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Moroneys smash record to get their King

9 min read
Emboldened by the domination of Northern Hemisphere-bred horses in last week's G1 Cox Plate, bloodstock agent Paul Moroney was prepared to set new records in his pursuit of English King (Fr) (Camelot {GB}) at the Tattersalls Autumn Horses In Training Sale.

The final bid of 925,000 gns (AU$1.787 million) was a new high-water mark for Europe's premier horses-in-training sale as Moroney, bidding through good friend Armando Duarte on behalf of a syndicate of New Zealand and Australian clients, saw off underbidder Ted Voute for the Lingfield Derby Trial winner and pre-race Epsom Derby favourite.

The horse had been on Moroney's wanted list for his brother Mike's Melbourne stables since he emerged as leading 3-year-old candidate at the start of the racing season, and over recent weeks, he pulled together a syndicate, including significant stable supporter Gerard Peterson and New Zealand businessman Rod Duke, to bankroll his pursuit of the Camelot (GB) colt.

"He'd been on the radar from the time I saw him win the Lingfield Derby Trial earlier this year. To my way of thinking, that was the most dominant performance of any race I saw in Europe this year. The horse showed he had a great turn of foot and to go on and win impressively, and break the track record," Moroney told TDN AusNZ.

"To my way of thinking, that was the most dominant performance of any race I saw in Europe this year." - Paul Moroney

"He went out favourite for the Derby and it probably came a bit quickly for him. The Derby was also a very messy affair this year. The leader went out by a long way, and everything sat off it, and it galloped all the way to the line, Serpentine. English King got back in the ruck, but he picked up and ran home strongly there."

Moroney felt the relatively quick back-up into the G3 Gordon S. at Goodwood, where English King was beaten into fourth by Mogul (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) was not to the colt's advantage, while his sixth in the G1 Grand Prix de Paris, again won by Mogul, represented some of the best staying form in Europe this year.

"Mogul is clearly a high-class horse who is right at the top of his game. He won impressively beating the German Derby winner In Swoop, who was subsequently second in the Arc. Mogul himself was unlucky not to have won the Arc this year, he was probably the best horse, but he was scratched ahead of it," he said.

"The form through that Grand Prix de Paris stood up through all those other races, and it was by far the best formline of any of those top races."

Moroney was aware that English King, who has been prepared by Ed Walker, was being offered through the private market, but those couple of runs after the Derby saw discussions with his owner Bjorn Nielsen stall, and much to the agent's delight, he ended up being offered through the Tattersalls Sale.

Sir Dragonet comparisons

He said he saw a lot of similarities between English King and another son of Camelot, Sir Dragonet (Ire), the former Coolmore galloper who was able to win the G1 Cox Plate for his Australian owners and local trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, last weekend.

"He has all the same hallmarks as Sir Dragonet, who won the Cox Plate this year. He's by the same sire and both horses were dominant in stakes races in the lead in to the Derby and both were beaten as favourites in the Derby," he said.

"Sir Dragonet has come back to better form with an extra year in him in Europe this year and has run very well without winning before proving he is right up to the best by coming out to Australia and winning the Cox Plate."

Moroney feels English King could be even more suited to Australia than Sir Dragonet, given his preference for firm ground.

"This horse has got a lot of quality. He's got a real turn of foot on top of the ground, which is something which we think is vital for horses coming Down Under," he said.

"He's got a real turn of foot on top of the ground, which is something which we think is vital for horses coming Down Under." - Paul Moroney

"I had lengthy discussions with the connections, particularly the owner Bjorn Nielsen, and he just said it was a business decision to sell the horse. He owns a stable and races a string of horses and COVID-19 has put the business model under strain. That was the reason he came up for sale."

That reasoning was backed up by Walker, who admitted the sale was bittersweet when he spoke to TDN Europe after the Sale.

Ed Walker (left) | Image courtesy of Tattersalls

“I’d far rather have won it in the Derby, obviously. But it was all a bit of a perfect storm. I suppose in a normal year, Bjorn may have sold more yearlings, and might have been up for competing internationally with this horse. But when I tried to persuade Bjorn to keep him, and aim for all these big races in Australia and Hong Kong and around the world, quite rightly he was worried as to whether we’d be able to race in those races. Will racing be happening? Will we be able to travel? Will the horse?," Walker said.

“But look, it’s a great result. Bjorn puts a lot into the game. So I do take great pride. A lot of trainers nowadays are selling through professional consignors. But Luca [Cumani, whom Walker served as assistant] used to take a lot of pride in preparing his horse for the sales, and I try to replicate that. When Luca retired, I wrote and asked for his spot in the Somerville Paddock and Tattersalls kindly gave it to me. We try to produce our horses sound and well, and it’s always good to get a result."

Price is right

While he had set a nice record for a horse purchased through the Sale, Moroney, who had a budget of around $2 million, felt it was a fair price and compared well to what had reportedly been paid for Sir Dragonet by Ozzie Kheir and his associates.

"Our opinion of the horse gave us the confidence to give a valuation to our clients that we thought this was a price that it wasn't out of the way for what horses are costing at the very top end to bring out from Europe to Australia," he said.

English King will arrive in Australia in December before entering Moroney's brother's Melbourne stables in January and will be joined on the trip by Emissary (GB) (Kingman {GB}), the stakes-placed half-brother to multiple Group 1 winner Workforce (GB) (King's Best {USA}), and Keats (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), a last start winner of the Listed Navigation S. for Aidan O'Brien.

Lot 1153a - English King (Fr)

Emissary shines bright

Moroney, Duarte and Ballymore stables paid 350,000 gns (AU$676,200) for Emissary on Wednesday, who also contested the Derby at Epsom for trainer Hugo Palmer, from Juddmonte Farms.

"When Juddmonte put their horses in training draft through, you always look at what is there and what is available. They’ve got a great record of taking progressive horses to auction within their model. A lot of those have come out to Australia to perform. To us, he was a standout of their draft," Moroney said.

"He too contested the English Derby and got caught up in the ruck and didn’t find his way around Epsom that well, but he was considered good enough by Juddmonte and his trainer Hugo Palmer to have taken on the race.

"He is a typical European, slighter build and a more immature type of colt that has got it all in front him. He's a horse that we have done a lot of homework with. I know Hugo quite well. I spoke to him about this horse and he said he's going to go on. He's got the raw talent there and, in his opinion, he's the ideal horse to come down to Australia."

Lot 1126 - Emissary (GB)

Keats hit the mark

On Tuesday, Moroney got what he thinks is a steal, in paying 200,000 gns (AU$386,400) for Keats, who is out of the Group 1-winning sprinter Airwave (GB) (Air Express {Ire}), who has three stakes winner to her credit, including Meow (Ire) (Storm Cat {USA}), the dam of Group 1 winners Churchill (Ire) and Clemmie (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}).

"I'm still pinching myself that we bought him for what we did. I thought we'd have to pay a lot more to get him," he said.

"He's a very progressive horse with an outstanding pedigree. He was a little bit outside what we might normally look for. We normally go there looking to buy stayers, but having secured Buffalo River, who is a very promising horse and was Group 1-placed at his most recent start, we realise that these good European stakes-quality horses can perform at the top level at eight to 10 furlongs in Australia as well.

"He's a scopey horse with a proper pedigree, by a champion sire out of a wonderful, wonderful family and he also has possible stallion credentials down here if he can become a Group 1 performer."

Moroney said he felt the middle market at the Tattersalls Horses In Training Sale was particularly good shopping, with several of the buyers from the Middle East, seemingly not active this year.

"It seems that the COVID-19 problems have put a halt to their dominance in that market in recent times. A lot of those new racing countries, who are putting up big prizemoney and trying to attract new owners, they've obviously been hit pretty hard," he said.

"That made horses like Keats more able to be bought and Emissary by the same token. They would normally be snapped up by Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudai Arabia or Qatar, those racing circuits with the big prizemoney that ahs sprung up through their festivals in the past few years."