Sea The Stars is the 2009 Cartier Horse of the Year
The exceptional Sea The Stars was named Cartier Horse of the Year and Cartier Champion Three-Year-Old Colt at the 2009 Cartier Racing Awards, which were presented at Claridge’s Hotel in Mayfair, London, England, before an invited audience of 200 on the evening of Tuesday, November 17, 2009.
After clinching the Derby, Sea The Stars dropped down to 10 furlongs for his next three starts and emphasised his dominance against the best in Europe with triumphs in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park, the Juddmonte International at York and the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.
Home-bred out of the Tsui family’s outstanding mare Urban Sea, Sea The Stars then emulated his dam with victory in Europe’s top middle distance race, the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe over 12 furlongs at Longchamp, France, in October.
No horse before him had added Arc success to wins in the 2,000 Guineas and Derby and that victory stamped him as one of the all-time great champions. Some have called him the greatest all-time racehorse, while others argue he is best for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years.
In the outstanding Cartier Horse of the Year Category, Sea the Stars prevailed from the sensational two-time TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile heroine Goldikova, dual Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf victor Conduit, boylesports.com Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Mastercraftsman and the brilliant stanjames.com 1,000 Guineas heroine Ghanaati. Between them, the five nominees gained 16 Group One races in 2009.
Sea The Stars also took the honours in the Cartier Three-Year-Old Colt category from crack miler Rip Van Winkle, Mastercraftsman, runaway Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby winner Fame And Glory and Prix du Jockey Club hero Le Havre.
Goldikova topped a very strong division to clinch the Cartier Champion Older Horse Award. With four Group One wins on the board this year, including that scintillating second Breeders’ Cup Mile triumph, the Freddie Head-trained filly saw off Group One King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Sponsored by Betfair) winner Conduit, as well as Fleeting Spirit, Dar Re Mi and impressive Group One Prince Of Wales’s Stakes victor Vision d’Etat.
The Cartier Two-Year-Old Colt category was particularly competitive but it was the unbeaten Group One Racing Post Trophy winner St Nicholas Abbey who took the 2009 Award. The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt pipped Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere scorer Siyouni, the unbeaten pair of Group One Darley Dewhurst Stakes hero Awzaan and Group One Prix Morny winner Arcano, as well as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf victor Pounced.
Special Duty stormed to success in the Group One Electrolux Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket in October and she has been crowned the Cartier Champion Two-Year-Old Filly for 2009. The Criquette Head-Maarek-trained youngster won two from four starts and defeated colts when winning the Group Two Prix Robert Papin. Also nominated were Termagant, winner of the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes, Rosanara, Hibaayeb and Lady Of The Desert.
Sariska won the Investec Oaks at Epsom and cruised to a spectacular victory in the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh. In a close-run contest, the Michael Bell-trained Pivotal filly took the 2009 Cartier Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Award from stanjames.com 1,000 Guineas and Group One Coronation Stakes winner Ghanaati, and the Henry Cecil-trained Midday, who added the Grade One Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf to a Group One Blue Square Nassau Stakes triumph. Runaway Prix de Diane winner Stacelita and Poule d’Essai des Pouliches heroine Elusive Wave were also nominated.
Yeats ensured his place among the greats with a record fourth victory in the Gold Cup at Ascot. The Sadler’s Wells eight-year-old, who aroused great emotion when winning the Royal Ascot feature, was named the Cartier Champion Stayer for 2009, thus becoming the first horse to win a Cartier Award four times. In a tough division, he headed Alandi, who defeated Yeats in both the Group One Irish Field St Leger and Group One Qatar Prix du Cadran. Also in the running for recognition were the top-class Ask, Schiaparelli and Askar Tau.
Fleeting Spirit’s victory in the Group One Darley July Cup at Newmarket, where she defeated a whole host of top-class sprinters from far and wide, sees her receive the 2009 Cartier Champion Sprinter Award. Group One Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye winner Total Gallery was also in contention, as was the popular Borderlescott who secured a second successive win in the Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August. Group One winners Art Connoisseur and King’s Apostle were also nominated.
John Oxx, the great trainer of Sea The Stars, has been voted the 2009 Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award of Merit winner. The Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award Of Merit is for the person or persons who, in the opinion of the special 18-strong Cartier Jury, has/have done most for European racing and/or breeding either over their lifetime or within the past 12 months.
The list of past winners of the Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award of Merit is as follows; HM The Queen, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Niarchos Family, Peter Willett, Henry Cecil, David & Patricia Thompson, Lord Oaksey, Prince Khalid Abdulla, John Magnier, His Highness The Aga Khan, Peter Walwyn, the Head Family, Sir Peter O'Sullevan, Frankie Dettori, John Dunlop, the Marquess of Hartington, Francois Boutin, Lester Piggott and Henri Chalhoub.
The highly-coveted horse awards were determined by points earned in Pattern races combined with the opinions of a panel of racing journalists headed by Brough Scott plus votes from readers of the Racing Post and The Daily Telegraph, a system which over the years has accurately rewarded supreme excellence.
The Cartier Racing Awards were established in 1991 to recognise the achievements of racehorses.
Cartier Horse Of The Year and Cartier Three-Year-Old Colt
SEA THE STARS (IRE)
Champions are not pre-destined by dint of a fancy pedigree or a perfect physique. If that were the case, horseracing would not be quite the enthralling puzzle that it is. Racing phenomena such as Brigadier Gerard, Sea-Bird and Celtic Swing came from unfashionable stock, while on the flip-side, the likes of Nijinsky, Lammtarra and Nashwan were bred deep in the purple.
Sea The Stars falls squarely into the latter category. Cape Cross, his renowned sire, was an excellent miler from a family replete with top-class performers. His dam, Urban Sea, who raced in the colours of David Tsui, hails from similarly outstanding stock. Her greatest victory as an athlete came in the 1993 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
By the time Sea The Stars was foaled at the Irish National Stud on April 6, 2006, Urban Sea was already a totally exceptional broodmare, being the dam of the Derby winner Galileo, his Group One-winning brother Black Sam Bellamy, and the Classic-placed fillies Melikah and All Too Beautiful. Her Giant’s Causeway filly, My Typhoon, would collect a further Grade One success for the family at Saratoga in 2007.
Blessed with such a regal lineage, superb conformation, an unflappable constitution and comportment to match, the young Sea The Stars ticked plenty of boxes when placed in the care of Currabeg trainer John Oxx as a yearling in 2007, but the most important question was still to be answered. How fast could he run?
Racing in the colours of Christopher Tsui, whose family bred the colt under the Sunderland Holdings banner, Sea The Stars began delivering his answer with a promising fourth to Driving Snow on his racecourse debut. That came in the Jebel Ali Racecourse & Stables European Breeders’ Fund Maiden over seven furlongs at the Curragh, Ireland, on July 13, 2008, and was to be the colt’s only racecourse reversal.
His maiden triumph came easily at Leopardstown the following month and he rounded off his juvenile season with a determined half-length victory over stable companion Mourayan in the Group Two Juddmonte Beresford Stakes over a mile that September.
Sea The Stars was next seen in public circling the Newmarket parade ring prior to the stanjames.com 2,000 Guineas. As he went to post for the mile Classic, the bookmakers offered a retrospectively generous 8/1. He scoffed at those odds, asserting inside the distance to win impressively by a length and a half from Delegator.
An abundance of doubters had the temerity to question whether a horse with such speed could last the mile and a half of the Investec Derby. Sea The Stars crushed the debate as he did the opposition with a commanding triumph at Epsom Downs, thus becoming the first horse to complete the Classic double since Nashwan, 20 years previously.
The brilliant colt was sent off the 11/4 second-favourite behind runner-up and 9/4 market leader Fame And Glory that day. But he did not start at odds against in any of his remaining four races.
At Sandown in early July, Sea The Stars again emulated Nashwan as he added the 10-furlong Coral-Eclipse Stakes to his increasingly impressive CV. Having cruised through the race to take the lead with a quarter of a mile remaining, Mick Kinane’s mount was forced to dig a little deeper through the final furlong as he warded off the determined challenge of subsequent dual Group One-winning miler Rip Van Winkle.
York came next and the Juddmonte International on August 18. As at Epsom and Sandown, his main rival was an Aidan O’Brien-trained colt. This time, the daunting task of taking on Sea The Stars fell to boylesports.com Irish 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero Mastercraftsman. For a few strides inside the final quarter-mile, it appeared that Mastercraftsman had Sea The Stars under pressure. The illusion passed the moment Kinane shook the reins and Sea The Stars quickened to a length victory.
Fame And Glory had routed the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby field after filling the runner-up berth in the English equivalent and the Ballydoyle colt was seeking to turn the tables on Sea The Stars in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 5, as was his stablemate, Mastercraftsman.
Sea The Stars travelled strongly through the 10-furlong contest and when Fame And Glory kicked for home off the final turn, Kinane was poised in pursuit. With his old rival flat out, Sea The Stars swept past him approaching the distance and strode clear for an impressive two and a half length triumph. It was the same distance back to Mastercraftsman, with the rest of the nine runners strung out at long intervals.
No horse had ever won the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Sea The Stars headed to Longchamp on October 4, primed to set that record straight as he sought a sixth consecutive Group One victory.
Not since his sensational Derby triumph in June had the brilliant bay stepped out over a mile and a half but that did not deter his legion of fans who flooded the Bois de Boulogne in anticipation of another historic victory. They were not disappointed.
Except for a brief moment off the home turn when Sea The Stars appeared momentarily as if he could become hemmed in a pocket, there was never really much doubt that he would emulate his mother and win Europe’s biggest prize. Brought with a fearless rail run under the ever-present Kinane, Sea The Stars ascended smoothly through the gears down the home straight, picking up the leader Stacelita two furlongs out and then powering to a two-length victory over Youmzain.
There was brief talk of a Breeders’ Cup bid but, after giving so much in a flawless campaign, Sea The Stars was retired to the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud by the Tsui family. Many notable observers declared the colt to be the best they had ever seen. The Racing Post hailed him “The Greatest”. Such superlative statements are difficult to evince. What is certain is that Sea The Stars lit up the 2009 Flat season and none who witnessed his brilliance will forget that they were privileged to look upon an exceptional athlete, the outstanding horse of his generation and the champion of our time. He will be remembered among the greats.
Cartier Champion Two-Year-Old Filly
SPECIAL DUTY (GB)
Special Duty is the recipient of the 2009 Cartier Award for the season’s outstanding two-year-old filly. Bred by owner Khalid Abdulla’s Juddmonte Farms, the Hennessy filly is out of Quest To Peak, a sister to US Grade One winner Sightseek.
Evidently held in high esteem from an early stage, Special Duty made a pleasing career debut when second in the Listed Prix Yacowlef over five furlongs at Deauville, France, on July 4.
Criquette Head-Maarek had no hesitation in pitching Special Duty against the colts in the six-furlong Group Two Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffitte later that month and the filly rewarded her trainer’s confidence as she saw off subsequent Group One winner Siyouni in the six-furlong contest.
Having beaten the boys once, Special Duty returned to Deauville in August for the Group One Darley Prix Morny. Although just unable to pull off another victory, the filly enhanced her reputation in going down by a short-neck to the unbeaten Brian Meehan-trained colt, Arcano.
Her final race of the season, the Group One Electrolux Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket in October, proved to be her most stunning performance and led her trainer to draw comparisons with her brilliant fillies of the past, Ma Biche and Ravinella.
The ever-present Stephane Pasquier took Special Duty to the front after a furlong and stayed there through the remaining five. Lady Of The Desert attempted to launch a challenge at the distance but Special Duty asserted her superiority and drew clear for a scintillating two and three quarter length victory from Misheer, who pipped the weakening Lady Of The Desert for the runner-up spot by a head.
Cartier Champion Two-Year-Old Colt
ST NICHOLAS ABBEY (IRE)
Unbeaten in three starts, St Nicholas Abbey clinched the Cartier Champion Two-Year-Old Colt Award with a virtuoso performance in the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on October 24.
Johnny Murtagh enjoyed a dream ride aboard the Montjeu colt in the mile contest. Held up in rear initially, St Nicholas Abbey glided to the lead approaching the final furlong before hitting the turbo to clinch an emphatic three and three quarter length triumph from Elusive Pimpernel.
That success enhanced the colt’s earlier victories that had themselves prompted talk of future Classic success. Having sluiced to a four-length win on his debut over a mile at the Curragh, Ireland, on August 16, St Nicholas Abbey returned to the same course and distance the following month for the Group Two Juddmonte Beresford Stakes, the race Sea the Stars took en route to greatness.
Sent off the 2/5 favourite, St Nicholas Abbey lived up to his reputation with a comfortable success by three quarters of a length over Layali Al Andalus.
By the brilliant Prix du Jockey Club, Irish Derby, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Montjeu, St Nicholas Abbey is out of Leaping Water, who is a half-sister to Group One winners Starborough, Ballingarry and Aristotle.
Cartier Champion Three-Year-Old Filly
Sariska proved her mettle with some excellent performances this season to earn the accolade of Cartier Champion Three-year-Old Filly.
Lady Bamford’s home-bred headed into the 2009 season as a filly of immense potential following victory on her sole outing as a two-year-old at Newmarket the previous November. She commenced her Classic campaign in the Group Three Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Newbury in April and acquitted herself admirably, coming home fourth to subsequent Grade One E P Taylor Stakes winner Lahaleeb over an inadequate seven-furlong trip.
A decision was taken to send the Pivotal filly to York for her next start. That came in the Group Three Tattersalls Musidora Stakes over 10 furlongs. Sariska relished the extra distance. Striking for home with a quarter of a mile to race, Michael Bell’s charge ran on powerfully to take the contest by three and three quarter lengths.
Having taken one of the premier Oaks trials in such authoritative style, Sariska lined up for the Investec-sponsored Classic at Epsom in June as the well-supported 9/4 favourite. She did not disappoint her supporters, although they were forced to fret a little through the post-race stewards’ enquiry.
In the race itself, jockey Jamie Spencer began to make a move from his midfield position with about three furlongs remaining. As the race approached its climax, Sariska quickened up on the outside of the field but drifted left down the camber, impeding Midday. As Spencer strove to straighten his mount, she rolled right, causing Rainbow View to check her stride. Midday came back at Spencer’s mount through the final furlong but Sariska battled gamely and was always holding her rival, whom she defeated by a head.
It was an entirely different story when Sariska went to the Curragh for the Darley Irish Oaks. Prolonged rainfall had turned the going heavy and the filly relished the conditions. Rarely has any horse approached the final quarter-mile of a Classic swinging easily on the bridle while rivals strained vainly to go faster. Sariska did just that. In fact, Spencer was offered the remarkable luxury of sitting stock still atop his mount, his only movement being a wave to the toiling Fran Berry aboard runner-up Roses For The Lady, as Sariska cruised to the lead inside the distance and seemingly cantered to an imperious three-length triumph. Old rival and subsequent Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf heroine Midday was a further four and a half lengths back in third.
Sariska was widely expected to add to her victory count at York in the Group One Darley Yorkshire Oaks in August. In retrospect, given that she was found to be in season, her close second to the four-year-old Dar Re Mi was a fine effort as her conqueror passed the post first in the Group One Prix Vermeille, was a close fifth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and filled third berth behind Conduit in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Bell gave Sariska time to recover from her summer exertions before sending her to Newmarket for her final outing of 2009 in the 10-furlong Emirates Airline Champion Stakes. Ridden by Kieren Fallon, the dual Oaks winner earned plaudits in defeat as she came from well off the pace to finish a length and a half third to subsequent Breeders’ Cup Classic-placed Twice Over, with Irish Derby winner Fame And Glory back in fifth. Sariska stays in training for 2010.
Cartier Champion Older Horse
Miesque is a name that inspires wistful awe, so when the great filly’s jockey, Freddie Head, now a successful trainer, suggested that the current star of his Chantilly stable, the crack filly Goldikova, could be as good as that legend of the 1980s, it took a leap of faith to believe him.
But faith is something that Head has in abundance, at least where Goldikova is concerned, and the four-year-old filly did not let him down at Santa Anita on November 7, when, for the second year running, her devastating turn of foot proved decisive in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile. Only one other filly has managed back-to-back wins in that showcase race, the exceptional Miesque.
Bred and raced by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Goldikova is deservedly crowned Cartier Champion Older Horse for 2009 after a series of outstanding performances this year.
Having ended her juvenile season unbeaten after two races over a mile in 2007, Goldikova had to settle for minor placings in the first three starts of her Classic campaign. Twice she had the misfortune of locking horns with 2008 Cartier Horse Of The Year, Zarkava. After finishing second to the Aga Khan’s awesome filly in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Goldikova found the extended 10 furlongs of the Prix Diane beyond her stamina limit and had to settle for third.
That was the last time Goldikova met her nemesis. With Zarkava’s sights set at middle distances and a famous Arc triumph, Goldikova blossomed into a supreme miler.
She bounced back from her Diane setback with an easy success in the Group Three Prix Chloe before stamping her authority with a hat-trick of Group One wins. Darjina was swept aside in both the Prix Rothschild and the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp. Then came the defining moment of her three-year-old season, an electric burst of acceleration that clinched a superb success in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita and made the world take note.
Goldikova was a disappointing seventh on her four-year-old bow in the Group One Prix d’Ispahan in May this year. She was rested thereafter until the Head yard recovered top form, returning to action in the Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in July when she proved eminently superior to her rivals. A second success in Deauville’s Prix Rothschild followed on August 2, as she dismissed the 2009 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches winner Elusive Wave. Two weeks later, Goldikova turned the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques le Marois at the same course into a procession. The Anabaa filly made top-class rivals look ordinary as she drew six lengths clear of subsequent Prix du Moulin de Longchamp hero Aqlaam, with Virtual a further five lengths back in third. Fellow Group One winners Never On Sunday, Silver Frost and Gladiatorus were nothing more than distant shadows.
In preparation for the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita, Goldikova went to Longchamp for the seven-furlong Total Prix de la Foret. Never before had she raced at less than a mile. Olivier Peslier, the only man to have ridden the champion, opted to discard the usual restraint and allowed Goldikova to race in second off a hot pace, before taking the lead inside the final three furlongs. The unthinkable happened as Goldikova paid for her early exertions and faded close home to finish third.
That setback did not dampen the view of connections that a second Breeders’ Cup success was on the cards. Sure enough, Goldikova was brilliant in California. Held up at the rear, she mowed down her rivals in the straight with her trademark burst of speed and took the spoils by half a length from Courageous Cat to earn her place in the record books alongside her great predecessor.
Cartier Champion Sprinter
FLEETING SPIRIT (IRE)
Fleeting Spirit has established herself as one of Europe’s top speedsters over the past two seasons and her 2009 exertions, including an excellent victory in the Group One Darley July Cup, have earned her the title of Cartier Champion Sprinter.
A fast and classy juvenile, Fleeting Spirit won three of her five starts in 2007, including beating subsequent Group One winner Kingsgate Native in Goodwood’s Betfair Molecomb Stakes and a Group Two success in the Polypipe Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster.
Her only reversals came when a close runner-up to Nahoodh in the Group Two Jaguar Cars Lowther Stakes at York and also to the following season’s 1,000 Guineas heroine Natagora in the Group One skybet.com Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.
Trainer Jeremy Noseda resisted any temptation to test Fleeting Spirit over a mile in the Guineas and instead sent her to Haydock and the Group Two betfred.com Temple Stakes for her three-year-old debut. She posted a breathtaking performance, defeating subsequent dual Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes winner Borderlescott by two lengths, shattering the five-furlong course record in the process.
After a third-place finish to Equiano in the Group One King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, 2008, Fleeting Spirit was sidelined until October, returning to take fifth behind Marchand D’Or in the Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp and then closing her campaign with fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Fleeting Spirit commenced 2009 at Royal Ascot in the King’s Stand Stakes. After a slow start, she finished strongly down the stands’ side and emerged as the only threat to Australian speedster Scenic Blast, closing to within three quarters of a length at the line.
That promising run was followed by her brilliant victory in the Group One Darley July Cup at Newmarket. Ridden for the first time by Tom Queally, the filly survived a marked swerve to the right inside the final furlong as she scorched to a length and a quarter success over Main Aim, with a host of top sprinters behind, including Group One winners King’s Apostle, J J The Jet Plane, Paco Boy, African Rose, Equiano, Art Connoisseur and Australian stars Scenic Blast and Takeover Target.
Given a break before an autumn campaign, Fleeting Spirit returned to the track for the Group One Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock on September 5. Always best suited to quick conditions, soft going blunted the filly’s speed and she performed admirably to finish a half-length second to Regal Parade.
Conditions were more to her liking at Longchamp for the five-furlong Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye on October 4. Slowly away, Fleeting Spirit ran on strongly at the finish but failed by a neck to overhaul the winner, Total Gallery.
Her final outing of 2009 came in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on November 7. Racing on an artificial surface for the first time, Fleeting Spirit was unable to muster her usual acceleration and had to settle for seventh in the six-furlong contest behind Dancing In Silks.
Cartier Champion Stayer
Few horses on the Flat succeed in capturing the affection of an admiring racing public like Yeats has done in recent times but then no other horse in history has managed to clinch the Gold Cup at Ascot on an unprecedented four successive occasions.
Yeats won his first three career starts, including the Group Two Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial in May, 2004, to put him at the head of that year’s Derby betting. Injury intervened to sideline him for a year but he made some amends for missing the Epsom Classic with victory over the course and distance in the 2005 Coronation Cup. Yeats failed to win in three further outings as a four-year-old.
Aidan O’Brien prepared Yeats for an audacious tilt at the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot on his seasonal debut in 2006. Ridden by Kieren Fallon, the five-year-old relished the two and a half mile trip as he drew four lengths clear of runner-up Reefscape. With the staying division his new stamping ground, Yeats went to Glorious Goodwood for a brilliant five-length triumph in the Group Two ABN Amro Goodwood Cup over two miles. A close second in the Irish Field St Leger and a seventh-place finish in the Emirates Melbourne Cup rounded off that campaign in which he clinched a first Cartier Champion Stayer Award.
The 2007 season saw Yeats really impose his authority as he won his first four races including a defeat of Geordieland in the Gold Cup and a last-gasp victory over stablemate Scorpion in the Irish St Leger. Defeat to Le Miracle in the Prix du Cadran at Longchamp failed to tarnish the champion’s reputation and another Cartier Stayer Award was his.
If 2007 was good, 2008 was phenomenal. With Yeats established as the finest stayer of recent times, the horse opened his campaign with a second successive win in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan in April. True greatness beckoned and Yeats embraced it with a devastating five-length defeat of Geordieland at Royal Ascot that saw him join the hitherto peerless Sagaro. A second Goodwood Cup was added as Yeats sauntered across the line seven lengths clear of Tungsten Strike.
Yeats suffered a reversal at Longchamp in the Qatar Prix du Cadran that October as he finished a below-par fifth to Spanish raider Bannaby. The great horse put that run to bed on his final start of the campaign when returning to Longchamp later in the month for the Prix Royal-Oak. In a strong renewal of the Group One race, Yeats held the previous year’s winner Allegretto by a length and a half with Bannaby back in fourth.
The exploits of 2008 were always going to be tough to top and some among the faithless wondered if 2009 would be a season too far for the eight-year-old after he finished a distant sixth to Alandi in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes on his seasonal return in April.
Yeats condemned the doubters with another overwhelming performance at his beloved Ascot in June as he brushed off the attentions of the young upstart Patkai and stormed to a three and half length triumph, with a further 15 lengths back to old rival Geordieland in third. That historic triumph proved to be his final victory.
A below par last of eight in the Irish Field St Leger was clearly not the great horse’s running. He proved that with a game effort on his final start at Longchamp in October. The old boy showed some of his former sparkle in the Qatar Prix du Cadran but was unable to hold off the younger legs of Alandi and Kasbah Bliss, finishing a length and a half behind that pair in third. Those two reversals were of little consequence - Yeats shone when it mattered, at Ascot in June.
Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award of Merit 2009
John Mortimer Oxx has enjoyed a phenomenal year. There is no doubt that he will forever be associated with Sea The Stars, that is the nature of the correlation between an exceptional horse and his handler, but the record books will show that Oxx is far from a one-horse trainer.
Oxx was born on July 14, 1950, the son of John Oxx snr, a respected trainer who won eight Irish Classics - it could have been nine had Sorba not been controversially disqualified from the 1977 Irish Oaks.
Oxx qualified as a veterinarian from University College Dublin and went on to assist his father at the family’s famous Creeve Stables at Currabeg, on the Kildare side of the Curragh, until the latter’s retirement at the end of the 1978 season. Having taken on the licence, the young trainer saddled his first winner on March 31, 1979, when Orchestra triumphed at Phoenix Park.
His first few years as a trainer brought notable successes with the likes of Greenlands Stakes victors Carravilla and Rustic Amber, as well as Safe Home, who took the 1983 Curragh Stakes, and Innan and Antic Boy who, in 1986, landed the Killavullan Stakes and Leopardstown Stakes, respectively.
Eurobird, a chestnut filly by Ela-Mana-Mou, propelled Oxx to a higher level when winning the 1987 Irish St Leger for owner Gerald Jennings, whose colours had been carried by the luckless Sorba. The landmark triumph had added poignancy, coming as it did in the year that Oxx’s father passed away.
Further top-class success followed with Flamenco Wave in the 1988 Moyglare Stud Stakes before a second Irish St Leger triumph in 1989 with another filly, Petite Ile.
Having proven himself a shrewd and talented trainer, Oxx also gained the respect of many within the industry as chairman of the Irish National Stud (1985 to 1990) and, from 1986 to 1991, as chairman of the Irish Racehorse Trainers’ Association (he would reprise that role from 1993 to 1996). Sheikh Mohammed was swift to send horses and when the Aga Khan looked to expand his string in Ireland at the end of the 1980s, he looked no further than Currabeg. Major success for the new team would not be too far distant.
Like his father before him, Oxx gained a reputation as a trainer adept at handling fillies. One such individual was Ben’s Pearl, whose sole victory from five starts in 1988 came in the Irish Cambridgeshire at odds of 14/1. No one at the time could have guessed at the impact the Anne Coughlan-owned filly would have on Oxx’s career.
The Coughlans bred Ben’s Pearl to Indian Ridge and the result was Ridgewood Ben, a Group Three winning two-year-old for Oxx, who also finished third to Turtle Island in the 1994 Irish 2,000 Guineas. But that colt’s full-sister was the horse that took Oxx’s talents to a wider audience.
Ridgewood Pearl made her racecourse debut at the Curragh on September 11, 1994. That third place in the Go And Go Round Tower Stakes was to be one of only two defeats in her stellar eight-race career. Her victory two weeks later in the Group Three C. L. Weld Park Stakes was to be the first of five straight successes that included a hat-trick of scintillating Group One triumphs the following year in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, Coronation Stakes and Prix du Moulin. Outdone by a canny Willie Carson ride aboard Bahri when runner-up in Ascot’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Ridgewood Pearl scaled greater heights on her final start as she spread-eagled a top-class field to win the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Belmont Park.
That 1995 season was the year that Oxx went global. Ridgewood Pearl’s success in the Coronation Stakes was the trainer’s first Group One win outside of Ireland but by the end of the year he had collected a horde of Pattern race wins overseas, with Hushang and Russian Snows clinching Group Two victories in Germany and France respectively, and Timarida also scoring in that grade when winning the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp and the EP Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, Canada.
Timarida was Ridgewood Pearl’s successor as the stable ensign and further cemented the relationship between Oxx and the filly’s owner, the Aga Khan. In 1996, Timarida annexed a hat-trick of international Group One races, the Grosser Dallmayr Preis, the Beverly D Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes.
Further top-flight triumphs accompanied Oxx through the 1990s. Key Change carried off the Yorkshire Oaks (1996), Ebadiyla (1997) and Winona (1998) won the Irish Oaks, Edabiya followed in Flamenco Wave’s footsteps with a triumph in the Moyglare Stud Stakes (1998) and in 1999, Enzeli became the first Irish-trained winner of the Ascot Gold Cup for 30 years.
Enzeli’s success marked a subtle sea-change. John Oxx was suddenly training Group One winning colts. Not since Manntari landed the 1993 National Stakes had the trainer enjoyed a top-flight victory outside of his distaff brigade. As if to press home the point, Oxx repeated Manntari’s National Stakes victory that year with another Aga Khan colt, one by the name of Sinndar.
The year 2000 ultimately belonged to the strong-galloping colt. After going down by a head on his seasonal bow, Sinndar proceeded to reel off five straight victories. He held the incredibly talented Sakhee by a length in what was a top-notch renewal of the Derby, becoming the first Curragh-trained horse since Santa Claus in 1964 to win the Epsom Classic. He then slammed his rivals by an easy nine lengths in the Irish Derby and, for good measure, rounded off his career by becoming the first horse to add the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to success in those two Classics.
In 2003, Alamshar took the Irish Derby and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, while the next season, another Aga Khan colt, Azamour, scored in the St James’s Palace Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes. In 2005, Azamour enhanced his and Oxx’s reputation with wins in the Juddmonte International and emulated Alamshar with a King George victory.
In recent seasons, Oxx has taken his Irish St Leger tally to four with the wins of Kastoria (2006) and Alandi (2009), who this season also won the Prix du Cadran. He has also continued his love affair with the Blandford Stakes, which he first won with Eurobird in 1987. The victories of Four Sins (2007) and Katiyra (2008) sees his total stand at six in that Curragh contest.
For all of his excellent achievements, nothing compares to 2009 - Sea The Stars made certain of that. The colt swept all before him as he stamped himself as one of the great three-year-old colts of all time. Oxx expertly guided the equine phenomenon along his path to eminence.
First came the stanjames.com 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, then an emphatic victory in the Investec Derby. Having become the first horse in 20 years to clinch that Classic double, Sea The Stars added the Coral-Eclipse Stakes, the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes before a date with destiny in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. Sea The Stars was brilliant in quickening to a two-length victory in the Paris showpiece to give Oxx a second Arc victory and a career pinnacle.
An intelligent, outwardly calm and measured man, Oxx has been married to Catriona for 35 years and the couple have three children, Kevin, Deirdre and Aoife. His success has been built upon a loyal team of staff and owners. Assistant trainer Jim “Slim” O’Neill has been at Currabeg since he was 15, while jockeys Johnny Murtagh, Mick Kinane and Fran Berry have served the stable well down the years, as did Cash Asmussen and Pat Eddery before them. Lady Clague and Lady O’Reilly are among a myriad of owners who benefit from Oxx’s skills.
Never one to shy from an opportunity to give of his time to the horseracing industry, Oxx has also served on the committees of the Irish Equine Centre Board, Irish Horseracing Authority, Punchestown and Mallow racecourses and RACE. He has been chairman of Leopardstown racecourse since 2007.
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