bill oppenheimBill Oppenheim

Bill Oppenheim writes that the revolution to restore the European stallion ranks to some semblance of parity with Kentucky  began with the retirement of Sadler’s Wells to Coolmore in 1985,and featured the dominance of the 14-time champion sire and his stablemate Danehill for most of the rest of the 20th century. The arrival of Pivotal at the beginning of the new century, followed in the next five years by Dansili, Montjeu and Galileo, ensures that European breeders are less likely to be sending many of their mares stateside these days.

One of the interesting features of this shift in sire power has been the emergence of succeeding crops of sires, many tracing to Danzig in sire line, who start to make a name for themselves as soon as their first foals come to the sales. Cape Cross (Green Desert) in 2001 and Montjeu (Sadler’s Wells) in 2002 were early 21st century examples of sires whose first foals caught buyers’ attention at the fall sales and went on to be very successful sires. Neither were that highly touted beforehand, especially Cape Cross, who won three one-mile Group 1/Group 2 races for Godolphin, but never as the stable selected, and went to stud in 2000 at Kildangan for Ir,8,000. Montjeu, arguably the best racehorse ever sired by Sadler’s Wells (Timeform 137), went to stud the next year for Ir,30,000. His stablemate Giant’s Causeway, by contrast, kicked off at Ir100,000 gns the same year-the difference between 12-furlong horses and milers. But the point here is that both Cape Cross and Montjeu, in successive years, made big splashes commercially, beginning with the foal sales, and went on to prove that enthusiasm justified by the racecourse results: they both got good-looking horses that sold well, and then they ran. That hasn’t always happened in the past.