Australia and the Winning Post at Epsom

The Epsom Derby winner Australia was to race at the British Champions Day. However, an injury in training meant his early retirement, so instead of bracing for his first Gr.1 victory over a mile, Australia is leaving for stud. He will be based at Coolmore, Ireland, which will have five Epsom Derby winners among its stallions. Do we need a better proof that the Derby is significant for breeders again?

photo Petr Guth

I am sure you all know the famous dictum of the Italian breeder Federico Tesio: “The Thoroughbred exists because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians, or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby. If you base your criteria on anything else, you will get something else, not the Thoroughbred." It is not that long time ago that this quote seemed to be slightly out of date. Not that the results of the Epsom Derby were not exceptionally important for breeders but mainly in commercial breeding, focused on precocious and speedy horses, the winner of the Derby was seen as the end of the road and not a base for further breeding. This has changed in the recent years and The Derby, or rather its winners, get, once again, enormous prestige even for breeders. The change was brought about by a single name – Sadler’s Wells.

Last 25 Epsom Derby winners at Stud

year winner 1st season stands BTW BTW/FRA
1990 Quest For Fame Juddmonte Farm,USA 44 3,4%
1991 Generous Banstead Manor Stud,UK 45 3,3%
1992 Dr Devious Coolmore,IRE 21 1,9%
1993 Commander in Chief Yushun Stallion Station,JPN 14 1,2%
1994 Erhaab JPN 0 0,0%
1995 Lammtarra Dalham Hall Stud,UK 6 1,0%
1996 Shaamit National Stud,UK 1 0,7%
1997 Benny The Dip Claiborne Farm,USA 4 1,7%
1998 High-Rise Lex Company Stud,JPN 0 0,0%
1999 Oath Yushun Stallion Station,JPN 3 0,7%
2000 Sinndar Gilltown Stud,IRE 20 3,2%
2001 Galileo Coolmore,IRE 176 8,8%
2002 High Chaparral Coolmore,IRE 60 3,7%
2003 Kris Kin Derrinstown Stud,IRE 2 0,8%
2004 North Light Adena Springs,USA 9 2,6%
2005 Motivator The Royal Studs,UK 21 3,3%
2006 Sir Percy Lanwades Stud,UK 10 2,6%
2007 Authorized Dalham Hall Stud,UK 15 2,6%
2008 New Approach Dalham Hall Stud,UK 14 3,0%
2009 Sea the Stars Gilltown Stud,IRE 11 5,9%
2010 Workforce Shadai Stallion Station, JPN
2011 Pour Moi Coolmore, IRE
2012 Camelot Coolmore, IRE
2013 Ruler of The World in training
2014 Australia Coolmore, IRE

The change is all too well apparent if you look at all the Epsom Derby winners in the last quarter century. In the 1990s, the success in the Derby mean a one-way flight ticket to Japan: Commander in Chief, Erhaab, High-Rise and Oath left immediately after retiring, Generous and Lammtarra launched their stud careers in England, but Lammtarra, sold for USD 30 million, moved after the first season at Dalham Hall Stud, Generous spent four seasons in England before moving to Japan.

Two winners of the 1990s, Quest for Fame and Benny the Dip, left for stud overseas. Quest for Fame left as a racehorse and fared better, not in the United States but in Australia where he shuffled and where most of his 44 black-type winners were born, including the champions Dracula and Viscount. Benny The Dip was not successful in the U.S. either and returned back to Europe after three years at Clairborne Farm. He came to Cheveley Park Stud, England, from where he was sold to Liam Cashman for his Rathbarry Stud, but after fracturing a knee in his paddock only a few weeks after his arrival in Ireland he had to be euthanised.

Some of the Derby winners who had left for Japan returned back to England and Ireland. Generous, Erhaab and High-Rise, however, found their place among the National Hunt sires, Lammtarra returned to retire. Even Oath did not stay in Japan where the winners of the Epsom Derby were not successful (with the possible exception of Commander in Chief) and moved to India where sons of Fairy King are very successful.

The situation changed with the new millennium. After a decade in which most of the Epsom Derby winners left Europe, there followed a decade of winners who not only launched their stud careers in Europe, in England or Ireland to be precise, but are still active there. The 2004 winner North Light, Danehill’s son with unexpected stamina, was the only exception – he left for Adena Springs in the United States. But even the sire of the St Leger winner Arctic Cosmos returned, after five year in Kentucky and three more in Canada, to Europe and was based at Lanwades Stud, England, this year.

The second exception is the product of Juddmonte Farm Workforce who left for Shadai Stallion Station, Japan. Workforce is the son of King’s Best, same as Eishin Flash who won the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) in the same year when Worforce made his triumph at Epsom. His grandsire Kingmambo is the sire of the leading Japanese stallion King Kamehameha and the connection Kingmambo x Sadler’s Wells has produced, besides Workforce, the Japanese star El Condor Pasa. There is no need for worries, therefore, that the failure of the Epsom Derby winners at stud in Japan could have negative impact on his own stud career. The very fact that he has 124 registered foals in his first crop is a clear proof that there is a demand for the stallion.

The remaining winners stayed in England and Ireland. This is an altogether new situation after the years when the Derby winners were syndicalised for American breeding or, later, sold to Japan. Six of them launched their careers at Coolmore, Ireland, and, with the exception of Dr. Devious who moved, after five seasons, to Allevamento Della Berardenga, Italy, they are still there. With Australia, Coolmore will have five Epsom Derby winners which is – if my memory is not mistaken – rather unique in the history of the thoroughbred. Moreover, all five of them head, in their paternal lines, to the star of Coolmore, Sadler’s Wells, whose credit it is that the winners of the Epsom Derby are so demanded today and that they do not leave abroad.

At sixteen, Galileo is the oldest of Coolmore Derby winners, the most successful sire among all the winners of the last twenty-five years and one would have to dig really deep in the history of the Epsom Derby to find a stallion who could compare to him at stud. Galileo was the first Sadler’s Well’s son successful in the Epsom Derby and we can say that he is his best successor today. A year later, High Chaparral won and he, too, proves that the ability to stay 1 ½ mile does not necessarily disqualify the sire from breeding success or from the production of horses who can be successful over shorter distances.

In their paternal lines, the grandsons Motivator and Authorized, sons of Montjeu, head towards Sadler’s Wells. Motivator is the sire of the excellent Treve and Authorized, too, fares well at stud, same as Sir Percy, a mass producer of useful horses. Galileo’s son New Approach and his half-brother Sea The Stars left for the stud with huge expectations and they both have exceptional first crops. New Approach had two classic winners, Dawn Approach and Talent, plus the runner-up in the Derby Libertarian, Sea The Stars is the sire of Taghrooda and Sea The Moon. They are both quite demanded. New Approach covered 127 mares last year, Sea The Stars 96, Pour Moi, whose progeny is to debut next year, a hundred. The official data of this year’s season are not available yet but according to the unofficial record it was 180 mares in the first seasons for Camelot, another Derby winner by Montjeu. This fact only confirms the demand for the Derby winners at stud.

Camelot launched his stud career with an affordable fee of EUR 25,000; Australia is likely to have a higher one. Nevertheless, there is no need to fear for lack of demand. His class, looks, pedigree and the assessment he received from trainer Aidan O’Brien makes him, together with Kingman, the most attractive newcomer among the sires for the next season. He is out of the seven-time Gr.1 Ouija Board, whose triumphs include Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Nassau Stakes, Prince of Wales’s Stakes and Epsom Oaks. If we apply Tesio’s statement to Epsom Oaks, a Derby for fillies, Australia would be a perfect stallion prospect – The Derby winner by a Derby winner out of a dam who won the Oaks. The next season will show us whether the breeders think the same.

Miloslav Vlček

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