Encosta de Lago Pensioned. What Will Happen to the Fairy King Line Now?

Coolmore Australia announced last week that one of their most successful sires, the twenty-one-year old Encosta de Lago, had been pensioned. Australian breeders thus lose not just two-time champion sire but also the most successful son of Fairy King at stud.

Photo Coolmore Stud

Nureyev’s half-sister Fairy Bridge produced six sons (plus a unnamed colt by Storm Bird) and each of them has been given a chance at stud. It is no wonder since her first product was the excellent racehorse and amazing sire Sadler’s Wells. It was the close relation to Sadler’s Wells that was the reason for most of them to go to stud. His two years younger brother, Tate Gallery, managed to tread in his footsteps on the racecourse when he won, as a two-year-old, the Gr.1 National Stakes. Remaining four sons of Fairy Bridge, who went to stud, ran a total of two races! The last son of Fairy Bridge, Perugino, won his single race. Due to injury, Fairy King raced just once, unplaced, Classic Music and Hermitage never raced.

They fared differently at stud. Tate Gallery, sire of thirteen black-type winners including the speedy Lyric Fantasy, the winner of the Nunthorpe Stakes (Gr.1), left just four crops and then died prematurely. Yet a shorter stud career was that of the Coolmore-based Classic Music, bought at Tattersalls Houghton Yearling Sale  for 2.4 million guineas, who spent just two seasons at stud and produced a single black-type winner. The unraced Hermitage did not spend a long time at stud either. The stallion who produced seven crops and nine black-type winners eventually ended up at stud in South Africa. His name appears, time to time, in pedigrees of stakes winners, the most important being recently the winner of the Calcutta Million (Gr1), India, Lycia Falcon, out of a dam by Hermitage.

Perugino, on the other hand, has been enjoying a lengthy career, although marked by frequent moving from Ireland to Japan, Australia, Germany and now based at Longford House Stud, Ireland. The stallion who also launched his stud career at Coolmore has produced twenty-two black-type winners including the champion Australian sprinter Testa Rossa, two-time Australian Gr.1 winner Sudurka and the winner of the German Oaks, Next Gina.

Fairy King, a year younger full brother to Sadler’s Wells, did not start his career at Coolmore but moved there from Ballysheehan Stud after a promising start. Compared to Sadler’s Wells his progeny was more precocious and tended to shorter distances. Despite this, however, he had an Epsom Derby winner among his progeny earlier than Sadler’s Wells – this was thanks to Oath's 1999 victory. Beside the winner of the Phoenix Stakes and Irish 2,000 Guineas Turtle Island, the winner of the Poule d’Essai des Poulains Victory Note, the winner of the Grand Criterium Second Empire, or the National Stakes winner Beckett, i.e. top two-year-olds or winners of classic races over a mile, Fairy King produced, beside Oath, a number of other horses whose preferred distances were much longer. This is the case of Helissio, the impressive winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and his most successful product on the racecourse.

The sire of seventy-three black-type winners, Fairy King spent most of his stud career at Coolmore, with two seasons, 1992 and 1996, as shuttle stallion in Australia. And these were indeed two successful seasons. Not just because he covered a total of 168 mares but mainly because his black-type winners included Encosta de Lago who went to become the most successful son of Fairy King at stud.

A number of Fairy King’s sons went to stud but none of these has managed to tread in Fairy King’s footsteps. Turtle Island had a promising start at Coolmore, with the impressive winner of the 2,000 Guineas, Island Sands, in his first crop, and the winner of the Prix d’Astarte Turtle Bow, was excellent too. He produced a total of fifteen black-type winners who represent 1 per cent of all his foals of racing age. Second Empire, too, started at Coolmore but eventually ended up in South Africa; Victory Note, also launching his career at Coolmore, went to studs in France, England and ended up in Saudi Arabia.

Two of the classiest sons of Fairy King, Falbrav a Helissio, took a different route. Both are out of dams by Slewpy, both showed more stamina on the racecourse than most of Fairy King’s progeny and both launched their stud careers in Japan. Helissio did not fare well, although his progeny in Japan includes the two-time Gr.2 winner and second in the Melbourne Cup and Japan Cup Pop Rock, today a stallion in the Czech Republic. His name would have been soon forgotten if it had not been for three seasons he spent as shuttle stallion in Australia where he produced not just the winner of the Gr.1 Rosehill Guineas Helenus, today a successful stallion and sire of two Gr.1 winners, but also the mare Weekend Beauty, dam of the excellent Weekend Hussler.  

Falbrav, successful over distances from a mile to mile and a half, fared better at stud in Japan than Helissio but even he was not exactly a star. He, too, was helped by his stay in Australia and he too returned later to Europe. A sire of seventeen black-type winners, he has not produced a Gr.1 winner but the last year’s winner of the Japan 1,000 Guineas (Gr.1) Harp Star is out of Falbrav’s daughter Historic Star.

Quite a different perspective on Fairy King as the sire of sires is taken by breeders in India where five sons of Fairy King have been active. The demand for them was spurred by excellent results of his son Burden of Proof, the winner of the International Stakes (Gr.2). Formerly trained by Aidan O’Brien, he has been in India since 2000 and has produced here over ten Gr.1 winners, becoming the champion sire. He was followed to India by the winner of the Royal Lodge Stakes (Gr.2) Royal Kingdom, after a career in Ireland also the winner of the Gr.1 Phoenix Stakes Princely Heir, the winner of the Hawthorne Derby Hymn, and even the winner of the Epsom Derby Oath. Besides Fairy King, two sons of Burden Proof and the son of Royal Kingdom, the winner of the local Gr.1, Holding Court are at stud in India.

The blood of Fairy King is successful in the Central Europe too, thanks to the winner of the Gladness Stakes, Two-Twenty-Two, based in Poland. He has sired classic winners in the Czech Republic and Austria, as well as the two-time winner of the biggest Italian steeplechase race, Alpha Two.

Without Encosta de Lago the total results of Fairy King as the sire of sires, contrary to his career as sire, would have been poor. The grandson of Mr Prospector’s daughter Rolls, the dam of another major Australian sire Flying Spur, gave an impression of a typical Fairy King product on the racecourse. His greatest triumph was the victory in the Gr.1 Vic Health Cup over seven furlongs and two Gr.2 triumphs over six furlongs and a mile. He started his stud career in 1997 with a fee of 8,500 dollars. Eleven years later, when his fee achieved the highest level, breeders had to pay thirty-five times more – 302,500 dollars. During eighteen sons at stud in Australia (he was a shuttle stallion in Ireland for a short time) he covered a total of 2,799 mares. Sadly, there will be no more. Coolmore announced that they have retired the stallion who has produced 105 black-type winners and twenty-three Gr.1 winners. His progeny has earned 140 million Australian dollars and he has become twice the champion sire in Australia and once in Hong Kong.

The most successful son of Fairy King, and today his sons, are responsible for continuing the Fairy King line. There are fourteen Fairy King’s sons at stud in Australia, the most successful one, unfortunately, is missing. The winner of the Gr.1 Coolmore Stud Stakes Northern Meteor, leading first-crop sire in Australia, sire of thirteen black-type winners including four Gr.1 winners died prematurely a year and a half from a “swift and fatal attack of colic”. Manhattan Rain, half-brother of Redoute’s Choice, can boast a great career and pedigree. He has been at stud since 2010 but has produced only two black-type winners and the demand for him, as well as his fee, decrease. Last year his fee was just 16,500 dollars while in 2010 he started at 49,500 dollars. Delago Brom, the sire of four black-type winners, was sold to Korea and the demand has dwindled for Lago Delight, who has produced a single black-type winner. The untested sons of Encosta de Lago include the promising Gr.1 winner in South Africa Delago Deluxe; Coolmore hopes that the famous stallion could be replaced by the winner of the Schillaci Stakes, Rubick, whose dam is 3/4 sister of Redoute’s Choice. Rubick, however, still stays on the racecourse where a number of horses by Encosta de Lago will arrive in next seasons. Perhaps they include a potential stallion who will shift the Fairy King line a generation further.

Miloslav Vlček

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