By Andrew Caulfield
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? When the good thing is chocolate chip cookie dough ice-cream, the answer is a definite yes. But when the good thing is brilliant stallion Sadler’s Wells, the answer appears to be a resounding no, at least where the extraordinary Enable is concerned.
A winner of the Oaks, Irish Oaks and the King George by a combined total of 15 lengths, Enable is bound to become the poster girl for inbreeding to Sadler’s Wells, as she is inbred 3 x 2 to this great stallion.
If ever there was a stallion worthy of close inbreeding, it was surely Sadler’s Wells. Not only did he top the Anglo-Irish stallion table 14 times in the space of 15 years, but he was also champion sire of 2-year-olds on three occasions (his brother Fairy King went one better, with four titles).
Sadler’s Wells’s progeny have since been busily extending his influence. His magnificent son Galileo already appears to have his ninth sires’ championship wrapped up and Sadler’s Wells’s broodmare daughters once racked up seven consecutive titles between 2005 and 2011, with Enable making another broodmare sire championship a distinct possibility this year. She is out of Concentric, a Sadler’s Wells mare who earned a Timeform rating of 107 as a 3-year-old, thanks to three wins and a Group 3 second from five starts.
Incidentally, there was always an excellent chance that Enable would be untroubled by the rain-softened going at Ascot on Saturday, as Concentric’s wins–including one in a listed race–had been gained when the ground was at least soft. The going was also soft when Enable’s sire Nathaniel ran Frankel to half a length when these sons of Galileo clashed on their debut at Newmarket in 2010 and it was also pretty soft when Nathaniel won the G2 King Edward VII S. by five lengths over the King George course and distance.
To get back to Sadler’s Wells’s virtues, he proved himself capable of top-class form over a mile, a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half, additionally showing that he could reproduce his best form on all types of ground, ranging from soft to very firm. And, unlike some of Northern Dancer’s other very successful stallion sons, such as Nureyev, Storm Bird and Danzig, he had an iron constitution and wasn’t forced into retirement by physical problems or loss of form–he contested seven consecutive Group 1 races in the space of less than five months during a nine-race 3-year-old campaign.
His progeny also earned a well-deserved reputation for soundness and dependability. I would add versatility to the list, as his progeny didn’t just shine in the mile-and-a-half Classics. In addition to his tally of two wins in the Derby, five in the Oaks, six in the Irish Derby and three in the Irish Oaks, there were three in the 2000 Guineas, one in the 1000 Guineas, two in the Irish 2000 Guineas and three in the Irish 1000 Guineas.
He was also represented by as many as 20 individual Group 1-winning juveniles, which goes to show that middle-distance prowess and smart juvenile form are by no means mutually exclusive (even though plenty of commercial breeders choose to forget this). Add all this together and Sadler’s Wells would appear to be a safe and attractive medium for inbreeding.
Enable’s owner-breeder, Prince Khalid Abdullah, enjoyed success in the past on the few occasions he experimented with close inbreeding to Sadler’s Wells’s sire Northern Dancer. Significantly these instances involved Sadler’s Wells’s three-parts-brother Nureyev. Skimming, a dual winner of the GI Pacific Classic and earner of nearly $2.3 million, was sired by Nureyev from a daughter of Lyphard and was therefore inbred 2 x 3. When Nureyev was mated to Nijinsky’s daughter Nijinsky Star, she produced the sisters Viviana and Willstar. Both these mares became Grade I producers and their influence is still felt in the Juddmonte broodmare band. Exemplify, a granddaughter of Viviana, is the dam of Expert Eye, a contestant in Tuesday’s G2 Vintage S.
Mention of Nureyev is a reminder that breeders happily tried pairing Sadler’s Wells and Nureyev together in pedigrees, especially because Nureyev was expected to inject an element of speed. These exceptional stallions appear together in the pedigrees of numerous top winners, a fine example being Juddmonte’s Derby and Arc winner Workforce, who has Sadler’s Wells in the second generation and Nureyev in the fourth. The seed for this success came via Kingmambo (out of Nureyev’s brilliant daughter Miesque), who sired so many smart performers from Sadler’s Wells mares, including Henrythenavigator, Divine Proportions, Creachadoir, El Condor Pasa, Virginia Water, Thewayyouare and Campanologist.
There has even been a GI Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, Red Rocks, and an Oaks third, High Heeled, whose pedigrees contain Sadler’s Wells in the second generation and his brother Fairy King in the third. Fairy King’s Australian son Encosta de Lago also has a couple of group winners out of granddaughters of Sadler’s Wells.
Understandably, most breeders like to see proof that something works before they are tempted to follow suit. That example–a Group 1 winner closely inbred to Sadler’s Wells–did not emerge until 2011, when Parish Hall won the G1 Dewhurst S., a little over 30 years after Sadler’s Wells’s birth. With Galileo’s son Teofilo as his sire and a Montjeu mare as his dam, Parish Hall is inbred 3 x 3 to Sadler’s Wells.
It is worth remembering that Northern Dancer, the sire of Sadler’s Wells, was nearing the end of his long life (he died at 29) before group winners inbred to him started to trickle through. That trickle eventually became a flood and it’s possible that the same will eventually happen with Sadler’s Wells.
Parish Hall ranked alongside Vagabond Shoes (2 x 4), Opera Gal (2 x 3) and Murano (3 x 3) as one of four 2011 stakes winners inbred to the 14-time champion sire. Their most notable predecessors were Kamsin, a G1 Deutsches Derby winner inbred 4 x 4, and the Doncaster Cup winner Samuel, who is inbred 3 x 4.
That spate of stakes winners inbred to Sadler’s Wells has predictably encouraged more breeders to try doubling up on the great Coolmore stallion, as this year’s Derby meeting illustrated. Of the Derby principals, runner-up Cliffs of Moher is inbred 2 x 4 to Sadler’s Wells, while Eminent, the fourth-placed Frankel colt, is inbred 3 x 3. The previous day had seen Enable run away with the Oaks.
Sadler’s Wells has been a major contributor to Enable’s family fortunes. Her third dam, the Oaks and Irish Oaks runner-up Bourbon Girl, visited Sadler’s Wells to produce Daring Miss, a filly good enough to win the G2 Grand Prix de Chantilly and to finish second in the G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. Bourbon Girl also produced Shining Bright, who visited Sadler’s Wells’s son El Prado to produce Spanish Moon (G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud) and Spanish Sun (G2 Ribblesdale S.)
Enable’s second dam, the Group 3 winner Apogee, enjoyed similar success with Sadler’s Wells, producing not only Enable’s dam Concentric but also Dance Routine, the G1 Prix de Diane second who won the G2 Prix de Royallieu. Dance Routine’s main contribution to Juddmonte was to produce Flintshire, the champion American turf horse who retired with earnings equivalent to more than $9.5 million. Apogee also did well with Sadler’s Wells’s son Barathea, producing the Group 3-winning miler Apsis.
Needless to say, Juddmonte’s mating plans also take conformation very much into account. Concentric’s first three foals (by Oasis Dream, Dansili and his brother Champs Elysees) had all been strong, good-bodied individuals, but none of them had been big at birth, the heaviest weighing 112lb. This suggested that she might appreciate a good-sized individual with a degree of quality. A change from the Danzig male line also appealed, and Nathaniel filled the bill very nicely. The foal’s 3 x 2 inbreeding to Sadler’s Wells became less of a concern in view of the fact that Galileo has no inbreeding within four generations, and only one duplication–4 x 5 to Native Dancer–within five. Nathaniel’s only inbreeding is 4 x 4 to Nearctic and 5 x 4 to Hail To Reason. He is therefore almost an outcross by European standards, especially as he has no Danzig blood. He is therefore well able to cope with a second line of Sadler’s Wells.
Concentric’s foal by Nathaniel was always likely to need time and distance. However, there is still a great deal of money and prestige to be won by this type of horse, as Enable’s 2017 earnings of more than £1,160,000 illustrates so well.