Golden 24 hours for Medaglia preserves Sadler's Wells legacy
El Prado's son hits 100 stakes winners - and then produces 17th at Grade 1
There is a curious all-or-nothing quality to the legacy of Sadler’s Wells. If you take the phenomenal Galileo out of the equation, in fact, it is surprising how tenuously his sire-line extends on the Flat in Europe.
Yes, the late Montjeu sired four Derby winners, but appears to be leaning uncomfortably on one of them - the rookie Camelot - to produce a son to keep his own branch of the line in business. And the fact is that Sadler’s Wells himself, as a sire of sires, has likewise ended up achieving his most diverse impact in jump racing.
If most of your eggs end up in one basket, of course, you could hardly do better than Galileo, now introducing Frankel to an expanding group of young sires eligible to preserve a footprint of his greatness. And if one son is strictly all that it takes, then let us not forget that Sadler’s Wells also left an exceptional linchpin on the other side of the Atlantic in El Prado.
For while the antipathy of Sadler’s Wells to dirt became axiomatic, El Prado has reached a horizon far beyond the dominions he extended via Kitten’s Joy, a multiple champion sire on the turf. El Prado was by an Irish 2,000 Guineas winner (Sadler’s Wells) out of an Irish 1,000 Guineas winner in Lady Capulet, by Sir Ivor. Thanks to Medaglia D’Oro, however, he has somehow hauled the Sadler’s Wells line into the bluest of Bluegrass pedigrees.
It has been a remarkable April so far for Medaglia D’Oro. First the Darley stallion missed out by one bid on having the top lot at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, an international syndicate joining forces at A$2.4 million for a colt sired at his shuttle base (since 2010) in New South Wales.
Then, on Friday, he sired his 100th stakes winner when Ever So Clever booked her Kentucky Oaks berth in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn. With a happy symmetry, she was also her sire’s 50th graded stakes winner.
Finally, at Keeneland over the weekend, Dickinson ran down the top-class Lady Eli in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes to become a 17th Grade 1 winner for Medaglia D’Oro. Here, unmistakably, is a stallion in his absolute pomp at 18.
And while it is certainly apt that the sire of Rachel Alexandra and Songbird should be back in the headlines courtesy of two more females, he also has a number of young sires going out to bat for the El Prado line, such as Vancouver, Mshawish and Violence.
Each strikes his seam of gold at a different level. Mshawish, like Medaglia D’Oro himself, showed the trademark durability of El Prado to win his second Grade 1 prize at the age of six. But Vancouver and Violence were both unbeaten Group/Grade 1-winning juveniles, unfortunately unable to race on after a single start at three - and one was operating on turf, the other on dirt.
Vancouver, the Golden Slipper winner, reciprocated his grandsire’s turf influence - almost inevitably, in Australia - with a Danehill mare. But Violence, out of a Gone West mare from the family of champions Sky Beauty and Dayjur, was a died-in-the-wool dirt runner. A $600,000 Keeneland September yearling, he was retired after suffering an injury - though rallying through the pain barrier - in running subsequent Kentucky Derby winner Orb to three-quarters of a length in the Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth. Standing at $15,000 at John G. Sikura’s Hill n’ Dale Stud, his first crop of yearlings last autumn fetched up to $400,000, at an average of $79,727.
It augurs extremely well for Violence - and, indeed, for Vancouver - that the stock of Medaglia D’Oro reliably build on their earliest achievements, as the sire did himself. He toughed out the Triple Crown trail to finish second in the Belmont and then won the Travers before finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic - as he did again at four, before forcing Pleasantly Perfect clear of the rest in the 2004 Dubai World Cup as a five-year-old.
It was Sikura who also launched Medaglia D’Oro at stud and, if plenty of Kentucky breeders were bound to be chary of the Sadler’s Wells influence, enough were won over by his hard-running record and sensational physical presence for 146 registered foals to appear in 2006. These turned out to include four Grade 1 winners, including one of the all-time first-crop knockouts in Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, who won the Kentucky Oaks by 20 lengths and then beat the colts in the Preakness.
She was also among four of his debut crop to win stakes as juveniles, which promptly stemmed the usual decline (to 83 foals) in his fourth crop. By this stage he had moved on to Stonewall Farm and, with commercial incentives offered to the right mares, Medaglia D’Oro was back up to 156 foals - including Violence, at a fee increased from $40,000 to $60,000 - by the time Rachel Alexandra prompted Sheikh Mohammed to buy a majority stake in her sire. For his first season at Jonabell his fee was hiked again to $100,000, and he has since consolidated his reputation to reach $150,000.
Significantly he had kept that early roll going, despite those diminishing books. True, a strong female emphasis persisted: from his third crop, for instance, emerged a second Kentucky Oaks winner in Plum Pretty and the $2 million earner Marketing Mix; by this stage, moreover, he had also produced two fillies to win the Grade 1 Acorn.
Any inimical perceptions against his sons have since been levelled off, however. Dickinson is admittedly the tenth female among his 17 Grade 1 winners, while the magnificent seven-time Grade 1 winner Songbird is his latest distaff champion. But the males actually shade a nearly even split of his 50 Graded stakes winners, and account for six of his top nine progeny by RPRs.
Dickinson herself appears to be drawing on the turf predilections of her grandsire, having started out on the main track before discovering her true metier. Saturday’s win completed a seamless 3-2-1 escalation through the Grades as a five-year-old, and enhances what is already a splendid maternal family.
She is the second foal of the A.P. Indy mare Little Belle, winner of the Grade 1 Ashland over the same track in 2008 before finishing runner-up in the Kentucky Oaks. Little Belle, in turn, is out of a Mr Prospector daughter of Flagbird, herself a half-sister to the Grade 1-winning dam of Mineshaft, Prospectors Delite.
That is rather more obviously fertile ground than produced Medaglia D’Oro himself. His dam Cappucino Bay, by Bailjumper, was a modest runner who ended up in claimers. Perhaps the best that can be said for her is that her dam was inbred 3x4 to Sunday Evening, whose name recurred through the 1970s and beyond in the pedigrees of such sires as Gray Mirage, Bluebird and Java Gold.
But then this very much was the kind of material El Prado had to work with. Nor was Medaglia D’Oro himself, for all his aristocratic bearing, the product of a regal environment. His nursery was in the Turf backwater of Montana, while his early training took place on a ranch in the Arizona desert.
Yet here he is, a worthy mate for Zenyatta herself. Fittingly, the first of his 100 stakes winners, Renda at Monmouth Park in August 2008, has herself since become the dam of a dual Grade 1 winner in Rock Fall. In bringing Sadler’s Wells into the American mainstream, moreover, Medaglia D’Oro has achieved something that seemed as culturally incongruous as displaying Picasso alongside Goya. Framed in gold, he is El Prado’s masterpiece.