Posts Tagged ‘Lester Piggott’

As the world awaits Enable’s attempt to win the Arc for an unprecedented third time, it’s worth noting that she already belongs to a very select group. Since the first Arc (1920) only seven other individuals have won it twice.


In 1920, the British-bred COMRADE (Bachelor’s Double X Sourabaya) became the first Arc winner. The colt was trained by Peter Purcell Gilpin of Clarehaven Stables, who also famously trained the champion, PRETTY POLLY.


1) KSAR (1921, 1922)

KSAR became the first dual Arc winner.

The Arc was designed to complement the prestigious Grand Prix de Paris, as well as promote the French thoroughbred breeding industry. It must have smarted when the British-bred Comrade won the very first Arc. However, only a year after its first running, along came the first of the dual Arc winners who was, happily, also a French-bred. Ksar was the product of a pair of champions. His sire, Bruleur, won the Prix de Paris and Prix Royal-Oak; a descendant of The Flying Dutchman, Bruleur was a top stayer.

KIZIL KOURGAN, dam of ZSAR, painted by Allen Culpepper Sealy.

Ksar’s dam, Kizil Kourgan (Omnium II X Kasbah), was also a blueblood and won the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, the Prix Lupin over colts, the Prix de Diane, the Grand Prix de Paris, and the Prix Royal-Oak as a three year-old.

In 1921, after winning the Prix Royal-Oak in a manner that saw him return to his stable as fresh as a rose, Ksar was produced three weeks later to win the 1921 Arc. The following year, Ksar continued in his brilliant ways, losing only twice and once when his regular jockey, George Stern, was replaced by another rider. In the 1922 Arc, Ksar and Stern were reunited, and the result gave history its first dual Arc winner.

Ksar would go on to be a leading sire in France, producing the likes of Diademe and the influential sire, Tourbillion. He was also the damsire of 1941 Arc winner and champion 3 year-old La Pecha.

2) MOTRICO (1930, 1932)

MOTRICO was the second ARC winner.

Eight years later, a bay colt named Motrico (Radames X Martigues) also completed an Arc duo. Owned by Vicomte Max de Rivaud and trained by Maurice d’Okhuysen, the colt took his name from a Spanish coastal town. A descendant of the Triple Crown winner, Flying Fox, through his sire line, Motrico also carried St. Simon in his upper and lower family tree.

Following his first Arc win in 1930, Motrico was retired to stud, where he proved unpopular. So the stallion was returned to the turf two years later, winning the 1932 Arc to become the oldest individual to do so, at the age of seven.

3) CORRIDA (1936, 1937)

CORRIDA, the first filly to win dual Arcs, was owned by the legendary Marcel Boussac.

Another dual winner in the form of the filly, Corrida, came in 1936 and 1937. Corrida’s 1936 Arc signalled the first of six Arc winners for the race’s most successful owner, Marcel Boussac, who went on to win the Arc so many times — with Djebel (1942), Ardan (1944), Caracalla (1946) and Coronation (1949) — that Boussac became a household word in his native France.

Corrida was, like so many thoroughbred champions, bred in the purple. Her sire, Coronach, was by the prepotent sire Hurry-On, and proved to be a champion. Coronach won the 1926 Epsom Derby, as well as the prestigious St. Leger, St. James Palace and the Coronation Cup for owner-breeder, Lord Woolavington.

Derby day in 1926 was wet and dreary, but the handsome Coronach led all the way and won as he pleased. The following video shows the world of horse racing in 1926 in some detail, while featuring Coronach’s Derby win. Coronach can be seen starting in the post parade: look for the colt with the long, white blaze and jockey in white silks with a bold stripe across chest and sleeves. (NOTE: There is no sound.)



Corrida’s dam, Zariba, was a daughter of Maurice de Rothchild’s champion, Sardanapale. Winner of the Prix Morny and the Prix de la Foret, Zariba was no slouch herself on the turf. As a broodmare, Zariba was a success and Corrida was her best offspring.

Not only did the brilliant Corrida win her second Arc in 1937, but that same year she also took the Grosser Preis der Reichshaupstadt in Germany, dismissing a field that included two Deutsches Derby winners, and an Italian Oaks and 1000 Guineas winner.

Corrida’s story ended abruptly in the midst of the German invasion of France in WWII. By then, the filly was retired and had produced a colt foal, Coaraze, to a cover by champion Tourbillon. Many thoroughbreds disappeared during the invasion and the Germans frequently exported thoroughbreds seized as they marched through Europe to their German National Stud. Other thoroughbreds died in bombings.

Among those who disappeared from the Boussac stud were sire Pharis — and Corrida.


COARAZE, the only progeny of CORRIDA, was brilliant on the turf. His stud career was in Brazil and was supreme in his influence on the Brazilian thoroughbred.

4) TANTIEME (1950, 1951)

Francois Dupre’s Tantieme had the dubious record of being the last French-bred thoroughbred of the 20th century to realize dual Arc victories.

TANTIEME, owned by Francois Dupre, was as brilliant on the turf as he was in the breeding shed.

A bay colt with a fine intelligent head, Tantieme was the son of Deux Pour Cent of the Teddy sire line and the mare, Terka. On the turf, Tantieme proved himself outstanding: he was out of the money only once in 15 starts and also won the Grand Criterium, Poule d’Essai des Poulains, Prix Lupin, Prix Ganay and the British Coronation Cup. Retired to stud, he sired champions Tanerko, Reliance, Match II and the filly La Senga.

TANERKO, winner of the Grand Prix St. Cloud, Prix Ganay and Prix Lupin, among others. At stud, he sired the Classic winner, RELKO.


RELIANCE, winner of the Prix du Jockey Club, Grand Prix de Paris, Prix Royal-Oak, Prix Hocquart and the Prix de Morronniers. a champion, RELIANCE was only beaten once — by the incomparable Sea-Bird in the 1965 Arc.


MATCH (MATCH2 in USA) winner of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, Prix Noailles and Prix Royal-Oak in France. In the USA he famously won the Washington D.C. International Stakes.

5) RIBOT (1955, 1956)

Of course, the narrator of Ribot’s first Arc win (above) might not have been aware that he was looking at a racing giant. In any case, the title of this British Pathe video makes us smile today, because Ribot wasn’t just any “Italian horse.” In fact, Frederico Tesio’s colt would take the racing world by storm. By the time he retired in 1956, immediately after his second Arc win, Ribot had shown himself able to win at any distance, against some of the best of his day and over any type of turf, marching to victory in Italy, France and England.


Ribot went off to the breeding shed undefeated and was exceptionally successful as a sire. He began his stud career at Lord Derby’s stud in England before being syndicated under the terms of a 5-year lease and relocated at Darby Dan farm in the USA. As a stallion, Ribot developed a nasty temperament, one that only surfaced after his retirement from racing — and this made insuring him for travel almost impossible. The result was that he couldn’t be returned to Lord Derby or anywhere else and remained in the USA until his death in 1972.

Ribot progeny who distinguished themselves include the great Tom Rolfe, His Majesty, Arts and Letters, Molvedo, Ribocco, Prince Royal and the champion Ragusa.

6) ALLEGED (1977, 1978)

Lester Piggott and ALLEGED after their win in the 1977 Arc.

Britain’s Alleged had not initially been pegged as destined for greatness when first arriving at the Master of Ballydoyle’s stables. Originally destined for the dirt and having started his training in California, it was the view of the trainer there that Alleged’s weak knees would never hold up on the dirt. Subsequently purchased by Robert Sangster, Alleged was sent to Ireland, where the incomparable Vincent O’Brien determined that the colt needed some time to develop to his full potential. The son of Hoist The Flag (and grandson of Tom Rolfe, a son of Ribot) began to show his promise as a 3 year-old when he won the Great Volitigeur Stakes impressively.

With Lester Piggott in the irons, Alleged walked on to the course at Longchamp in 1977 and ran into history.

Lester and Alleged would repeat in 1978.

The video below is in French. Here are a few helpful details pre-viewing: Alleged is number 6 in the-then Coolmore silks of bright green and blue. Note that American jockey legend, Willie Shoemaker, rides Nelson Bunker Hunt’s fine mare, Trillion (number eight). Trillion raced in France where the daughter of Hail To Reason was hugely successful. Also of note is Freddy Head, riding Dancing Maid (Lyphard), who was a jockey of brilliant accomplishment, perhaps best noted for his wins on the fabulous Miesque. Head would go on to train the superb Goldikova, among others.

The four year-old Alleged started as “le grand favori” — the overwhelming favourite. Not surprisingly, both Shoemaker and Head are right there at the end.

Lester Piggott, described by the announcer as a “Buster Keaton figure” actually managed a smile as he and Alleged were led past the stands and Alleged was acknowledged as one of the very best of his generation. Freddy Head was reported to be “downfallen” by his filly’s performance, while Willie Shoemaker was saluted for the fine performance of his filly Trillion and onlookers were reminded that in his native USA, Shoemaker was a superstar.

Retired to stud — where he became still another bad-tempered sire like his great grandsire, Ribot — Alleged was nevertheless an overwhelming success, ranked among the top ten sires in England in 1985 and sixth among sires of winners in France in 1988. As a BM sire, Alleged led the list in France in 1998 and came second in 2002. Among his best known progeny as a stallion and BM sire are Miss Alleged, Shantou and Flemensfirth.

7) TREVE ( 2013, 2014)

It’s almost impossible to forget the mighty Treve, who had devoted fans all over the world and, at one point, even had her own website. Trained by Criquette Head-Marek, the sister of Freddy Head, Treve’s first Arc dazzled and her second left fans breathless, coming as it did after a difficult campaign where the filly battled health issues.

In 2013, Treve gave France its first French-bred Arc winner of the 21st century and with her 2014 Arc victory, the first French dual Arc winner as well. The daughter of Motivator (Montjeu) out of Trevise (Anabaa) was still another Arc champion bred in the purple.

In 2013, undefeated as a 3 year-old, Treve beat some greats to lead the field home under Thierry Jarnet, who filled in for the injured Frankie Dettori:

2014 had been a tough year for Treve, making her 2014 Arc victory all that much sweeter. Flintshire and Al Kazeem were back, to be joined by the talented Taghrooda, Kingston Hill, Ruler of the World and Gold Ship. But there is only one Treve — and she showed it emphatically on the day:

Treve’s connections entered their mare for a third tilt at the Arc, but it was not to be:

Treve did her best but was no match for the John Gosden-trained and Frankie Dettori-ridden champion, Golden Horn, who had also won the 2015 Epsom Derby. The mare finished fourth, under a drive by Thierry Jarnet.

Treve was subsequently retired and has since produced three foals: Paris, born in 2017 and sired by Dubawi, and fillies by Shalaa (2018) and Siyouni (2019) who remain unnamed. She is in foal to Sea The Stars to a 2019 cover.

8) ENABLE (2017, 2018)

Now it’s Enable’s turn to greet the racing gods at Longchamp on October 6, 2019. Running as a 5 year-old, as Treve did in her final Arc run, the mare’s most-touted rivals are thought to be Coolmore’s Japan, White Birch Farms’ Sottsass, Gestut Ammerland & Newsells Park’s Waldgeist and Godolphin’s Ghaiyyath.

Japan (Galileo X Shastye by Danehill) is a 3 year-old colt whose last start was in August where he narrowly defeated Crystal Ocean to win the Juddmonte International. The colt has also scored in the King Edward (June) and at Longchamps in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris in July:

So Japan will head into the Arc very fresh, having had the longest break of all of Enable’s more prominent foes.

Sottsass (Siyouni X Starlet’s Sister by Galileo) most recently won the Qatar Prix Neill at Longchamps on September 19, 2019. The 3 year-old enters the Arc with a record of 6-4-0-0 and continues to improve, according to trainer Jean-Claude Rouget:

Waldgeist  (Galileo X Waldlerche by Monsun) is the same age as Enable and is a gutsy, determined competitor who is coming into his own. His last start was on September 15 over the Longchamps turf in the Qatar Prix Foy, winning handily in what looked very much like a good, easy blow before the Arc. Here’s Waldgeist beating Ghaiyyath in the Prix Ganay at Longchamps in April:

It is true that Enable has already taken on Waldgeist and beaten him, but this chestnut is so honest and he can be counted on to bring his best to Longchamp in October.

Ghaiyyath (Dubawi X Nightime by Galileo) is a 4 year-old whose racing career was stalled in 2017. Returning in 2018, the 3 year-old sparkled at Longchamps, but did little else that year.

This year, Ghaiyyath has looked very good in the Prix d’Harcourt and breathtaking in the Grosser Preis von Baden, where he not only ran 14 lengths clear but also beat the 2019 winner of the German Derby. Ghaiyyath races in the Godolphin blue, under jockey William Buick :

This last win was on September 1 and was jaw-dropping, even though the pace was modest. Given his up-and-down career to date, it’s worth wondering which Ghaiyyath will show up on October 6 at Longchamps.

Enable goes into this year’s Arc in top form, undefeated in her 2019 campaign and with some impressive running under her belt, notably the sensational battle between Enable and Crystal Ocean in the King George:

Enable showed of what she is made in the King George, as did the magnificent Crystal Ocean, but the 5 year-old mare came out of this contest in fine form to defeat another great in Magical in the Yorkshire Oaks in August.

According to trainer John Gosden, Enable is as of this writing in excellent health and, as a mature thoroughbred, at the “…height of her powers.”

On October 6 she will face another challenge in what has already been a superlative career. Should she win, Enable will be the first and only thoroughbred to achieve three Arc wins.

To Enable and Frankie we say, “May the winds of Heaven guide and keep you. Just do your best — and come home to us safe.”


Bonus Features

  1. John Gosden talks Enable (September 26, 2019)

2. Enable gallops the Rowley Mile (September 25, 2019)

3. Frankie Dettori (September 25, 2019)



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As thoroughbred racing — like everything else — enters a period of globalization, owners and breeders worldwide must confront the implications of an increasingly international and streamlined industry. And perhaps no one organization has been more pro-active in rising to this tide of change than Coolmore. 

“Glorious George,” beloved of the racing public, returned to competition when he proved to have a sub-fertile sperm count. Bred by Gretchen and Graham Jackson, the champion came to an untimely end in the Breeders’ Cup of 2007 — the same year that the Jackson’s lost Barbaro.

In light of the unsuitability of George Washington for stallion duty, Holy Roman Emperor — a 3 year-old colt with great potential — was snatched out of training to fill his place.

Make no mistake about it — as magnificent as was Coolmore’s George Vancouver in winning the 2012 BC Juvenile Turf recently, the ultimate goal for the son of Henrythenavigator is that he will refresh the Coolmore product when he enters their star-studded stallion roster. If he’s good enough, that is.

On the face of things, Coolmore is an organization that consistently thrills thoroughbred enthusiasts with the range and depth of its stable. Trainer Aidan O’Brien has gained legendary status through his association with the progeny of such stallions as Sadler’s Wells, Danehill, Montjeu and Galileo. However, “the lads,” headed by owner, John Magnier, run the largest commercial bloodstock enterprise in the world and keeping it that way is the goal.

In the Coolmore galaxy, the orbit of an individual thoroughbred is galvanized around that objective. A fact the organization made abundantly clear in 2007, when the promising Holy Roman Emperor was yanked out of Aidan O’Brien’s hands to re-place the sub-fertile and, as it turned out, ill-fated, George Washington.

The best of Ballydoyle combine entertainment with the promotion of the enterprise they represent, Coolmore. The casualty of the great Australian champion, So You Think, is a case-in-point. Much as trainer O’Brien’s public act of contrition about his failure to get the horse right was appreciated by racing romantics, it was foremost a means of protecting So You Think’s stud career and the organization’s brand, or product. Candid though the substance of his remarks were, in essence O’Brien was “taking one for the Team” by deflecting criticism of a thoroughbred who had seemed to do little but run downhill since his arrival at Ballydoyle, Ireland.

With apparent ease, O’Brien and Tom Magnier, John’s son, do Coolmore and So You Think proud in this interview, held minutes after the champion’s impressive victory in the 2012 Prince of Wales Stakes at Ascot.

The Coolmore of 2012, with its satellites in the USA and Australia, was the brainchild of eminent Irish trainer, Vincent O’Brien, breeder John Magnier and business magnate, Robert Sangster. A cast of other notables, including jockey, Lester Piggott, Canadian owner-breeder, E.P. Taylor, horseman and business tycoons Charles Engelhardt and Stavros Niarchos put in appearances as well as Coolmore gained its momentum.

In 1973, Robert Sangster was introduced to the 23 year-old John Magnier. Magnier, married to Vincent O’Brien’s daughter, Susan, would turn out to be the conduit that brought the billionaire and his father-in-law together. The timing was perfection, an instance of Jungian synchronicity that would change the world.

Even though Vincent O’Brien was still training out of his Ballydoyle headquarters for elite owners like Charles Engelhardt, the Firestones and Raymond Guest, who campaigned the fabulous Sir Ivor, he was also mulling over the implications for the Irish thoroughbred of losing his brightest and best individuals to stud duty in the USA or England. An idea began to take shape and O’Brien approached Claiborne’s Bull Hancock to propose that they form a syndicate. O’Brien was already involved in bloodstock and breeding on a modest scale, but he wanted an inroad into the American market. Sadly, with Hancock’s sudden death, this first initiative fell apart.

But the seed of possibility remained with O’Brien, who was really so much more than a man who trained thoroughbreds. He was excessively knowledgeable about thoroughbred bloodstock. And he had a vision: buy colts with outstanding pedigrees who would make great stallions and see if they can be proven on the turf. In other words, buy –first and foremost — to make stallions. Irish stallions. The best in the world.

The title says it all. Vincent O’Brien with The Minstrel, the little horse whose heart and courage won the great trainer’s heart.

This was radical thinking in the 1970’s.

The usual practice was to buy colts and fillies who looked like they could run. If they turned out to be decent producers, all the better. It was an orientation shaped by the wealthy in the UK and, to a lesser extent, in the USA. They didn’t need to make serious money with each horse they bought — that was, after all, part of the fun. As for breeding, the overwhelming practice was to exchange seasons with one another. The thoroughbred industry was, essentially, a very exclusive club.

But Vincent O’Brien had other ideas. He wanted to build an Irish bloodstock interest that would function on a grand, commercial scale. In 1975, with the purchase of two-thirds of Coolmore Stud from its owner, Tim Vigors, and the appointment of son-in-law John Magnier, who had the “sharpest brain in the bloodstock business,” as its manager, O’Brien put a foundation in place to do just that.

John and Sue Magnier chatting with Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Magnier and O’Brien families had known each other for several generations and the former had been breeding thoroughbreds since the early nineteenth century. When young John Magnier took over the family business, it consisted of the famous Grange Stud, which earned a prominent name for itself by standing Cottage, the sire of Cottage Rake, the first of Vincent O’Brien’s national hunt horses to win in England, where he took the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1948. In 1973, John Magnier bought the 200-acre Castle Hyde Stud near the Grange. By 1975, young Magnier was standing 13 stallions at his two stud farms and was gaining the reputation of being a very canny breeder.

Cottage Rake’s exploits in England made Vincent O’Brien’s reputation as a gifted trainer. His sire, Cottage, stood at the Magnier’s Grange Stud (IRE). O’Brien would go on to train three consecutive winners of the Grand National — Early Mist (1953), Royal Tan (1954) and Quare Times (1955).

Robert Sangster was committed to horse racing, both on the flat and over the hurdles. But prior to meeting Magnier and O’Brien to discuss a possible alliance, he had already sought out the advice of Lord Derby. Sangster already had thoroughbred interests in Ireland, England, France and Australia, and a modest band of broodmares at Swetenham Hall, whose offspring he sold at Newmarket and Deauville. But despite the trappings of success, Robert Sangster wanted to move beyond “playing around with racing and to launch a commercial venture on an international scale.” Lord Derby’s advice was plain: get yourself the best trainer and be prepared to spend at least a million BPS on bloodstock. Sangster was very keen to “get into racing in a big way,” but he was equally excited by the possibility of building a breeding empire. His vision was to open up the breeding business beyond its intimate circle of affluent owners and breeders and to create this operation on an international level. But to do that, Sangster needed the kind of expertise that would ensure his scheme paid off.

And that expertise came, initially, in the form of John Magnier, Vincent O’Brien and Lester Piggott. The latter was the UK’s legendary jockey, a man who could get the very best out of almost any horse he rode. Magnier and O’Brien would spot the right bloodlines. O’Brien would train them. Piggott would ride them. And Sangster  would buy them.

As well, in 1975 came the amalgamation of John Magnier’s Castle Hyde and Grange studs with Vincent O’Brien’s Coolmore. The organization was called ” The Castle Hyde, Coolmore and Associated Studs.” It would provide a home for the partnership’s stallions and broodmares. Ballydoyle, which O’Brien had owned since the 1950’s would be Coolmore’s training headquarters.

The charismatic and fabulously wealthy Robert Sangster.

It was to the USA that the newly formed syndicate went to buy bloodstock. With them came Demi O’Byrne, the veterinarian who attended Nijinsky during his racing career. O’Byrne would learn even more than he already knew about the thoroughbred simply by listening to and watching Vincent O’Brien and John Magnier at the bloodstock sales. 

O’Brien was no stranger to Keeneland and, in this aspect of things, he was a good 30 years ahead of many of his (British) contemporaries. As he would tell his biographer, Ivor Herbert, ” I like American horses. They can race more than ours; they are stabled at the track; they’re taken from stables to racecourse — no long travelling involved. But because they are raced more often the horses have got to be tough to stand up to it; they’ve got to be genuine and game. The horses have got to be very sound because of the type of dirt surface on which they race. This is really hard on horses’ legs. I think the American trainers and vets are tremendous experts to keep the horses on the go the way they do.”

If Vincent O’Brien had kept an “I Like American Horses” photo album, here are some of the individuals who would be in it:

Larkspur (Blue Larkspur), one of O’Brien’s early Keeneland purchases, won the Epsom Derby in 1962.

The hugely talented Sir Ivor (Sir Gaylord) won the Epsom Derby in 1968 and went on to win the Washington D.C. International under Lester Piggott. A super sire at Claiborne in Kentucky, his offspring include Arc winner Ivanjica, Optimistic Gal and Bates Motel.

Robert Sangster owned Alleged (Hoist The Flag), who won The Arc two years in row (1977, 1978). Sold to Walmac, he proved to be a fabulous sire. Perhaps his most famous offspring was the brilliant Allez France.

Roberto (Hail To Reason), still another Epsom Derby winner for O’Brien in 1972. A useful sire, his best progeny were millionaires Brian’s Time and Sunshine Forever.

The elegant Royal Academy (Nijinsky), shown here with John Magnier’s son, Tom and young Charlie Magnier at Coolmore, Australia. He was O’Brien last purchase at Keeneland, after a fierce bidding war with D. Wayne Lucas, and a horse that did Coolmore proud. Royal Academy won the 1990 BC Mile with Lester Piggott aboard. Piggott had retired 12 days earlier, but came back to pilot the Coolmore colt for Vincent.  An exceptional sire, Royal Academy ranked 11th in the 2012 American broodmare sire list.

 Together with Lester Piggott, the Sangster-owned and O’Brien-trained The Minstrel would be their first venture. And it would be fortuitous.

So successful was the little colt with the huge heart that a share in him was bought by Windfields, where The Minstrel stood most of his short life. Sending the colt back to North America ran contrary to the syndicate’s mission, it would seem. However, O’Brien counselled the others that the colt was a middle distance horse and not a classic winner. And, although he had sired the British Triple Crown champion Nijinsky, Northern Dancer was still a comparatively “new face” on the bloodstock scene.

The little horse with the big heart, shown after his 1977 Epsom Derby win. The Minstrel was made Horse of the Year in 1977, thrusting the young Coolmore syndicate into the limelight for the very first time.

So began the years of plenty, when the syndicate swooped down on Keeneland and other American consignors to buy the best they had to offer. Among their acquisitions at this time were Caerleon (blue riband sire of champions Generous, Arc winner Marienbard, Warrsan, Corwyn Bay, Kostroma), Fairy King (sire of Arc winner Helissio, Falbrav and champion sire, Encosta de Lago), Be My Guest (who was unlucky insofar as he had been born in the same year as The Minstrel and Alleged, but who turned out to be a very fine Coolmore sire), dual Arc-winner Alleged, the unlucky Storm Bird and the brilliant, though short-lived, Golden Fleece.

Storm Bird (Northern Dancer) was a tidy, beautiful colt and the syndicate went to one million USD for him. The juvenile was undefeated in his first year on the turf and thought to be the next Epsom Derby winner.

So gentle was Storm Bird that even the very young were allowed to visit him. He quickly endeared himself to the whole O’Brien family. Then, in early in 1981, the colt suffered an ugly assault at Ballydoyle: a disgruntled employee got into his stall and slashed off his mane and tail. Although Storm Bird appeared to recover, everything went wrong in his 3 year-old season. A brilliant racing career had come to an abrupt end.

After the attack, O’Brien, Sangster et al. attempted to keep their colt under wraps. Finally, rather than risk a heavy investment, the partners looked for an American buyer. They found one in the person of Dr. William Lockridge, who owned Ashford. The syndicate retained a quarter interest in the colt.

Storm Bird proved to be a sire of sires and an excellent broodmare sire. Storm Cat, out of Terlingua (Secretariat) was his most pre-potent son. Photo and copyright, Amanda Duckworth (ESPN).

Summer Squall out of another Secretariat daughter, Weekend Surprise, was a half-brother to A.P. Indy. Summer Squall, who much resembled Storm Bird, was a very useful sire in his own right. Photo and copyright, Anne Eberhardt Keogh (Blood-Horse).

Storm Bird was broodmare sire to many thoroughbreds. Among the most famous, the well-loved Thunder Gulch, owned by Michael Tabor and one of Coolmore’s premiere stallions. The son of Gulch helped to launch Ashford after it was acquired by Coolmore.

The O’Brien, Sangster and Magnier collaboration produced far more than Coolmore, even though that achievement would have been enough to assure them a privileged place in thoroughbred history. They were also responsible for Northern Dancer’s meteoric rise as a source of fine bloodstock.

It was one race in particular that consolidated interest in the Canadian sire’s blood line.

That race pitted the Vincent O’Brien-trained El Gran Senor against Secreto, trained by David O’Brien, Vincent’s son, in the Epsom Derby of 1984. As if the drama of father against son weren’t enough, the two colts racing to the finish were both sons of Northern Dancer. The racing world took notice — and Northern Dancer’s stud career, on a global scale, was launched.

In the O’Brien barn that year was another Northern Dancer colt named Sadler’s Wells. Although he was born in Kentucky, he had been bred by Robert Sangster. The Coolmore group had bought Sadler’s Wells’ dam, Fairy Bridge, at the Saratoga Sales of 1976. She would return regularly to the court of Northern Dancer with spectacular results. But none of her offspring would be more spectacular than the blaze-faced Sadler’s Wells.

Here is rare footage of Sadler’s Wells beating Seattle Song (under Cash Asmussen, brother of American trainer, Steve Asmussen) in the very first running of the Phoenix Park Champion Stakes in 1984.

Through the Seventies and the early Eighties, the Coolmore syndicate thrived. For a decade success followed success, with Sangster being crowned leading owner eight times up to 1985. Then their fortunes took a sudden down-turn. Ballydoyle produced only one classic winner (Dark Lomond) from 1985 – 1990.  The Maktoums arrived on the scene in Kentucky and the UK, horsemen so wealthy that they could afford to spend up to 50 million on a thoroughbred, effectively dethroning Coolmore and cutting into its buying power. The market crash of the mid-Eighties also took its toll, as farm after farm went up for sale and owners like the affluent Nelson Bunker Hunt dispersed their bloodstock holdings. Robert Sangster was also feeling the pinch of a slumping thoroughbred market. He began to sell off his holdings in Australia and turned his attention to acquiring fillies who would make outstanding broodmares instead.

At the Keeneland sale of 1983, the Maktoums and Coolmore went head-to-head over a colt who was eventually named Snaafi Dancer. The former emerged victorious — at a price of $10.2 million. (As it turned out, Snaafi Dancer [Northern Dancer – My Bupers] never raced and turned out to be sub-fertile.)

Snaafi Dancer, Keeneland, 1983.

In 1985, there was a meeting in Dubai between the Maktoums and Coolmore. Referred to by some as “The Summit,” the speculation was that some kind of détente would be reached between the two so that both of their separate enterprises might flourish. What actually happened was never revealed, but Vincent O’Brien would train several horses for Sheikh Mohammed and, in 1986, David O’Brien gave the Sheikh his first Classic-winning colt, Authaal, a son of the incomparable Shergar. Jacqueline O’Brien, wife of Vincent and an exceptional photographer, spoke about the wonderful hospitality with which they were received by the Maktoums and, in particular, the trip she took into the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Desert that had been pre-arranged by Sheikh Mohammed.

The Empty Quarter features unique sand formations that make it one of the wonders of the modern world.

A further complication was the untimely death of Coolmore’s Golden Fleece, the one son of Nijinsky who O’Brien was to rate as highly as his sire, if not better. The colt succumbed to leukemia after only a single season at stud. As well, El Gran Senor was found to be less than fully fertile. The insurance money for Golden Fleece was slow to materialize, and El Gran Senor’s problems represented a significant financial loss.

The premature death of the brilliant Golden Fleece, the 1982 winner of the Epsom Derby in the fastest time in 50 years, was a blow for Coolmore at a time when the going was already very difficult.

All of these events combined to prompt the partners to begin the ill-fated Classic Thoroughbreds, an investors foundation set up to attract additional equity. As a concept, Classic Thoroughbreds was really a means of Coolmore going public. With the attraction of a larger base of investors, the hope was that Coolmore would recover some of its former purchasing power. Vincent O’Brien was appointed AGM, with a wealthy Board of Directors that included Sir Michael Smurfit, then Chairman of the Irish Racing Board and his father, Jefferson Smurfit, to provide additional support and advice. Despite tremendous pressure, which O’Brien felt very keenly, he nevertheless managed to purchase some decent individuals on behalf of the shareholders. The best of these was, without a doubt, Royal Academy.

And so it was that the partners journeyed on through a particularly rough patch, with O’Brien buying and training new prospects for the shareholders of Classic Thoroughbreds, Magnier managing Coolmore and Sangster focusing on building a solid broodmare band.

By 1991, there was cause for great celebration. Their young stallion, Sadler’s Wells, was looking to be the fulfillment of the Coolmore vision, siring In The Wings, Old Vic, El Prado, Barathea and the champion filly, Salsabil, in his first crops:

As well, Coolmore purchased a half-interest in Danehill from owner-breeder Prince Khalid Abdullah in 1990. The young stallion shuttled between Coolmore Ireland and Arrowfield Stud, in Australia, who shared ownership, although Coolmore was quick to buy Arrowfield out when Danehill’s prepotency became apparent. In the Danehill venture, Coolmore handed the world of thoroughbred breeding still another concept: that of shuttling sires to different hemispheres. Danehill was the first of what has since become a common practice.

Danehill (Danzig X Razyana, by His Majesty [Ribot]) as represented by equine artist, Susan Crawford.

By 1995, the Coolmore thoroughbred, principally under the auspices of Sadler’s Wells and Danehill, was a force to be reckoned with on a global scale.

Both sires got champion colts and fillies. Sons of Sadler’s Wells include Galileo, the late Montjeu, Istabraq (National Hunt champion), High Chaparral, Islington, Beat Hollow, Perfect Soul, Ballingarry, Powerscourt and the fabulous Yeats. Among his daughters are the likes of Imagine, Peeping Fawn, Alexandrova and BC Filly & Mare Turf heroine, Islington.

Danehill had an astonishing 76.9% success rate, including 349 stakes winners who netted a staggering $375 million in earnings. Among his most prominent offspring are Rock of Gibraltar, Desert King (sire of champion Makybe Diva), Arc winner Dylan Thomas, Danehill Dancer, Duke of Marmalade, Elvstroem, Exceed and Excel, Fastnet Rock, George Washington, Redoute’s Choice, Landseer, North Light, Holy Roman Emperor, Peeping Fawn, Oratorio, Cacique and Champs Elysees. As a broodmare sire, he is most recently in the limelight for his contribution to the making of both Frankel and Arc winner, Danedream.

If it can be said that Sadler’s Wells consolidated the reputation of Coolmore Ireland, then Danehill did that and more for Coolmore Australia. The brilliant sire died prematurely in a tragic paddock accident in 2003. But despite his loss, Danehill’s name can be found in the sire line and family of many of our most impressive late-twentieth and early twenty-first century thoroughbred champions.

Together with Danehill, Sadler’s Wells was the product of the unrelenting efforts of O’Brien, Sangster, Piggott and Magnier to build a commercial breeding empire that was self-sustaining. Even though, as a colt, Sadler’s Wells had been eclipsed by the promise of El Gran Senor, through the breeding acumen of Robert Sangster he gave Coolmore Ireland its dream sire.

In 2012, Sadler’s Wells’ millionaire son, Galileo, is well on his way to living up to the benchmark set by his sire — if not surpassing it. Most recently, a thoroughbred who may well be the best ever appears at the top of his CV: Frankel. But Galileo is responsible for other very fine individuals as well. His progeny to date include Nathaniel, Cape Blanco, Red Rocks, Sixties Icon, Soldier of Fortune, Treasure Beach and the champion fillies Golden Lilac, Igugu and Lush Lashes. High Chaparral has given Australia the wonder-kid, So You Think, as well as Descarado, Redwood, Shoot Out,Wigmore Hall and Wrote. Danehill lives on in individuals like Frankel, North Light and Redoute’s Choice. And Nijinsky, so beloved by Vincent O’Brien, has most recently given the world the magnificent Black Caviar, through his son, Royal Academy, the sire of Bel Esprit.

Vincent O’Brien leads in his beloved Nijinsky after he had captured the British Triple Crown, a proud Lester Piggott in the saddle.

With the retirement of Vincent O’Brien in 1994 and the death of Robert Sangster, John Magnier acquired both Ballydoyle and Coolmore. Aidan O’Brien (no relation to Vincent) was installed as trainer at Ballydoyle. After initial successes with horses like Thunder Gulch, business tycoon Michael Tabor joined Coolmore and owns horses in two- or three-way partnerships with John and Sue Magnier. Demi O’Byrne now represents Coolmore at bloodstock sales worldwide.

The last two decades have witnessed the “rise of Coolmore” and it has expanded to include Coolmore National Hunt (the former Castlehyde stud), Coolmore America (the former Ashford Farm) and Coolmore Australia.

The narrative of Coolmore will endure, as will the names of its founders. Theirs is, above all, a story of the passion of a shared vision and of dedication to the thoroughbred.

But even when you’ve realized your dream, the racing gods continue to play. In a collaboration between Coolmore and Juddmonte, where the latter supplies mares to be covered by Coolmore stallions, Frankel fell to Prince Khalid Abdullah on something like the coin toss that sent Secretariat to Meadow Stables. Each year, when all the Juddmonte-Coolmore foals are born, one or other of the two breeding giants gets first choice.

In 2008, first pick fell to Juddmonte.

In the future, look for the Coolmore mares to be visiting Juddmonte. Specifically, this guy: Frankel in his new home at Banstead Manor.

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