We are sad to report the passing of Mauritzfontein’s great sire, Fort Wood.
Fort Wood was a son of Sadler’s Wells out of the 8-time winning Pretense mare, Fall Aspen who was the dam of no less than 8 Group winners in Europe and America.
With a pedigree aptly described by the SA Racehorse as an “embarrassment des riches” Fort Wood had a race record to match. Trained by Andre Fabre and raced in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed, Fort Wood made his first racecourse appearance at the age of 3. Starting at Saint Cloud on 25 March 1993, he won a weight-for-age event over 2100m, beating Stavros Niarchos’s Hernando into second place. To put that into perspective, Hernando would later go on to land the Gr1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) as well being the runner up to Epsom Derby winner, Commander In Chief in the Irish Derby.
Moved straight into Group company for his next race, Fort Wood contested the 2200m Gr2 Prix Noailles at Longchamp three weeks later, triumphing by half a length over the much more experienced Gr1 winner, Marchand de Sable.
Fort Wood was tried over 2400m in his next two starts – the Gr3 Prix Hocquart and the Gr1 Prix du Jockey Club – but seemed unable to get the trip and was unplaced in both races.
Dropped back to 2000m for the Gr1 Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp, he brought the field into the straight and was then headed by Emperor Jones, only to fight back and win by a nose in a desperate finish with Bigstone, in a track record time of 2:01.6. Bigstone would go on to win the Gr1 Sussex Stakes, in which he beat Sayyedati and Zafonic, and the Gr1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, beating Barathea and Kingmambo, and establish himself as the champion miler elect.
In what was to be his last start, Fort Wood was sent to Germany for the Gr3 Europachampionat over the 2400m trip at Hoppegarten on 15 August 1993, finishing fifth. He subsequently fractured a sesamoid in work, putting an end to a most promising racing career.
Sourced for Mr and Mrs Oppenheimer’s Mauritzfontein Stud by Alistair Brown of Equarius Bloodstock, Fort Wood stood his first season at stud in South Africa in 1994. He made an immediate impression, producing Gr1 winners Dog Wood, Fort Defiance and Triple Crown Champion and 3yo Horse Of The Year, Horse Chestnut in his very first crop.
Fort Wood was champion sire in 1998 and 1999 and his two decades at stud has produced 74 stakes winners to date. He also has the unique distinction of having produced three 3yo Horses Of The Year (Horse Chestnut, Celtic Grove and Dynasty).
An emotional Guy Murdoch related that despite his great age of 25, Fort Wood had always been a healthy, happy horse, so it came as a shock when he took ill early on Saturday morning, 24 January 2015. Veterinary examination confirmed that he was suffering heart failure and he died shortly afterwards.
He leaves behind Horse Chestnut, Whitechapel, Dynasty and Elusive Fort to continue his male line, while his daughters are already forging him a formidable reputation as a broodmare sire.
Fort Wood has left a giant legacy on the South African tracks and in our paddocks and will be sorely missed. A mighty oak has indeed fallen.