All hail Sadler's Wells! The son of Northern Dancer was a classic winner in his own right but, following his retirement to stud, dominated racing and breeding as the best sire in Europe for a generation.
Sadler's Wells emphatically stamped the best races of the weekend with his imprint because he is the sire of English Derby winner Galileo (also known as the best stallion in the world today and sire of Saturday's English Derby winner Ruler of the World). Sadler's Wells is also the sire of Irish Derby winner Montjeu (sire of Coronation Cup winner St Nicholas Abbey and four English Derby winners) and is the grandsire of English Derby winner New Approach (a son of Galileo and sire of the Oaks winner Talent on Friday).
This was a weekend to remember, even by the exalted standards of Sadler's Wells.
Yet even as recently as a decade ago, some were mumbling and grumbling that the great sire was not getting sons as important as himself, that his “line” wasn't going to continue, and that his contribution to the breed could be faulted on several points.
In truth, most of the early sons of Sadler's Wells who went to stud did not cover themselves in glory, were not producing stock of the same type as the perennial leader of the European sires lists, and were a drag on the market because of the number of sons available with good race records.
In fairness, however, the two best racing sons of Sadler's Wells, Montjeu and Galileo, came along rather late in the stallion's career, when quite a number of his almost great sons and almost classic-winning sons, as well as a number of just so-so sons, had gone to stud and done the predictable job.
They had stunk up the place.
The only early-crop son of Sadler's Wells who had made the transition from racehorse to important sire was El Prado, and what could we make of him?
El Prado was an Irish-bred from an outstanding Claiborne Farm family who had excelled at 2, when he was head of the Irish Free Handicap, and then had been exported to America, where he began to get all sorts of winners. In contrast to his sire's other early sons at stud, El Prado got more versatility from his stock: more speed, more sprinters and handicappers, and yet good class, just like the old boy and his sire before him.
Even so, especially among Europeans, the response to El Prado was quizzical, rather than celebratory. So when Montjeu came along, cracking heads and winning classics, the pressure to rush him off to stud was not undeniable, and the rather stoutly bred colt raced on at 4, adding a second season as the European highweight for his age and taking down more G1 races that included a sensational win in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
The two-years younger Galileo was even more impressive in the eyes of breeders, who noted that he was out of the Arc de Triomphe winner Urban Sea, herself a daughter of the speedy Mr. Prospector stallion Miswaki. So there was speed and classic middle-distance performance on both sides of Galileo's pedigree, and breeders recognized that as a quality of premium importance for a stallion prospect.
Rarely have they ever been so right.
Just like Sadler's Wells, Galileo has been a power from the beginning of his stud career, getting top-class juveniles and classic winners, although precious few older horses because the stallion's best tend to prove themselves, then get snapped up as breeding stock for the coming generation.
Yet when Galileo's greatest offspring, the unbeaten Frankel, finished his second season on the racecourses of England, he remained in training for the benefit of sport and all those around Frankel who gloried in the talent and charisma of the grand-moving bay who has muscles on his muscles.
Last year was the final of Frankel's three seasons of racing, and Galileo also was represented by such other stars as the Oaks winner Was, Racing Post Trophy winner Kingsbarns, French classic winner and multiple G1 winner Golden Lilac, and the high-class older colt Nathaniel.
If Galileo needed to prove more, it came from the stallion performance of his second-crop son, New Approach. He had been a star of his division at 2 and 3 with victories in the Dewhurst at 2, the Derby and Champion Stakes at 3, but New Approach showed he could pass on premium speed and class to his offspring with his first racers, which included the unbeaten juvenile Dawn Approach.
The latter won last month's 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and was heavily favored to repeat in the Derby on Saturday, just a day after the sire's daughter Talent had won her classic in the Oaks at Epsom. The combination of pace far in excess of his contemporaries in the Derby and the jockey's unwillingness to allow the colt to use it cancelled any chance Dawn Approach had in the 12-furlong classic.
The winner with a dramatic finish was Ruler of the World, a half-brother to the international racing star Duke of Marmalade (by Danehill), who won G1 races in England, France, and Ireland. He comes from a top-class family made famous at Lane's End by leading sires A.P. Indy and Summer Squall.
An improving colt who clearly appreciates a distance of ground, Ruler of the World is now unbeaten in three starts.
Yet I can't keep from thinking that the Derby winner's name is an even better fit for his sire.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is a private consultant to breeders on pedigrees, matings, and conformation. He is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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