All’s well that ends well for Jeffries and West

By Brad Reid

9 March 2021

They say in life that all is well that ends well. For Mike Jefferies, to call his yearling sales experience anything but tumultuous would be an understatement.

Heading to the sales with a Bettor’s Delight colt out of the Group Two winning American Ideal mare Start Dreaming should have been a recipe for smooth sailing.

It was far from it. Brian West & team

Standing on his deck in Governor’s Bay two weeks after the fact, the outcome is serendipitous to say the least and one he tells with a wry smile.

The story starts with a connection between Jefferies and his co-consignor of Lot 250 at the Christchurch sale, Brian West, dating back some 50 years.

West was the best man at Jefferies wedding in 1978.

They also go back to the halcyon days of the Yonkers Breeding syndicates prior to the share market crash.

While Jefferies had an interest in some of those syndicates, he wasn’t involved in the share market being a schoolteacher with a mortgage and a young family and was largely unaffected.

Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Yonkers Breeding.

Nevertheless, tough times don’t last but tough people do (raining cliches).

West and Jefferies persevered. While one has always been in a lot deeper entrenched with his investment than the other, the pair have been rewarded for their commitment to the industry as water continues to flow under the bridge.

“I’ve known Brian an awfully long time,” said Jefferies.

“Without cutting it too fine or going too far back, the Start Dreaming saga started when he called me saying he had just spent $40,000 on a yearling and did I want to get involved.

“At the time I couldn’t afford too, and ‘it’ turned out to be Lancome,” he said.

Not going to miss out on a second opportunity, when West came knocking again with another proposition, Jefferies was not prepared to tempt fate and miss out.

“It was actually my wife who convinced me to invest the second time round. We were building a home and probably couldn’t afford it either, but Brian had told me he had just purchased a Bettor’s Delight filly out of a full sister to Under Cover Lover from Graeme Pearson and this was a family you couldn’t buy into.

“I borrowed the money to go in on Delightful Lover and was out at Brian’s place inspecting the mare when he told me about another mare that his partner on the horse was looking to quit.

“She was well-bred but he wanted $8000 for the mare and about half that for the foal at foot.

“I couldn’t afford them both, but I knew I could scrape enough money together to go in on the foal which was quite a nice type,” he said.

While the Delightful Lover purchase amounted to very little tangible success, the speculative purchase made the same day in acquiring an American Ideal filly was quite the opposite.

The aptly named Start Dreaming (2011 American Ideal – Simply Devine) showed plenty from the day she was sent to Chris McDowell and quickly found herself headed north to Barry Purdon.

From there she quickly became a favourite of the Ardmore based trainer and didn’t take long to find herself in the winner’s circle.

“I was at a wedding and managed to slip outside with a few mates just in time to watch her first race,” said Jefferies.

It was a winning one and after stacking them up, she showed a huge amount of class to zip home in 27 seconds untouched.

As is often the case with age group racing, as good as Start Dreaming was, she was born in a crop that had one filly better than her in another American Ideal filly, The Orange Agent.

It didn’t deter her from running second to The Orange Agent in the Group One Northern Oaks at just her fourth start.

She won her next three starts before slipping her overcheck 300m after the start of the New Zealand Oaks at Addington.

In what seems to be a common theme in most of the Stipes reports for Start Dreaming, over racing and getting keen in the running did her no favours in chasing The Orange Agent.

She sat outside her in the Jewels at Ashburton running third, two lengths behind.

The pair then took their rivalry over the ditch where the Barry Purdon trained mare provided Jefferies with his greatest thrill racing his filly.

“Running second in the Breeders Crown final for three-year-old fillies was the highlight for me. I remember watching the race with friends and I didn’t realise until afterwards that I had tears in my eyes.

“She was just so tough and although The Orange Agent went past her, she had to work around and sit parked for the last lap and never threw in the towel, she was just so tough,” he said proudly.

Start Dreaming would go on and win a Group Two in Australia when she beat a good field of mares in the Robin Dundee Classic in 2016 and although efforts were made to persevere, she had trouble staying sound.

Despite showing class in winning two trials a year after her previous race start in 2016, a decision was made to pull pin with seven wins and six placings from just 19 starts with $173,682 in stakes money won.

As Jefferies puts it, it was a ‘no brainer’ sending a high-quality mare like Start Dreaming to super sire, Bettor’s Delight.

It was also a no brainer she returned home to her co-owners and have her very commercial offspring prepared at the powerful Studholme Bloodstock operation at Coes Ford in Canterbury.

Three years of patience was set to be rewarded on Tuesday the 23rd of February when having had to wait a further week due to Covid complications, Start Dreaming’s first progeny was set to be offered through the ring as Lot 232.

“We had sold our house and were building another,” said Jefferies.

“I had used some of the proceeds from the sale that probably should have gone into the new build to pay off some existing horse debts so there was a bit of pressure on me to recoup some of that money with the colt,” he said.

“We had a reserve of $60,000 (Brian wanted it to be $70k) just because I wanted it sold. So, when it went through the ring and fetched $110,000, I was elated and was bouncing around.

“It had taken all the pressure off that I had been feeling, particularly with the postponement and very real prospect that we might not be able to proceed.

“Even to the extent where you are terrified just watching them come off the float and go into the boxes unscathed,” he laughed.

No less then 20 minutes later, elation turned to dread when Jefferies received a call asking him to proceed to the sales office.

“I had some friends come out to watch the sale. We were basically celebrating and discussing the auction and some of the semantics around the reserve and what I would have been happy to receive.

“I trotted over back to the sales ring where I was met by James Jennings who asked if I knew what had happened. That’s when he told me we had sold the wrong horse, which as you could appreciate was a bit of a game changer at the time,” he said.

“He was brilliant in how he dealt with it, but it made it no less easy given I was happy with the price we had fetched and now had the anxiety around what would happen next and how it had happened at all.”

Firstly, the sale was cancelled as the wrong horse was presented.

NZB acted swiftly and met the vendors with the only alternative of offering the Start Dreaming colt the following day.

The following message was then posted on to the website and was read to those in attendance.

Due to a regrettable misidentification at the consignor’s property, Lot 392 (B.C. Captaintreacherous – Lily Lancome), was inadvertently presented by Studholme Bloodstock for sale today as Lot 232 (B.C. Bettor’s Delight – Start Dreaming). 

 This has been corrected and both lots will now be presented for sale tomorrow.  Lot 392 (B.C. Captaintreacherous – Lily Lancome) in catalogue order and Lot 232 (B.C. Bettor’s Delight – Start Dreaming) at the end of the sale session.  Both horses will be available for inspection from 8:00am tomorrow at the Studholme Bloodstock boxes in J Row.

The next step in correcting the error was ascertaining how it happened, and where the Start Dreaming colt had gotten too.

Stories had begun to filter round the Sales yard and one in particular I heard was that Barry Purdon who had trained the mother was ringside and was trying to find a reason as to why he should bid on the horse in front of him.

He loved the mother and she was one of his favourites, but on type he couldn’t find much about the yearling in the ring to warrant serious action.

“We worked out that when the yearlings were brought back in at Christmas time, there had been a mix up and the two affected yearlings were somehow swapped into the wrong paddock.

“This lead to the yearlings being boxed and paraded incorrectly at the Canterbury Yearling Tour and implicated all the marketing and videos we had done.

It’s interesting looking back at some feedback at the time from the likes of Peter Lagan who said the Start Dreaming colt was not the type of yearling he had hoped for given how good his mother was and given who he was sired by.

“It was hard to hear because that straight away eliminates one of your bigger buyers.

“The irony of all of this is that Robert Dunn who I’d raced horses with told me after the fact that John Dunn had been to the parade and come away saying the pick of Brian West’s draft is the Lily Lancome colt that he had paraded as.”

Spear a thought for the poor old Lily Lancome colt in all of this.

It probably could have been a lot worse consequences for West had he not had a half share in the Start Dreaming colt and not owned the Lily Lancome colt outright.

Could have been tough explaining that to a different set of owners, but nevertheless, the two yearlings arrived the next day as the talk of the town and if anything, had generated more interest than they would have otherwise.

Mark Purdon who had been knocked down what he thought was the Start Dreaming colt on Tuesday had probably generated even further inspection of the once again available Lot 250 with serious buyers adopting an approach that if it’s good enough for Mark, it’s good enough for me.

“Michael House who raced the grand dam made the comment to someone from NZB while we were in ear shot that this colt was far more like it and could actually be a $200,000 yearling,” said Jefferies.

With considerable interest and inspections taking place of the real Start Dreaming colt, things were starting to look up for Jefferies and West.

However just as things were taking a positive turn, the colt reared in his box and grazed his chest on a bolt that was not obvious to the eye but was protruding from the wall in his stall.

While just superficial, it added another unwanted twist in the tale and the cut can be clearly seen in the photo in this article once the horse was finally sold.

“We just iced him up and walked him so that he wouldn’t go stiff or anything, but I was pretty pleased it wasn’t on his legs,” said Jefferies.

While waiting for their second shot at glory, the Captaintreacherous colt out of Lily Lancome went through in his allotted order of 392 and was knocked down for a slight discount at $28,000.

To this point it had probably been only a par sale for West and his Studholme clients given the bloodstock they had presented.

Two six figure lots in Lot 224 (Bettor’s Delight – Simply Devine) and 257 (Art Major – Under The Odds) had kept things on track, but West had taken a hit on his Sweet Lou (3) and Captaintreacherous (2) colts with the latter having sold gang busters a year prior.

Thanks to the mix up a day earlier, the Studholme draft now had two of the final four lots of the day.

As Steve Davis always says, buy the one you want, not the one that’s left.

Fortunately for West and Jefferies they were met with the perfect storm.

Despite having to wait until nearly 6pm on day three of a delayed sale as a punishment for their sins, the boys got paid.

Firstly, West sent out a Bettor’s Delight colt out of the McArdle mare My Style and was rewarded to the tune of the $200,000.

By the time Jefferies joined West in the box out back, he was expecting things to have thinned out in the buying bench.

“Brian made the comment to me that a lot of the serious buyers had stuck round, and he could see them from where we were seated.

“That was music to my ears because that was the worry, that they had got what they wanted and had left.

Regardless of whether Mark liked him, you need two people bidding on a horse to get a good price.

“Within about four bids he had reached $200,000 and I couldn’t believe what was happening.

“He stalled at around $230,000 for a while before the auctioneers went to work and eked out the last few bids. Before I knew it, he was knocked down for $250,000 and I’ve been floating around ever since,” said Jefferies.

“It’s funny because for years I’ve told people about some of my investments in bloodstock and you can tell they are looking at you with a side eye making a correlation between bloodstock and investments, like ‘yeah right’.

“I’ve had a lot of bad luck and complaints as well over the time so to come out of this on the right side, with all the little miracles along the way is a great outcome,” he said.