Deep Into the Wells

By Christy Grassick -- It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to have been involved with Sadler's Wells. He is without doubt the best sire Europe has ever seen. The fact he has sired 200 stakes winners is proof enough of that.

Nobody could have quite imagined the extent of his success when he retired to stud. That said, everyone here at Coolmore was extremely confident that he would become a top-notch stallion. He had everything. A son of Northern Dancer from a great sire family, he showed a lot of ability at two and proved to be one of the best and toughest of his generation as a 3-year-old. Rather than one individual performance, it was the sum total of his 3-year-old campaign that was most impressive.

He ran nine times as a 3-year-old including seven consecutive starts in group I races. He just kept coming back for more--much like Giant's Causeway did the season before last. On top of that, Sadler's Wells has always had a great temperament, he's got the looks, and he's a wonderful mover.

All of those factors were reasons why we had such confidence in him as a stallion. He had all the qualities you look for in a sire and he had them in abundance. He also got great support from the breeders, many of whom sent him their very best mares. I'm glad to say that his son, Galileo, received a similar vote of confidence from the breeders this year, so let's hope that lightning can strike twice.

It is always a key moment when a stallion's first foals are born. Once Sadler's Wells' first foals started to arrive, our confidence certainly began to grow. He really stamped his stock--which is always a great sign. Another factor that instilled confidence was the great start Nureyev was making at stud. (Nureyev is a half-brother to Fairy Bridge, dam of Sadler's Wells.) Theatrical was one of 10 stakes winners from Nureyev's first crop. Then, once Sadler's Wells' own first crop hit the track, well, he's just never looked back.

We have also been pretty lucky in that Sadler's Wells has had a largely uninterrupted career at stud. He did give us one bad scare a few years back, but thankfully there have been none in the recent past. He certainly hasn't cost me any sleepless nights. That's never been a problem.

There have been so many notable successes for Sadler's Wells' progeny that it is hard to pick out a favorite. But I'd have to go for Montjeu's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I) victory and Galileo's Derby (Eng-I) at Epsom.

Montjeu's win was just poetry in motion, and no matter how many times you watch it you can't but wonder at the ease with which he did it. Galileo's Derby was very special too--the way he traveled and the acceleration he showed when Mick Kinane pressed the button--the race was all over in a couple of strides. Of course, it was also great for Sadler's Wells to silence the doubters who said he would never sire an Epsom Derby winner. He has sired another this year with High Chaparral for good measure and, of course, had the first four home in the Irish Derby (Ire-I).

As for the future, I think there's really no doubt whatsoever he will have a long and lasting impact through both his sons and daughters. Already several of his sons worldwide have sired group I winners and their sons again are also doing well. In the Wings and Singspiel would be a good example of this. But the most interesting thing is his initial few sons to go to stud have had so much success. In the Wings, Opera House, El Prado, Barathea, Fort Wood, and Carnegie are all from the early crops of Sadler's Wells. They have all sired group/grade I winners, as have Saddlers' Hall and Scenic. That has got to be very encouraging.

With so much already achieved and so much more to come, Sadler's Wells just has to have an unbelievable long-term impact in the years ahead.

Christy Grassick is manager of Coolmore Stud in Ireland, home to Sadler's Wells since he retired from racing in 1985.