Happy Birthday Sadler’s Wells

In a quiet corner of Tipperary a legend will reach a milestone next Monday. He will be blissfully unaware of the fuss that will be made of him or the records that he has smashed. For Sadler’s Wells who will be thirty next Monday, it will be simply another day. 

But for his connections it will not simply be another day, for this is not just another horse. Sadler’s Wells is the stallion phenomenon that resides in Coolmore stud and who helped build the stud farm into the global powerhouse that it is today. 

Born on April 11 1981 Sadler’s Wells was bred by Swettenham Stud and was by another stallion sensation in Northern Dancer. He was bred in the purple. Not only was he by Northern Dancer but he was out of a half sister to a brilliant horse called Nureyev. His breeding entitled him to a successful racing career. He didn’t disappoint. 

He went into training at Ballydoyle under the watchful gaze of Vincent O Brien. It was Sadler’s Wells misfortune that he was foaled in the same year as El Gran Senor who was the superstar horse at the time in Ballydoyle.

For his part Sadler’s Wells had a lot of success on the racetrack. He was a triple Group 1 winner landing the Irish 2000 Guineas, Coral Eclipse and the Irish Champion Stakes. At the end of his three year old career he was retired to Coolmore with a fee of Ire125.000 gns. For his career at stud to be a success he had to hit the ground running. He surpassed all expectations.

His first crop of runners contained, in time, six individual Group 1 winners. Things like that are not supposed to happen. He sired the first two home in the Dewhurst, the foremost two year old race in England, with his first crop of runners. Things could only get worse for Sadler’s Wells. They didn’t. 

From his first crop he never looked back. He sired horses that have won every single one of the classics in England. He broke the legendery Highflyer record of been champion sire 13 times when he won his last sires title in 2004. He has also been champion broodmare sire six times from 2005-2010.

His sons like Old Vic, Galileo, Montjeu, Yeats and High Chaparral to name but a few, have given horse racing fans so many wonderful memories. He even sired the never to be forgotten triple Champion Hurdler, Istabraq. 

Indeed it is fitting that his three highest rated sons, Galileo High Chaparral and Montjeu stand at Coolmore Stud beside their father. He is now watching on as his sons carry on his legacy through their deeds at stud. 

For years I had heard Sadler’s Wells name been mentioned with almost reverence by horse racing fans. You can imagine how I felt when I had the chance to meet the great horse two years ago. 

By this time he had been retired from active duty but even still my heart was racing when I was led by his handler Timmy to his paddock. Timmy simply said “Here he is”. 

I turned and gazed. For about five minutes I looked at him and he looked at me. One set of eyes with wonder and one set with bemusement. Pictures do not do him justice. He is a wonderful specimen. He craned his neck up in that “I’m the boss” kind of way. 

Spending five minutes with him was more than enough but it got even better when Timmy led him out so I could pet him. It ranks as one of my favourite memories that I have. For him it was simply another pet but for me it was a meeting of a lifetime. 

This is a horse that changed the mould of breeding racehorses. Each stallion that has claims to greatness will be weighed and measured against Sadler’s Wells. They will all come up short. Happy Birthday old boy. You were simply the best.


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