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Sadler’s Wells the daddy of past Eclipse winners

Sadler’s Wells the daddy of past Eclipse winners
Sadler’s Wells the daddy of past Eclipse winners

Saturday marks 40 years since Sadler’s Wells added Sandown’s Coral-Eclipse to his decorated racing CV, but it is the presence of his achievements off the track that are still being felt every day.

Owned by Robert Sangster, a member of ‘the brethren’ alongside fellow Coolmore founders John Magnier and training legend Vincent O’Brien, Sadler’s Wells is one of the most famous runners to carry his fabled green and blue colours that were a staple part of racing coverage during the 1970s and 80s.

A son of the great Northern Dancer, he finished his Eclipse-winning year of 1984 as European champion miler, having also tasted success in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Irish Champion Stakes, as well as rattling the crossbar in the Prix du Jockey Club and King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

However, even such a distinguished record on the track would be surpassed once stepping into the breeding sheds for a stallion career that would make him one of the most influential sires of all time.

A pat for Sadler’s Wells after winning the Coral-Eclipse
A pat for Sadler’s Wells after winning the Coral-Eclipse (PA)

His first crop included the likes of Prix du Jockey Club and Irish Derby winner Old Vic, while Salsabil would be the first of many British Classic winners during a period that saw him crowned leading sire in Britain and Ireland a record 14 times.

Capable of producing champions across the distances on the Flat, luminaries such as Galileo and Montjeu feature on his list of Derby heroes, while Gold Cup stars Yeats and Kayf Tara are among those to excel over further.

Sadler’s Wells’ impact was even seen over jumps, as he counts three-time Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq as one of his progeny – as well as Cheltenham Gold Cup scorer Synchronised.

Today, his legacy lives on through both his progeny and the exploits of their offspring in the breeding world, with his greatest son Galileo holding the record for number of Derby winners sired and on the cusp of reaching 100 individual Group/Grade One winners.

Sadler’s Wells’ imprint on the Eclipse has continued through the success of sons Opera House and Refuse To Bend, plus grandsons Falbrav, So You Think, Nathaniel and Ulysses, as well as granddaughter Enable.

Move on another generation and he also features in the family tree of recent victors Ghaiyyath, St Mark’s Basilica and Vadeni.

Galileo has gone on to emulate Sadler's Wells as a stallion
Galileo has gone on to emulate Sadler’s Wells as a stallion (Martyn Hayhow/PA)

“I was minus three when he won the Eclipse, but his legacy lives on and what John, Vincent and dad built lives on every day in everybody’s life in this industry,” said Sangster’s son, Sam.

“You stand and open a racecard every day and it traces back to the horses that team bought – and obviously with Sadler’s Wells being a homebred, it was even more special.

“Year in and year out until his last book, Sadler’s Wells produced top-class horses and I think the only sire that has ever emulated him has been his son Galileo – and it looks like Frankel is going to do the same thing.

“They are rare these top stallions and we are always proud to have our name associated with horses like Sadler’s Wells.”

Trainer Ollie Sangster is just one of the many Sangsters that are involved in racing
Trainer Ollie Sangster is just one of the many Sangsters that are involved in racing (Simon Marper/PA)

Sangster died in 2004 aged 67, but the name remains ingrained in racing not only through the legacy of the horses that raced under his name, but also through the many family members now flying the flag across the racing industry.

“There’s plenty of us in the industry,” added Sam Sangster.

“Ollie is doing such a good job training at Manton and my brother Adam is down in Australia with his stallions at Swettenham Stud.

“My brother Ben, you see his horses at the top level out of a small broodmare band, and then there’s Ned Sangster who is on the back of a horse – who would have thought that.

“It’s incredible and I think the old man would be very proud. The pride is always brimming.”

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