I love this time of year, because for me, as a thirty-something lifelong horse addict, the launch of the winter event horse sales catalogues is a little bit like that moment that the new Dover Saddlery catalogue would land through your letterbox with a hefty thump, promising an afternoon packed with multi-coloured penwork (red for things I’d realistically like to order; blue for the things I’d order if I won the lottery, of course) and daydreaming. These days, it’s trawling through free-jumping videos, looking at hock and pastern angles, and trying to picture sweet baby faces hanging over stable doors at the yard I’m based at (but all, of course, still sort of interlinked with that ‘if I won the lottery’ philosophy, if I’m honest).
Occasionally, and more so in the off-season, I also dip my toe into matchmaking horses and riders, and so when I browse through the Goresbridge Go For Gold catalogue, which I’ve been doing basically non-stop since it dropped, I’m not just looking for my own perfect horse: I’m looking for those standouts who could be a dream come true for a number of different clients, from young riders who want their first smart project to professionals who’d like to have a crack at a team in the future. And so, with that in mind, here are my favourite horses from this year’s lineup, and what I think they might be best suited to.
Fancy seeing more, including video and comprehensive X-rays? Just click on each horse’s name to head into its catalogue listing. An important note: my favourites have been chosen based off video, imagery, pedigree, and vibes – but I’ve not done a dive into those X-rays. If you’re looking to purchase, I always recommend getting your home vet to have a browse through them — there are plenty available for each horse. Now, with that boring, grown-up proviso out of the way, let’s go window shopping!
Unnamed – 16hh three-year-old filly (HHS Cornet x Lady Louisa, by Royal Concorde)
There’s a lot to like about this solid little filly, who has a presence that makes her seem much bigger than her 163cm. I’ll admit it: she first caught my eye because of that bloom of golden dapples across her coat, which, okay, isn’t the best way to pick favourites, but when I clicked through to see more of her, I found much to admire beyond aesthetic appeal. She’s got a sweet eye, and a calm confidence about her that really appeals to me – even when she’s being led around in walk, she’s curious and attentive to her surroundings, but strides out with a long, prowling, panther stride that suggests she notices everything but is confident enough in her own skin to take it all in. She’s got a neat jump on her, too, and for this reason, I’d be putting my hand up for this very commercial prospect. Even if she doesn’t end up as a top-level horse, I think she’d be a great one to produce and sell on to an amateur or young rider, because she comes across as a horse who could do a lot of different jobs. Plus, while her strong sire line barely needs mentioning, chock-full of elite jumping stallions as it is (hello, Cornet Obolensky), I love that she has a dam line full of proven producers. Her second and third dams alike have each put international event horses on the ground.
MMG Candy de Venu — 16.1hh three-year-old gelding (Sligo Candy Boy x Valina de Venu, by Venu du Theil)
As far as raw material goes, there’s a lot that’s caught my eye about this flashy gelding, who might be Irish by studbook, but is about as continental as they come, with smart Holsteiner and Selle Français lines top and bottom, and a link through to the French stallion Starter both through his sire line, thanks to the Starter grandson Baloubet du Rouet, and through his dam, who’s a granddaughter herself. He’s bred to jump, with a lot of the lines that we see event riders favouring for our sport, too, but one of the things I really like about him is that it looks like he hasn’t been overproduced as a three-year-old. Something that can put me off very quickly is a video of a three-year-old who massively overjumps, cracking its back in the air and pulling its knees to roughly the apex of its baby brain box, because often — though not always! — that tendency comes from a bit too much production for these sales. This guy, though, naturally susses out the fences, and jumps like a (talented) baby; right now, he lifts his body rather than tucking his front legs, and that’s something that doesn’t bother me one bit, because I’m confident that as he begins his ridden career, he’ll learn to be very neat. His paces are balanced and pleasant, rather than ‘WOW’, and that, too, is something I like. You’d be able to develop the thrust off the ground, and find it easier than working with a horse who has so much natural pizzazz that he unbalances himself in the process.
Something else I love about this guy is that I get the sense that he’s probably a bit of a cheeky chappy: there’s a humorous glint in his eye and a head-toss upon landing from a fence that tells me he’ll give the right rider a lot of fun, but, as with many Balou du Rouet progeny, even once removed from the great sire, he’s probably got a touch of the professional ride about him. I’ll be keeping a close eye on who puts their money forward for this one.
MBF Longford — 16hh three-year-old gelding (Moonlight Silver Shadow x Grace Flight, by Test Flight)
Every year, there’s a couple of part-Connemaras in this sale that I think would be SUCH good fun for a younger rider, who’s ready for such a task, to produce — and this year is no exception. This cute-as-a-button, petite-but-not-pint-sized gelding is Connie on top, Irish Sport Horse on the bottom, and while he’s largely inherited a bit of the natural pony paces, he’s really got a pop on him and looks brave and tough, too. I could see him doing lots of different things — eventing, hunting, zooming around some Pony Club jumping, and I suspect he could be quite useful in all of them. Of course, Connies can be little spitfires, so I’m hardly recommending you throw a bid down for your ten-year-old kiddo to have something to ‘learn together’ with, but this could be a really cool project for a teenager or an amateur rider who’s got a good trainer on side to supervise.
Borris Chacoa Time — 16.2hh three-year-old gelding (Chacoa x First Time, by Lancelot)
For some reason, it feels like there’s a lot of entries in this year’s catalogue called Boris or Borris or BoJo, all of which kind of gives me the ick because I’ve had to live through a chaotic Tory government for the past few years and frankly, I’d rather not think about that when I’m decompressing at the yard. But this guy can make my list anyway, because I think he’s quite a cool horse. I like Chacoa, who tends to throw versatile, athletic horses across the disciplines; he even has a couple of upper-level dressage progeny, and his eventing offspring include Nicola Wilson’s One Two Many, Karl Slezak’s Fernhill Wishes, and Aaron Millar’s KEC Deakon, who did a 28.8 at Badminton this spring and was top ten in the CCI4*-L at Bramham.
This chap ticks a few boxes for me: he’s got plenty of clearance behind, so there’s less of a chance of interference as he’s moving; he’s well-put-together and balanced; and he seems clever and sensitive. I like how he jumps, and the innate ability that he has to use his shoulder at every part of his effort so that he lands lightly and travelling forward, rather than plunging and having to pull himself back up. I get the sense he might have a bit about him, so perhaps he’s for the more experienced rider, but someone who can tap into a quick, sensitive horse like this will have a lot of very good raw material to play with. After all, it’s those riders who will find they want a bit more sharpness as they move up the levels. I think we could well see this one go to a ‘name’.
Newmarket Rocco — 16.1hh three-year-old gelding (Uricas VD Kattevennen x Newmarket Bouncer, by Mermus R)
Okay, I’m going to be really really real with you here: at first, I was going to scroll straight past this chap, because I didn’t love his long, thin, high-set neck. And then I realised exactly what it reminded me of: Ros Canter’s Blenheim and Pau winner, Izilot DHI, who has such a similar set and shape to his neck that sometimes, if you catch him at the wrong angle, he looks a bit look a spooky brontosaurus. But also, he’s extraordinarily talented, so I thought perhaps I should be a bit less neck-ist and actually have a look at Rocco’s videos.
There, I found plenty of plus points, most of them to do with a super, active, straight hind end. I enjoyed how much space he gives himself when you watch him move on a straight line; I enjoyed, even more, seeing the reach and step he naturally has in trot and, more pertinently, in canter. His jump is still pretty raw; though he’s not a tall horse, proportionately he’s all leg at the moment, and you can see that in the way he lands, but I also think that time and growing up will work their magic there. I also like that he’s out of a Mermus R mare; there’s a few Mermus R progeny floating around the International levels that I like, and he’s a stallion I’m curious about. The more I think about this horse, the more I like him. I think he could be a very cool horse in the future.
MBF Replacement — 16.1hh three-year-old gelding (Stetter x Voshana M, by Oberon du Moulin)
Mostly, I’ve been reeled in here by this gelding’s goofy, charming expression. It’s giving class clown and feed bowl chucker, and I think every yard needs one of those to keep spirits high on long, dreary winter days. There’s also potential here to create a real athlete; he has a nice, big step, plenty of push off the ground in both trot and canter, and while he doesn’t have the super-fast reaction times while jumping that some of the really sharp types can have, he’s game, and sensible, and scopey enough to give his new owner plenty of fun and satisfaction while producing him. He might not be a five-star horse — or he might, because there’s only so much you can tell from an unbacked three-year-old — but I think he’d do a job very handily, and make for a nice one to produce through or one to start and then sell on to his long-term person.
Unnamed — 16.1hh three-year-old gelding (Imperial Hights x Mill River Princess, by Nigrasine)
I’m not sure I’d ever actually go for a Master Imp for myself — this chap is a paternal grandson of the famous sire, whose progeny include Mandiba, High Kingdom, and Ringwood Magister — but there’s no denying they’re seriously, seriously capable when produced by a pro. Often, a Master Imp will have no limit to its jumping ability, but that comes paired with a quirky, sharp temperament; this guy, of course, isn’t a direct son, and so it’s fair to hope that there might be some dilution of that, um, sparkle. I do also like Master Imp lines best when they’re mixed with plenty of blood, and this chap’s dam’s breeding is half unrecorded, but the half we can see is Thoroughbred, so that’s promising, too. It’s evident, anyway, that he finds jumping very, very easy indeed, and so he’d be a horse I’d like to see in the flesh, to interact with in the stable, and to watch jump at those Barnadown days to see what he’s really made of.
The Goresbridge Go For Gold Select Event Horse Sale will take place November 13–15 at Barnadown and the Amber Springs Hotel in Co. Wexford, Ireland. Bids can be made in person or remotely, and horses will be available to view over the three days at Barnadown. For more information, to check out all the lots, and to register as a bidder, click here — and Go Shopping!