Sadler’s Wells death: A reflection

    Sadler’s Wells death
    By Alan Conway.

    Just like sands in an hour glass, the end arrived for Sadler’s Wells yesterday evening. The stallion sensation passed away peacefully in his paddock at Coolmore Stud. A place that he helped build and where his legacy will continue for decades to come.

    When Sadler’s Wells was foaled in 1981, it was the beginning of a remarkable journey that would take him and his connections to places they could scarcely dream about. He had all the tools to become a successful racehorse and stallion. Bred by Robert Sangster’s Swettenham Stud, he was by another legendary stallion in Northern Dancer and he was out of a half -sister to a brilliant racehorse in Nureyev.
    He went into training under the gaze of the master trainer Vincent O Brien and he developed into a high class racehorse. Despite been foaled in the same year as the much vaunted El Gran Senor, Sadler’s Wells carved out a fine reputation for himself and in his three year old career he captured a unique treble, when he landed the Irish 2000 Guineas, Coral Eclipse and the Irish Champion Stakes.
    At the end of his three year old season he was retired to stud duties at Coolmore with his initial fee set at Ire125,00 gns. A fee like that demanded instant success. Sadler’s Wells would not disappoint. In his first crop of runners there would be, in time, six individual Group 1 winners including Irish Derby winner Old Vic and Breeders Cup winner In The Wings. That kind of start is not normal for a stallion. But Sadler’s Wells was no normal stallion.
    He started as he meant to go on and from 1988 he proceeded to smash every record that had been made before him. He would, over the course of his stallion career, win the sires championship a record 13 times in a row. The previous record had stood for 200 years. He sired 166 Group/Graded winners. He would also land the broodmares sires title six times in his illustrious career.
    Sadler’s Wells sired some of the most talented horse that racing has ever seen. He sired the remarkable triple Champion Hurdler Istabraq, the dual Derby winners Galileo and High Chaparral. And who could forget the four time Ascot Gold Cup winner Yeats. All those horses were trained by the current master of Ballydoyle Aidan O Brien, who was quick to laud the legendary stallion.
    “Sadler’s Wells is an amazing sire and I count myself very lucky to have trained so many of his best sons and daughters. The best of them, like Galileo and High Chaparral, showed real brilliance at two and then improved again at three and were a pleasure to train. As a rule, they are very good-actioned horses with great temperaments and a tremendous will to win.”
    Yet his most lasting legacy will be his sire sons that will carry his torch over the generations. At Coolmore his three highest rated sons, Galileo, Montjeu and High Chaparral have picked up where their sire left off and will be the ones who will ensure that Sadler’s Wells will remain immortal.
    I had the honour of meeting the great horse two years ago when he was enjoying his retirement. Before I met him I had hoped that I would maybe catch a glimpse of him in his paddock. You can imagine my shock when he was led out of his box and I was allowed to stand right next to him. I stood in front of him, in awe. I can only imagine what he made of me. It was, and still is, a moment that I treasure each and every day.
    Sometimes in sport we can tend to overhype things. With Sadler’s Wells there was no hype, just substance. He was without doubt the greatest stallion of the 21st century. Every stallion that comes after him will be judged against him. No horse will ever match his achievements. Rest in Peace Sadler’s Wells. You will be missed but never ever forgotten.


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