After recently breaking through the £1 million prize money barrier for the year, they are busy selling shares in promising young horses by exciting sires including Kingman, Havana Gold, Exceed And Excel and Starspangledbanner.
Each yearling has been purchased by following a rigorous criteria, as Middleham Park’s founder Tim Palin explains during a busy day at Tattersalls Book 3 sales in Newmarket.
“Before we go to any sales we draw up a list of 30-40 yearlings with suitable pedigrees,” he says. “We liaise with trainers and agents to narrow them down to a list of about 12 we would like to bid on with the expectation that we’ll get out-bid on a number of them.
“We need to be at the sales to do our due diligence and examine every horse that we’ve shortlisted. It’s a balancing act of pedigree versus looks and conformation. We basically try and buy the best page and best individual we can on a middle market budget.”
Mike Prince, who works alongside Tim and his son Tom at the sales, recalls several high profile purchases using that tried and tested approach. “We’ve bought a long list of good horses at Tattersalls including Nell Gwyn winner Esentepe. At the breeze ups we bought Ventura Storm who won a Group 1 in Italy and G Force, our Group 1 sprint winner came from the horses in training sale.
“We look for different things in horses, depending on what kind of mission we’re on. We might be looking for a sharp, racey two-year-old for a certain trainer or a scopier sort that will make a stayer,” he adds.
“Whatever we’re in the market for, good movement is important. Not too heavy, not too light and a good walk are usually the things that float my boat.”
Tom, meanwhile, stresses the importance of working to a strict budget. “We know when we enter the sales ring that we’re going to get beaten more times than we win, just like in racing, but it’s about sticking to our principals and finding value.
“We have to be disciplined as we are spending our own money. We buy our horses on spec then ultimately have to go and find owners for them. We know that when we put a value on a horse we have to be strict and can’t afford to get carried away in the heat, emotion and the theatre that goes on in the sales ring.
“Being at the sales is hugely exciting because every time a horse comes out of its box you don’t know what you’re looking at. It could be the next champion. We had no idea when we opened the stable door to Esentepe at Tattersalls that she’d be the next Nell Gwyn winner,” he says.
Whilst the Middleham Park team put a lot of research into the sales catalogues, they do occasionally buy speculatively, as Tim points out.
“Bloodstock agent Ross Doyle approached us once at Ascot Sales to say he’d seen a lovely Showcasing colt we should buy. Showcasing was only a young stallion at the time and there wasn’t much of a page but we literally bought him from the ring for £50,000. He turned out to be De Bruyne Horse who won the Woodcote for us and became a superstar as a two-year-old. We turned down a lot of offers for him.”
Now the fun starts in naming the latest crop of yearlings. Many Middleham Park horses have been named after Manchester City stars, as Tim and the team are all devoted fans of the Premier League giants.
“De Bruyne Horse (Kevin De Bruyne) was a prime example but we’ve also had Kool Kompany (Vincent Kompany) who won two Group 2s for us and Captain Dunne (Richard Dunne) who was a star sprinter in our sky blue silks. We’ve even reserved the name Citizen Kane as we believe there’s a chance we might sign England star Harry in January,” grins Tim.
With horses trained around the UK and in Ireland, they have large strings with Richard Fahey & Richard Hannon on the flat and Nicky Henderson OBE & Paul Nicholls OBE over the jumps.
They are a family run company, passionate about our business and committed to providing winners for their owners.