Orby In Focus: Nick Nugent’s Orby Blog - Have I Been Here So Long?





Have I Been Here So Long?


The last fortnight has seen three Goffs sales, two in Doncaster and one in Ireland. And now we have just two weeks to our flagship Orby and Sportsman’s yearling sales.

At the record-breaking yearling sale in Doncaster, the top five (and eight of the top ten) yearlings were consigned from Ireland so, with the Orby offering select yearlings from many of those vendors, there is plenty to look forward to.

The Goffs UK Premier Sale was followed last week by a much improved horses-in-training sale and then it was back to Ireland for another renewal of the boutique Champions Sale before racing at Leopardstown.  Ironically the top lot here was a two-year-old filly from a UK yard - Mark Johnston’s Izzy Bizu, a stakes winner this summer in Deauville. Last year another UK two-year-old filly made the headlines - subsequent USA Gr.2 winner Madam Dancealot.

While all this was going on, the online world was entertained by a lone bat whose couple of minutes in a Co. Kerry kitchen has been viewed by millions of people.  My home in Co Westmeath is another frequently invaded by bats but I fear that a video of my feigning bravery in night attire would not have the same appeal. There is also often a bat in Goffs that may well make an appearance for the opening Lots of the Orby Sale. Perhaps we should have Derry from Kerry in his shorts and long socks on standby.

This will be my 31st sales season. When I started in 1987, at the very first Cartier Million Sale, it was the year of U2’s Joshua Tree whose anniversary year has attracted rather more attention than my own.  Reference Point had won the Derby that year for Henry Cecil and Steve Cauthen while, at the Curragh, Sir Harry Lewis had taken the Irish equivalent for Barry Hills and John Reid. 

The 1987 Million Sale had approximately 250 yearlings sold over three evening sessions, with about 130 second level yearlings selling in each of the daytime sessions.  1987 welcomed the first  yearlings by both Sadlers Wells and El Gran Senor, with the latter providing the top lot, a colt from Mount Coote Stud that made 780,000 gns to agent George Blackwell.

In those days smoking was permitted in the auditorium and I dread to think how much nicotine was consumed each day.  It was so bad that one buyer was waving cigar smoke away with such vigour that, as an over enthusiastic young spotter I mistook it for a bid, let out an enormous roar and the auctioneer hopped the price up another 20,000 guineas.  Before I could point out my mistake another spotter thankfully shouted, the price went up and my blood pressure went down.  I all but lit a cigarette myself to calm me down.

Post sale socialising mainly took place in two Naas venues, Lawlors and the now closed Manor Inn.  None of the many other excellent restaurants in the town today had opened at that stage. The main bulk of buyers stayed in the Cill Dara Hotel opposite Goffs, the Keadeen in Newbridge or the Green Isle near Newlands Cross.  There was no K Club, Osprey or Killashee which today absorb the largest number of visitors.

Within the Goffs complex itself Aer Lingus were in charge of catering and their staff at one time time included Brendan O’Carroll, of Mrs Brown fame.  The catering of 1987 offered a very different range of options to today.  Around that time I recall a scene in Ballykissangel, a gentle television drama set in rural Ireland, when the local pub is to be sold.  The owner says something like, "I’m damned if I’m going to sell the place to some Johnny from Dublin with a ponytail and 20 different names for a cup of coffee”. Well those “Johnnys” had the right idea and Goffs now has at least four different locations at which an espresso, cappuccino or herbal tea can be sourced.  

The 1987 yearling catalogue was the first to carry a Goffs fax number though most clients were still relying on its predecessor, the telex machine.  Mobile phones were a rarity so there were constant paging announcements as telephone calls all came through the main switchboard and a dedicated area of the balcony held eight telephone booths.  The press room on the balcony was manned by pre-computerised reporters and I well remember the clacking of the typewriter operated by the Irish Independent’s Tom McCormack. 

In just one relatively short period therefore there have been many changes to the Goffs experience but, despite this, one thing remains constant.  Somewhere in Goffs, and at every price level, there will be a number of horses that will prove to be well worth buying. Ribchester, who cost €105,000 and won another Group 1 in Sunday's Prix Du Moulin, is the star buy of his generation.  As for the 2017 crop, only time will tell.

View the Orby Catalogue here.