Barry Irwin will miss Kentucky Derby to attend 2007 National Yearling Sale
(Press release from Bloodstock South Africa)

Barry Irwin of Team Valor, with huge financial investments, was one of the pivotal figures fuelling the emergence of the South African horseracing industry as a major player on the world stage during the early 2000s.

Despite an important race meeting in the US, the Kentucky-based bloodstock supremo will be attending this week’s Emperor’s Palace National Yearling Sale at the TBA Sale Complex.

Irwin’s love affair with South African racing started five years ago when he purchased the majority share in the wonderful race-mare Ipi Tombe just after she had won the Vodacom Durban July.

The Mike de Kock-trained Ipi Tombe went on to conquer Dubai, winning among other major feature races the then $US2 million Dubai Duty Free. At the end of her career she was sold in foal to Sadlers Wells for approximately US$1,7 million.

Irwin followed his shrewd purchase of Ipi Tombe by securing a band of other stars including Crimson Palace (Group 1 winner in the US), Warning Zone (Group 1 placed) and Irridescence (Group 1 QE11 Cup).

As a result of these early successes Irwin made a commitment to find potential champions in the South African market every year. He spends hours studying pedigrees and is big on conformation.

Irwin’s last two years at the National Sale have yielded remarkable success, too. It was quite fitting that, one week before this year’s Sale, his 2005 NYS purchase Sally Bowles won Saturday’s Grade 2 KwaZulu-Natal Fillies Guineas. This came on the heels of a smart victory by Stately in the Grade 3 Strelitzia Stakes. Both are trained by Neil Bruss.

Irwin is looking forward to another successful Sale and said at the weekend: “I am coming to the National Yearling Sale for a third successive year. The timing this year is not ideal, as the date switch means that for the first time in several years I will miss the Kentucky Derby.

“It should be taken as a measure of how important the National Yearling Sale is to Team Valor’s programme that I am willing to pass up being at Churchill Downs to be in Germiston.’’

Irwin gave a rundown of Team Valor’s recent Sale successes. “At our first sale we bought three colts and four fillies. One of the fillies is Little Miss Magic, who beat her elders this season in the Grade 1 Empress Club Stakes. Another of the fillies is Sally Bowles, who last year was beaten a nose in the Grade 1 Allan Robertson Fillies Championship at Scottsville and on Saturday confirmed her potential when winning the Grade 2 KZN Fillies Guineas. All seven of our first year’s purchases are winners.

“Last year I bought five colts and five fillies. Two of the colts have run, one winning. Field Event won last Wednesday, breaking the class record for 1200m at Clairwood. He was far and away the most expensive lot I have ever purchased at R1,6 million. His trainer Neil Bruss and jockey Jeff Lloyd think of him as a potential classic colt for next season.

“Just one of the 5 fillies from last year has started. She is Stately and last Sunday she made the Grade 3 Strelitzia Stakes her second win in three starts. She paid 40 to 1, which was fun. It is always good to start the sequence of new youngsters with a Graded winner right off the bat.

“Although we paid a lot for Field Event, most of the purchases of ours that have rung the bell were cheaply bought. Stately cost R100,000 and Sally Bowles fetched only about R140 000.”

Irwin is most complimentary about South African breeders in general and the quality of bloodstock presented at the National Sale. He commented: “I enjoy coming to the yearling sale because, as opposed to sale in North America, these young horses are not fooled with and are honestly and truly presented by serious horsemen and women. I have great respect for the way horses are raised in South Africa. They are classy and tough as nails.

“I like the setup at the sales grounds. The people could not be more accommodating in presenting their horses. You have one of the top vets in the world available to review radiographs. And the selection of trainers available to develop the stock is world class.

“We like to spread out stock around. Right now we have horses with Mike de Kock, Geoff Woodruff, Glen Kotzen, Neil Bruss, Justin Snaith and Mike Azzie. We plan to continue with this policy. At this week’s sale, I hope to buy up to eight fillies and a couple of colts,” adds Irwin.

In the US, Team Valor has a classic colt this season in King of the Roxy, a Group 2 winner this year and last who prepped for the Kentucky Derby by running second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

Irwin said: “King Of The Roxy had a clear lead with 100 yards to go and blew up, then did not gallop out strongly, so instead of going in the Derby on the first Saturday in May, we will reserve him for the second leg of our Triple Crown in the Preakness two weeks later.”

He concluded: “When we buy a horse we have a vision of what it can achieve. Most of the trainers we have worked with have respect for our opinion and have seen us transform enough horses over the years from no-names to Graded stakes winners that they readily accept our input. Our Horses are hand picked and placed well, so they rarely get lost in the shuffle.”