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Sadler's Wells the Classic sire par excellence

IN the last Taking Stock we looked at the recent influence of Irish breeding and bloodstock on the Derby, from the rise of Sadler's Wells to the conquest of the race by his sons Galileo and Montjeu. That study raised a question – has the pattern been paralleled in the Oaks?

Off the cuff I would have said that Galileo and Montjeu have not been nearly as prominent in the Oaks as in the Derby. But first impressions need further investigation; and if my guess is correct, then which, if any, have been the dominant Oaks sire(s); and what does their influence imply for the breed?

To tackle the first question first – the record of Sadler's Wells, Galileo and Montjeu, compared to other sires, in the Oaks – I compiled a table of Oaks sires by number of runners over the last 21 years.

That timetable allows for the first crops of three-year-olds by the mighty triumvirate from the 1984 French Derby Darshaan, Sadler's Wells and Rainbow Quest, who finished in that order at Chantilly. For comparison, the table of Derby sires has been resurrected.

OAKS SIRES WITH FIVE OR MORE RUNNERS 1988-2008
Stallion Runners Winners Strike-rate Placed First 3yos
Sadler's Wells 29 5 17.2 13 1989
Darshaan 9 0 0 2 1989
Rainbow Quest 9 1 11.1 2 1990
Caerleon 8 1 12.5 1 1988
Diesis 8 3 37.5 4 1988
Alzao 6 1 16.7 2 1989
Nashwan 6 0 0 0 1994
Unfuwain 6 1 16.7 4 1994
Danehill 5 0 0 2 1994
Kris 5 0 0 3 1985
Mtoto 5 0 0 1 1992
DERBY SIRES WITH FIVE OR MORE RUNNERS 1988-2008
Stallion Runners Winners Strike-rate Placed First 3yos
Sadler's Wells 48 2 4.2 11 1989
Montjeu 12 2 16.7 3 2005
Rainbow Quest 9 1 11.1 2 1990
Danehill 8 1 12.5 2 1994
Silver Hawk 7 1 14.3 2 1987
Darshaan 7 0 0 1 1989
Caerleon 6 1 16.7 1 1988
Galileo 6 1 16.7 1 1988
Halling 6 0 0 0 2001
Unfuwain 6 0 0 0 1994

Sure enough, the three stallions named above were the three leaders by number of Oaks runners during this period, with varying success. Sadler's Wells fielded a staggering 29 runners, gaining the ultimate revenge on Darshaan, who had nine, as did Rainbow Quest.

The Coolmore stallion has in fact been more successful as an Oaks sire than a Derby sire, with five winners of the fillies' Classic compared to two for the colts'. That means he has had 12 per cent of all Oaks runners since his first three-year-olds raced, and nearly a quarter of Oaks winners.

His dominance in the race is illustrated by the fact that he has had at least the first two home on three occasions, including a one-two-three in 2001, when Imagine beat Flight Of Fancy and Relish The Thought. In 1995 his daughters Moonshell and Dance A Dream were first and second, while in 1993 it was Intrepidity and Royal Ballerina.

In contrast, Sadler's Wells's Derby record stands at 14 per cent of all runnersfrom 1988-2008 (which includes the year before his first runners arrived), but less than ten per cent winners. However, those two winners include Galileo, already among the top Derby sires of the last two decades with only his fourth crop of three-year-olds racing this year, as well as the burgeoning High Chaparral.

His most successful Derby sire so far is Montjeu, winner of the French Derby – what a stallion-generating race, in its 1m4f version, that turned out to be.

So that is the damage a successful Derby sire can wreak on the opposition. Now what about the fillies? The fact is, no matter how successful a stallion is in siring Oaks winners, his daughters' influence on the breed is naturally slower andmore subtle due to the dynamics of the breeding process.

On the other hand, it takes a victory in the Derby (or a race of similar calibre) for a colt to earn a viable spot at stud. Almost all fillies who make it to the Oaks will become broodmares, and thanks to their pedigrees and race records most will merit a mating with a fancy sire as well.

So although no filly can match Sadler's Wells for influence, Oaks also-rans need not fear fading into obscurity as a hurdling has-been, unlike their male counterparts.

Despite their success in the Derby, Galileo and Montjeu do not yet appear on the list of leading Oaks sires. Indeed, the youngest sires with at least five Oaks runners over the last two decades are Danehill and Unfuwain, both now dead.

Galileo and Montjeu could play a role in Friday's Oaks, but the betting suggests their chances are severely under threat by daughters of Pivotal and Dynaformer. To date, Galileo has had four Oaks runners, and Montjeu has had two, all unplaced.

Proportionally, it is Diesis who has the strongest Oaks record of the last 21 years. With eight runners, the stallion, who died in 2006, got three winners – Diminuendo in 1988, Ramruma in 1999, and Love Divine in 2000 – as well as a runner-up.

His retirement at Mill Ridge Farm probably marked the end of the golden era for US-breds in the race, which was still going strong as Sadler's Wells et al arrived on the scene; from 1988 to 1992, there were three winners from 19 US-breds in the race, compared to two winners from 22 British-bred runners, as well as two French runners and a lone Irish runner.

It has all shifted the way of the Irish-breds since 1993, however, since when they have made up four of every ten runners – with one quarter of them by Sadler's Wells.

There is an interesting female thread to the Oaks sires, as Kris, a brother to Diesis, had five runners during the 20-year period, with three places, although no wins. Half-brothers Nashwan and Unfuwain, who both had their first three-year-olds in 1994, supplied six runners each and one winner, by Unfuwain – Eswarah, in 2005.

Unfuwain also had three third places and a fourth, while none of Nashwan's finished better than sixth.

But the most successful Oaks dam of the last two decades must be Urban Sea. Famously the dam of 2001 Derby winner Galileo, she is also the dam of All Too Beautiful (by Sadler's Wells), second to Ouija Board in the 2004 Oaks, to Melikah (Lammtarra) third in the 2000 Oaks, and to Cherry Hinton (Green Desert), fifth in the 2007 Oaks.

Urban Sea's three-year-old, Sea The Stars, is by Cape Cross, a son of Green Desert with first three-year-olds of 2004. Cape Cross has already had an Oaks winner, Ouija Board, and a second, Rising Cross, from four runners, and his Guineas-winning son is on many a shortlist for Saturday, with the main question mark over his stamina.

It's a legitimate question, but it is still tempting to say an each-way bet on Sea The Stars looks almost a sure thing.

 

 

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