Sadler's Wells Tribute

It has been over one month now since chef-de-race sire Sadler's Wells died at the age of 30 at his Coolmore Stud home in County Tipperary, Ireland. Yet I have noticed only nominal articles highlighting his unprecedented accomplishments at stud due to the fact his death was overshadowed by the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. Even though this son of Northern Dancer (who was actually foaled in Kentucky) was known as a European sire, his legacy deserves our attention and respect considering he is to thank for our 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, but more on that later.
There is much fertile land in the Ireland region known as the “Golden Vale” that Sadler’s Wells called home since 1984.  This fertility certainly was indicative of the illustrious stud career that would follow for Coolmore’s most prized stallion. He helped lead Coolmore to a position of global influence during a career at stud that began in earnest with six individual Group 1 winners from his first crop. He went on to lead the general sire list 14 times in Britain and Ireland. The best of his offspring include champion racehorses Galileo, Montjeu, High Chaparral and Yeats. Legendary jockey Pat Eddery, who rode Sadler's Wells during his six victory career (from 11 starts) added, "He was a hell of a good racehorse… He was a very tough horse with a great pedigree. He probably was the best sire of them all."
Sadler’s Wells was retired from stallion duty on May 13, 2008 (same day as Storm Cat - who is two years younger) due to declining fertility after “throwing off” an astonishing 323 stakes winners up to his death, including 74 individual Group One victors. Sadler’s Wells has sired the winners of six Breeders’ Cup races, more than any other stallion. Furthermore, he has been first or second in the all-important broodmare sire list in North America since 2006, crushing his opponents as measured by earnings each of the last three calendar years. Master of Hounds could strengthen his grandpa’s position with a score in the upcoming 2011 Belmont Stakes.  Likewise, Frankel, the undefeated 2,000 Guineas (Eng – GI) winning son of Galileo, is showing signs of true greatness across the pond.  Storm Cat (grandson of Northern Dancer and North America’s strongest male line descendant of the sire) would probably rank closest to Sadler’s Wells as far as U.S. sires go, yet he totaled “just” 32 Grade 1 winners and 99 total graded stakes through last year.
Sadler’s Wells did manage to claim the leading sire spot in North America for 1995.  But his most prominent influence on American breeding was through his late son, El Prado, the foundation sire for Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs breeding operation. An Irish juvenile champion campaigned by the same family who raced Sadler’s Wells (Sangster), El Prado sired American Grade 1 winners Medaglia d’Oro, Kitten’s Joy, Artie Schiller, Borrego and numerous other graded stakes performers. These successes buoyed El Prado in turn to become North America’s leading sire in 2002.
While you may recognize several of these sires now standing in America, Medaglia d’Oro holds a special place in my heart. He easily broke his maiden at Oaklawn Park as I cheered him on in his first start at three (second lifetime start). After that, he was promptly sold to Edmund Gann for a large sum (Jess Jackson wasn’t the only astute owner to gobble up young talent!).  After a disappointing Triple Crown series where his only in-the-money finish was second in the Belmont Stakes, he seemed to relish the heat of summer. Bobby Frankel continued to grind him through a summer campaign which included victories in both the Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes at historic Saratoga Race Course. I was fortunate to not only witness Medaglia’s first victory, but also was on hand for his major score at Saratoga later that year when my brother and I made a joint horse racing/baseball pilgrimage. First we visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in nearby Cooperstown to celebrate Ozzie Smith’s induction and then headed eastward on to Saratoga Springs for the big race and our first exposure to the historic track that dates back to 1863.  We would not leave disappointed in any respect.
Who could have guessed that seven years later on that very track a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro would become the first filly or mare ever to capture the Woodward Stakes, previously won by such champions as Sword Dancer, Kelso, Forego, Seattle Slew and Affirmed?  Of course, we all know how magical Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 season was, but now you know how she even came to be.
God blessed Sadler’s Wells with strong health and a long life. And in turn, Sadler’s Wells blessed those of us in the racing world with exceptional horses to follow on the track and sires that will continue to strengthen his legacy for generations to follow. So today an Irish blessing for the memory of Sadler’s Wells;
May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.
Meet Eric Kords
Eric is a historian of thoroughbred racing at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas and across the country. He has witnessed in person nearly every significant race that has occurred at Oaklawn Park since the mid-1980’s including such recent Eclipse champions as Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Lookin at Lucky, Summer Bird and Curlin, classic performers including Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones, Victory Gallop, Lil’ E Tee, Pine Bluff and Grindstone, top handicap champions Cigar, Lawyer Ron and Best Pal, and finally Distaff champions the likes of Azeri, Bayakoa, Paseana, Escena and Ginger Punch.  
Eric has also attended the most historically significant races across the country including the 2010 Breeders' Cup featuring Zenyatta’s epic finale, 2008 Breeders' Cup featuring Curlin’s final race, the Eclipse clinching victory by Rachel Alexandra against the boys in the 2009 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, 2010 Preakness Stakes won by Eclipse champion Lookin at Lucky, 2004 Belmont Stakes where Smarty Jones was denied the Triple Crown by Birdstone, 1996 Pacific Classic at Del Mar where Cigar’s 16 consecutive win streak ended at the hooves of Dare and Go, Jim Dandy Stakes and Travers Stakes at Saratoga, Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park and Summit of Speed Festival at Calder just to name the most memorable.  Eric now resides in Dallas, TX and counts Oaklawn Park, The Fair Grounds and Lone Star Park as his “home tracks.” He has recently entered the thoroughbred owner ranks with the launch of his Saturday Racing Syndicate.

Top Stories

Only one filly stands out on speed figures in the...
There appear to be many short prices on tap on Sat...
No Triple Crown is on the line in this year's $1.6...
Looking to pass some time while waiting for Saturd...
My favorite non-Breeders' Cup race is finally upon...