Fusion will be offered at Tattersalls on 1st December 2020.

A chance to inherit a Duke’s racing legacy

Written by: Claira Miesegaes

If you were to wander along the High Street in the old Suffolk town of Newmarket on a frosty early December evening, you might just hear the distant chant of a Tattersalls auctioneer and the hammer strike the rostrum as yet another horse is knocked down to an auspicious buyer.

Established in 1766, the world’s oldest bloodstock auction house lights up at the culmination of each year with the December Foal and Mare Sales. Bidders battle to secure a one-, two-, even three-, million-pound horse which they can take to the racecourse, or straight home to the paddocks to breed the next generation of the thoroughbred.

In spite of the plethora of complications presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s renewals of the two sales are still likely to be memorable. This is particularly true for the Duchess of Roxburghe, as a partial dispersal of her late husband’s stock will be offered in the Tattersalls ring. 

Nestled on the banks of the river Tweed in the Scottish Borderse, Floors Castle has been the Roxburghe family home since it was built for the first Duke in 1721. Alongside the immaculate gardens, through which visitors enjoy endless walks and cycle trails, you will find Floors Stud, the thoroughbred breeding operation behind Guy Innes-Ker, 10th Duke of Roxburghe.

Floors Castle (courtesy of the Duke of Roxburghe)
Floors Castle (courtesy of the Duke of Roxburghe).

Against the advice of many in the industry, and led by his enthusiasm for the thoroughbred, the Duke spent much of his time developing the reputation of Floors Stud as one of the most accomplished commercial breeding banners within the racing world.

Chris Gillon, who leads a team of three members of staff that operate the stud, emphasised the adversity that the Duke faced in the stud’s primitive years, and how determined he was to prove its early critics wrong:

“Everybody told him in the beginning that you can’t really run a stud up in Scotland. I think he took on board what everyone had said, and I think that really drove him on to make it a success,” Gillon recounted.

The Duke, who was a widely revered horseman and Chairman of the National Stud in Newmarket, spent 30 years nurturing just two thoroughbred families which would go on to make up much of Floors’ success, both on the racecourse and at the sales.

A filly that he bred and named Attraction would later become a flagbearer for the Duke, winning five of the world’s toughest turf races including an English Classic, the 1,000 Guineas, and the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in front of Her Majesty The Queen.

Attraction’s trainer, Mark Johnston, always credited the Duke’s eye for racing and breeding:

“He clearly had a vision for it”, Johnston said. “A small band of mares from two families and he did so well to build them up. This is what’s so important about these old studs – these owner-breeders – who develop these families and have faith in them and how right he was proved.”

Attraction has since produced wonderful offspring which have gone on to sell for substantial sums at the sales and, in the case of her son Elarqam, land some of British racing’s most coveted prizes.

Though the Duke met his untimely death at the age of 64 last year, his fingerprints on the sport will be traceable for years to come.

Attraction with the Duke of Roxburghe and family after winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot (credit RacingFotos)
Attraction with the Duke of Roxburghe and family after winning the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot (credit RacingFotos).

Though the Duke met his untimely death at the age of 64 last year, his fingerprints on the sport will be traceable for years to come.

At the upcoming December Foal and Mare Sales at Tattersalls, his family will offer 14 lots. This partial dispersal of Floors bloodstock indicates a scaling back of the family’s own breeding endeavours, but at the same time it represents a rare and exciting opportunity for others to buy into thoroughbred bloodlines that are steeped in British equine heritage and have been carefully curated over so many years.

Seven foals will go through the ring this Friday 27th November, followed by seven mares next Tuesday 1st December. The septet of broodmares includes two half-sisters to Attraction, namely Fusion (Lot 1691) and Federation (Lot 1693).

A son of the great Attraction fetched 1,100,000 guineas (£1,155,000) this October and Edward Mahony, Chairman of Tattersalls, believes buyers will, yet again, dig deep to secure members of this renowned family:

“The late Duke of Roxburghe was a passionate and hugely successful owner-breeder and left a lasting legacy which was never more obvious than at Book 1 of the recent October Yearling Sales, where two of the six Floors yearlings sold for more than one million guineas,” Mahony reflected.

“As with so many dispersals it is tinged with sadness, but we are proud that Tattersalls has been entrusted with the Floors Stud partial dispersal and confident that it will be amongst the highlights of Europe’s premier foal and breeding stock sale.”

Fusion will be offered at Tattersalls on 1st December 2020.
Fusion, Attraction's half-sister, will be offered at Tattersalls on 1st December 2020.

Minty Farquhar, acting general manager of Great British Racing International, the sport’s designated service-provider for individuals looking to invest in British racing and breeding, also predicts that the lots will sell well:

“We have witnessed such resilience at the sales this year; the exceptional quality of horse on offer in Britain has helped sustain much of the demand at the sales, in spite of the impacts of Covid-19, which are of course still keenly felt across the industry.

“The December Foal and Mare Sales will once again offer world-famous pedigrees in 2020, with the Duke of Roxburghe’s partial dispersal likely to generate a huge amount of interest amongst purchasers around the ring, eager to inherit such stellar bloodlines and keep the torch burning for these equine families.

“It is rare to be afforded the opportunity to buy into families like these. Our thoughts are, of course, with the Duchess of Roxburghe and those that look after Floors Stud, and we hope that their incredible work over the last few decades and the significance of the Duke’s legacy will be reflected in generous bids.”

The lots will be consigned on behalf of the Innes-Ker family by Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber’s stud at Kiltinan Castle. Simon Marsh, general manager of the Lloyd-Webbers’ breeding operation, paid his own tribute to the Duke:

“We are honoured to have been asked to handle the partial dispersal on behalf of Floors Stud.

“Guy Roxburghe was a great friend and the mares and foals being sold are a wonderful and lasting testament to his commitment and success as a Classic-winning breeder.”

Follow the live action at the Tattersalls December Foal and Mare Sales (25th-28th November; 30th November-3rd December) at tattersalls.com.

If you are interested in becoming involved in British racing or breeding, or would like more information about the Tattersalls December Sale, please contact Minty Farquhar at [email protected].