The Grey Panel


SAVOIR VIVRE: Savoir gagner

Few recent events in the bloodstock world have had more far-reaching consequences than two which took place roughly 30 years ago: Sheikh Mohammed's purchase of Dalham Hall Stud and the arrival of at Coolmore Stud. Each event proved a catalyst for massive change in the bloodstock world, and the consequences of each resound in big races on an almost daily basis. One recent feature-race winner who has his roots in both events is the Tasmanian Derby winner , a son of the regally-bred (pictured), writes John Berry.

Sadler's Wells proved to be the most dominant stallion Europe has ever seen. It is, of course, an irony that one could say that he only arrived at Coolmore by default. Vincent O'Brien trained two top-class three-year-old sons of Northern Dancer in 1984 for the partnership of Robert Sangster, John Magnier et al. The 2,000 Guineas winner was seemingly the more talented of the pair, so he was dispatched to Kentucky, where the really big money lay; while the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Sadler's Wells, who seemed slightly to lack his paternal half-brother's star quality, headed down the road to Fethard. El Gran Senor proved to be a very good sire with poor fertility, while Sadler's Wells, whose stock turned out to be ideally suited by European racing conditions, went on to re-write the record books, generating scarcely-imaginable sums of money for his owners in the process and putting Ireland back where it belongs in pole position in the international bloodstock world.

Sheikh Mohammed's purchase of Dalham Hall Stud also came with a dash of serendipity. This stud had produced many winners for the Phillips family, but come the '80s Jim Phillips decided to wind down the operation. He was set to sell it to Stavros Niarchos, whose colt (a close relative of Sadler's Wells) had recently passed the post first in the 1980 2,000 Guineas only a couple of miles away from the stud. The almost-concluded deal would include the land and most of the stock. However, when Phillips learned that Niarchos intended to dispose of most of the mares, the deal was off - and Sheikh Mohammed stepped in to buy it in October 1981. The Sheikh had only owned his first winner four years previously, and now he had a stud too. From this medium-sized acorn has grown a truly mighty oak.

Sheikh Mohammed's ownership venture had got off to an excellent start in 1977 when his small first batch of two-year-olds had included the flying filly , who had defeated the brilliant Queen Mary winner in the Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. His new stud venture got off to an even better start: among the mares included in the deal when he bought Dalham Hall Stud was , who the previous spring had been one of the first mares covered by the recently-retired champion miler . The resultant foal was thus one of the first bred at Dalham Hall Stud by Sheikh Mohammed. In time, the foal was named , went into training with Henry Cecil, became a top two-year-old and then won Britain's fillies' Triple Crown (1,000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger) in 1985. Sheikh Mohammed's breeding operation, now named Darley Stud Management Ltd and having its headquarters at Dalham Hall Stud, had hit the ground running!

Oh So Fair was aged 14 by the time that, carrying Oh So Sharp, she came into Sheikh Mohammed's ownership. She came from one of the best families in the Stud Book. Her fourth dam was the old Aga Khan's champion filly and champion broodmare , from whom have descended such great champions as , , and for the Aga Khans, as well as (in Australasia) and (in South Africa). Oh So Fair's third dam was the old Aga's great filly , while her second dam was a full-sister to his brilliant colt , who had become a world-changing stallion after his sale to the States, where Malindi too had spent her breeding career. As Malindi had gone to 's champion grandson to produce Oh So Fair's dam , and as Chandelle had gone to the top-class horse to produce Oh So Fair, it is easy to see why the latter had become such a good broodmare. Prior to breeding Oh So Sharp for the Sheikh, Oh So Fair had already bred several good winners for the Phillips family including (who won three races in the mid '70s which are nowadays classified as Group One contests), 's first-crop son (winner of the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot in 1977) and Roussalka's full-sister (who finished second to in the 1980 1,000 Guineas).

The Phillips family retained Roussalka and bred some good horses from her including (who finished second in Nicholas Phillips' colours in the 1987 July Cup behind Sheikh Mohammed's brilliant sprinter ) but by and large the majority of the family continued to thrive for Sheikh Mohammed - and in some instances for his brother Sheikh Ahmed. The latter raced Roussalka's grand-daughter , who won three races (including two at Newmarket) for him as a three-year-old in 1992 before breeding his 2001 1,000 Guineas winner . Unsurprisingly, Oh So Sharp became a very good broodmare and a stalwart of Dalham Hall Stud - just as her mother had been of the stud under its previous ownership.

Oh So Sharp's first foal, born in 1987, was a colt by , named . Dunbeath had been a Group One-winning two-year-old for Henry Cecil's stable in 1982 and had been bought (reportedly for 6 million pounds) as a Derby candidate by Sheikh Mohammed after winning the William Hill Futurity (now Racing Post Trophy). He didn't do particularly well as a three-year-old although he did finish third to in the St. James's Palace Stakes, but even so he still retired to stud seemingly a good prospect. His dam was a winning full-sister to the 1976 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner , and she subsequently bred , a Grade One two-year-old winner in America in 1984. When, though, Dunbeath's first crop started racing in 1987, it turned out that he wasn't a particularly good stallion - but, even so, in 1986 he had seemed a worthy first mate for Oh So Sharp. Ben Alisky actually turned out to be a decent racehorse: trained for Sheikh Mohammed by John Oxx, he won at Phoenix Park as a three-year-old in 1990 under the stable's apprentice Johnny Murtagh before finishing fourth, ridden by Oxx's stable jockey Ron Quinton, behind in a Group Three race at The Curragh.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that Oh So Sharp subsequently visited stallions considerably better than Dunbeath. She bred one Group One winner: , a daughter of Blushing Groom who was trained for Sheikh Mohammed by Andre Fabre to win the Prix Saint-Alary at Longchamp in 1992, in which she beat Dancing Brave's Group One-winning full-sister by a short head. In total, Oh So Sharp bred seven winners. These also included , a daughter of the Dalham Hall-based stallion Shareef Dancer who was trained for Sheikh Mohammed by Luca Cumani to win two Listed races in England and a Grade Two race in America. Shaima in turn further strengthened Oh So Sharp's record as her first foal was , a son of Alleged who was trained for Sheikh Mohammed by John Gosden to win the St Leger in 1996 three months after finishing second to in the Derby.

As Oh So Sharp clearly held pride of place in the Dalham Hall broodmare band during the '90s, and as Sadler's Wells was already established as an outstanding stallion by the start of the decade, it almost went without saying that she would visit him at some stage. (If this statement seems rather odd from a contemporary viewpoint, it is worth remembering that it has only been in the last few years that Sheikh Mohammed has appeared very loath to patronise Coolmore stallions.) Sadler's Wells had made an outstanding impact almost as soon as he began having runners in 1988. He had sired both dead-heaters in that year's Dewhurst ( and ) but his first winner had actually been Sheikh Mohammed's colt , who went on to win three Group/Grade One races as a four-year-old in 1990: the Coronation Cup, Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and Breeders' Cup Turf. As Sheikh Mohammed had thus owned one of the stars of Sadler's Wells' sensational first crop, and as his brother Sheikh Hamdan had owned the star (1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Irish Derby heroine ) of his second crop, it is easy to understand why Oh So Sharp visiting Sadler's Wells was an obvious match made in heaven.

The mating of Sadler's Wells with Oh So Sharp in 1996 duly produced a talented colt. Named , he joined John Gosden's stable as a two-year-old in 1999. However, he proved very slow to come to hand and did not make his debut until midway through his three-year-old season. However, when he did finally run, he won: he landed a 10-furlong maiden race at Ascot's 'King George' meeting in July 2000 on his debut. He had clearly been showing plenty of ability in his homework because he went off the 8/11 favourite, and he duly won as his odds had suggested he would, coming home four lengths clear. The three horses who chased him home all bore ratings in the mid-80s, so things were looking very promising.

Things soon looked even more promising for Savoire Vivre. Gosden pitched him straight into Group Two company on his second start. The colt did not let him down, going down only after a good tussle in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes over 13 furlongs at Newbury with the seasoned five-year-old , who had already won four races that season including Listed events at Newmarket and Goodwood. The pair finished three lengths clear of the third-placed . At this point, Savoire Vivre seemed set to establish himself as one of Europe's best stayers - but with horses, of course, one never knows what is around the corner. Having shown so much promise, he was naturally cherry-picked to join Godolphin, which at that stage was still what it was designed to be (a small, hand-picked squad of elite gallopers) rather than the behemoth of today. He only ever ran once more after that, being pulled up in the Group One Prix du Cadran over 4000m (in which, remarkably, he started favourite) at Longchamp in October 2001.


Savoire Vivre


It took a surprisingly long time for Sadler's Wells to become universally lauded as a sire of sires. At the end of 2001, when Savoire Vivre's future was being arranged, Sadler's Wells was acknowledged as one of the greatest stallions in history, but he was not yet everyone's cup of tea as a sire of sires. With the benefit of an extra decade of hindsight, we can marvel at the collective achievements of the likes of , , , and in siring champions all around the world, and even acknowledge the contribution of good old Scenic in coming up with the winners of Australia's premier sprint and Australia's premier staying race ( and ) in the same season (2008/'09). However, a decade ago Sadler's Wells was merely a recommendation for Savoire Vivre's stud prospects, rather than a ringing endorsement. Even so, Savoir Vivre, as a Group-placed son of Oh So Sharp, clearly deserved to go to stud somewhere. He hadn't, though, done enough to stand at Dalham Hall Stud, and the fact that he was a stayer wouldn't necessarily have helped his cause. As it was, he found his way to Tasmania, where he took up residence at Armidale Stud in advance of the 2002 breeding season. He has done really well there, having come up with the winners of over $5.3 million. These include four stakes winners, all of whom have scored at Listed level in Tasmania and one of whom () has won a Listed race on the mainland. The most recent of his stakes winners is , who got February off to a great start for his father by winning the Tasmanian Derby on a Hobart programme on which Savoire Vivre sired three winners.

For anyone who has delighted in the achievements of Sadler's Wells, or used to marvel at the brilliance and toughness of the wonderful Dalham Hall homebred Oh So Sharp, the ongoing success of Savoire Vivre is truly something to savour.

.

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