually every business in Ireland, and many further afield, Goffs was greatly affected by the worldwide economic crisis of 2008. Turnover which had peaked at €127 million in 2007 fell dramatically and Goffs made a number of alterations to its structure and service to react to the downturn. Throughout that time the support of Goffs shareholders was key, none more so than the largest shareholder HH The Aga Khan.
However the Company reacted in a most positive fashion and 2011 saw turnover recover by 21% with every sale enjoying a resurgence, most notably in November as Goffs sold Europe’s three highest priced foals for 10 years when progeny of the first crop of Irish legend Sea The Stars realised €850,000 and €800,000 (twice). Even more fireworks followed when Royal Ascot winner Banimpire, originally sold at Goffs by her breeder, Pat O’Kelly, realised €2.3 million to become the highest priced filly in or out of training ever sold in Ireland and Europe’s highest price of 2011.
The positive trends continued throughout 2012 with another 24% rise in annual turnover before a superb 2013 that saw a top price of €2,850,000 at the flagship Orby Yearling Sale which acted as a curtain raiser for the memorable Paulyn Dispersal in November. Paul Makin chose Goffs over all other auction houses to conduct a complete dispersal of his stock selling 24 blue blooded lots for €12,734,000. The highlight was the brilliant Irish Oaks winner Chicquita who sold for an amazing €6 million which smashed the Irish auction record and set a new European record for a filly or mare. She was the centrepiece of an incredibly strong November Sale that featured 4 million euro lots and helped the year’s turnover rise by another 45% to just short of €100 million.
The first Goffs London Sale was held in 2014. This ground breaking sale now takes place each year in the gardens of Kensington Palace, home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is held on the evening before Royal Ascot and offers horses in training for sale, many with entries to run at the Royal meeting. Buyers can purchase a horse on Monday and see it race in their name and colours that week at Royal Ascot. A top price of £1.3 million was the highlight of the inaugural sale, as well as the first Frankel foal ever to be offered at public auction who sold for £1.15m.
Goffs also held the first Goffs Champions Sale in 2014 at Leopardstown Racecourse in Dublin. This select sale of Horses In Training is the opening event on Irish Champions Weekend – one of the best weekend’s in European racing featuring 5 Group 1 races over two days at Leopardstown and the Curragh.
A new record price for the most expensive foal ever sold in Ireland was set at the 2014 Goffs November Sale when a filly foal by Frankel out of Finsceal Beo sold for €1.8m. More records followed in 2015 with four horses making over €1m at the Orby Sale, and a new highest ever price of €1.1m for a colt foal at the November Sale.