As John Oxx’s training career comes to close, we look back on the career of Sea The Stars, the greatest horse of all time.
His exploits as a three-year-old will never be matched. The star rounded off a series of Group One victories with authority, bravery and sheer class. Even when the opposition colluded to try and topple him, they couldn’t stop him in his tracks. It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since we witnessed the legend grace our screens.
Having suffered defeat just once, that came on his debut at the Curragh in a seven-furlong maiden in July 2008. People to this day try to knock his imperious record because of that defeat but he was just out for some experience.
Make no mistake, Sea The Stars was bred for the job. He was by Cape Cross out of Urban Sea who was an Arc de Triomphe winner. Not only that, he was a half-brother to Galileo, the most dominant stallion in the world. He wasted no time living up to expectations when he bolted up on soft ground at Leopardstown on his second start.
He was marked up as one of the favourites for the 2000 Guineas following his win in the Group Two Beresford Stakes. Connections got a terrible fright when he had a setback in March and they feared he would not be ready in time. As a consequence, he drifted alarmingly in the betting on the day all the way out to 8-1.
Punters who kept the faith were handsomely rewarded. Tracking the leaders early, he cut through the remainder ahead of him with an electric turn of foot to win in style under Mick Kinane.
Kinane said afterwards: “I’ve had great belief in this horse ever since I sat on him in May last year. For a big, gangly colt, he was always going easy and I was always looking forward to the day when he matured.”
After his Guineas success, Sea The Stars went straight to the top of the Epsom Derby market. This would prove to be the real acid test as he had to prove his stamina and ability to handle an undulating track. On the day, Sea The Stars showed his pure class again. He wasted no time in taking up the lead halfway up the straight and stayed on powerfully in the closing stages.
Not many horses have the ability to do the Guineas/Derby double. He was the first horse since Nashwan in 1989 to achieve the feat. The next stop for Sea The Stars was Sandown for the Coral-eclipse where he again was far too classy for some quality opposition including Rip Van Winkle.
Sleepless nights for Aidan
Ballydoyle were desperate to get Sea The Stars beat as he was scuppering all of their classic plans. The next throw of the dice was to throw Mastercraftsman at Oxx’s star in the Juddmonte International at York. He himself was a dual Group One winner at the time. It was another belter of a race but Kinane gave Sea The Stars another beautiful ride and he won with authority again.
Oxx never hid away from a challenge. Although the rain came, he decided to run him in the Irish Champion Stakes. There is no doubt that the majority of the track was very soft but the Leopardstown officials worked tirelessly to make sure they ran on the best ground on the track.
Desperate to get him beat, O’Brien pitched Fame And Glory into the race along with Mastercraftsman. But again, it was to no avail. Fame And Glory won the Irish Derby by five-lengths and as a result was sent off the the 9-4 second-favourite. Fame And Glory hit the front with a furlong to go under Johnny Murtagh. However, Sea The Stars made short work of him in the closing stages.
“Sea The Stars ranging up on the near side,” called commentator Dessie Scahill. “They’ve come to see a star. And it’s Sea The Stars who hits the front for Michael Kinane and John Oxx. Racing up towards the finish, the undisputed champion, Sea The Stars is running away, he’s going to score by two and a half lengths, wins his fifth Group One.”
The acid test
There was only one remaining race that Sea The Stars had to win in Europe. That was the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. He had to overcome adversity to win. 18 rivals were in his way and he had a tough season under his belt without a break. In the parade ring before the race he was sweaty which was very unlike him so doubts were creeping in.
Kinane desperately needed cover in the early stages of the race. Mick decided to drop him right back into the pack. He knew that in order to win that he was going to need some luck in running. In true Kinane fashion, he found the gaps at the right time and found the perfect split against the far rail. He cut through the pack like a knife through butter to lead approaching the furlong pole. A high-class field of Group One winners were made to look like handicappers.
Sea The Stars is the greatest champion of all time. He was the first horse to ever do the famous Guineas/Derby/Arc treble. He looked like a superstar on and off the racecourse. We will never see a horse like him again. He was one of a kind.