Fifty Years Of Sir Ivor

This year marks the 50th year since one of the most influential of all Epsom Derby winners was born

Sir Ivor At Epsom by Richard Stone Reeves

Sir Ivor At Epsom by Richard Stone Reeves

Chekilli’s recent Gr2 Hawaii Stakes win, proves that Sir Ivor’s influence is still strongly felt in South Africa

Oft described by legendary jockey Lester Piggott as “the best I ever rode”, Sir Ivor was an outstanding racehorse who became an equally successful and influential stallion. Today, the Sir Ivor influence remains strong in the Southern Hemisphere through the numerous high class descendants of his greatest son, Sir Tristram. One of the greatest stallions ever to stand in New Zealand, Sir Tristram was a dominant champion sire, whose offspring numbered amongst them 45 individual Group 1 winners. A Champion Broodmare Sire, Sir Tristram also left behind a number of highly successful sire sons, including champion Zabeel as well as Grosvenor, Kaapstad and Marauding.

Zabeel has maintained the success of this sire line, through a number of top class sire sons, most notably Savabeel, while Zabeel’s grandson, Lonhro, is currently one of the leading stallions at stud in Australia. In South Africa, Zabeel’s offspring have met with a number of successes, with his best local representatives including the classic winning stallions, Oracy and Greys Inn, the latter sire of recent Gr2 Hawaii Stakes hero, Chekilli, amongst others.

While he failed to leave behind a sire of equal standing in the Northern Hemisphere, Sir Ivor’s daughters have ensured that the Epsom Derby winner of 1968 will linger in pedigrees of top class thoroughbreds for years to come.

Racing career

By Secretariat’s highly successful half brother, Sir Gaylord, (also sire of another exceptional stallion in Habitat), Sir Ivor was by far and away the best horse produced by the stakes placed Mr Trouble mare, Attica. Trained by legendary Irish conditioner Vincent O’Brien, Sir Ivor showed himself to be a youngster of exceptional merit when he ended his first season with a fluent win in the French 2yo championship, the Grand Criterium. The $42 000 yearling buy then reeled off back to back classic wins as a 3yo, following a brief stint in Italy, which nearly proved disastrous. Sir Ivor unleashed a potent turn of foot to land first the 2000 Guineas, stumping a top miler and future sire, Petingo, in the process, before putting up one of the most breath-taking wins ever seen in the Epsom Derby. Sir Ivor, about whom stamina doubts abounded, was held up for his first attempt over 2400m at Epsom. The Piggott partnered colt however blew his rivals away, coming from well off the pace to register a going away win in the style of a truly outstanding racehorse. While Sir Ivor suffered three subsequent defeats, the handsome bay ended his career in style, winning both the Champion Stakes and Washington D C International before retiring to stud.

Named the UK’s Horse Of The Year, Sir Ivor was also honoured by having a documentary made about him (The Year of Sir Ivor), while a street in Ontario was apparently named after the champion.

Career at stud

Retired to Claiborne Farm in 1969, Sir Ivor, while never champion sire, was a top class stallion, whose offspring included 94 individual stakes winners. Taking into account the fact that the horse never covered as many mares as do the leading stallions of today, Sir Ivor’s tally of black type winners was a remarkable one. He sired 12% stakes winners to foals, which placed him amongst the elite group of stallions who got above the benchmark 10% stakes winners to foals. His top performers included US Champion Bates Motel, Arc de Triomphe winner Ivanjica, Irish 1000 Guineas winners Godetia and Lady Capulet, and US Gr1 winners Miss Toshiba, Optimistic Gal and Kentucky Oaks winner Sweet Alliance. He also sired Cavo Doro and Imperial Prince, second place finishers in the 1973 and 1974 Epsom Derbies respectively.

Sir Ivor, who lived to the ripe old age of 30, has become a broodmare sire of note, not surprising as he was long regarded as a superior sire of fillies. Among the best horses produced by Sir Ivor mares were Bluebird (Champion 3YO Sprinter), El Prado (by Sadler’s Wells), Green Desert (G1 July Cup) and Shareef Dancer (G1 Irish Derby) – all of whom went on to make their mark at stud.

Stud legacy

While Shareef Dancer will long be remembered as a relative disappointment as a stallion, his daughters have done well at stud, and Shareef Dancer numbers the likes of Dubai Millennium (Champion), Shantou (St Leger) and Harayir (1000 Guineas) as top horses produced by his daughters. Through Dubai Millennium’s remarkably successful sire son Dubawi, Shareef Dancer remains prominent in pedigrees today.

The Group 1 winning 2yo El Prado, one of Sadler’s Wells best sire sons, was US Champion Sire in 2002. El Prado is the sire of another US Champion Sire in Kitten’s Joy as well as the world leading sire of 12 individual G1 winners, Medagalia D’Oro. El Prado is also the sire of Breeders Cup Mile winner and Gr1 sire Artie Schiller, and his offspring numbered among them more than 80 stakes winners.

Bluebird enjoyed success at stud both in Ireland and Australia. His top performers included the outstanding sprinters, Dolphin Street and Lake Coniston, as well as the Australasian Group 1 winners Azzurro, Bluebird The Word, Flitter and Singing The Blues. Bluebird sired runners also did well in South Africa with the likes of Race Master and The Delegator winning the G1 First National 1600 and G1 SA Guineas respectively.

Lyphard’s best sire son, Alzao, who was produced by the Sir Ivor mare Lady Rebecca, was a top class sire and broodmare sire. Alzao’s 100 plus stakes winners included Epsom Oaks winner Shahtoush, Irish Oaks heroine Winona, dual Champion Stakes winner Alborada and the latter’s multiple Group 1 winning own sister Albanova.

However, it was Green Desert that must be regarded as the most successful stallion produced by a Sir Ivor mare. The sire of more than 90 stakes winners, Green Desert has strong claims to being second only to Danehill as Danzig’s top sire sons. His string of Gr1 winners includes such star sprinters as Markab, Oasis Dream, Owington, Sheikh Albadou, and Tamarisk, classic winners Desert Prince and Rose Gypsy, and the outstanding stallions Cape Cross, Invincible Spirit, Oasis Dream and Volksraad. Cape Cross, Invincible Spirit and Oasis Dream themselves are all sires of promising young stallions in their own right, and the Green Desert male line looks a strong one for the immediate future.

Sir Ivor is also broodmare sire of champion sire, Lode, and remarkably, Sir Ivor’s name is also to be found in the pedigrees of champion sires Elusive Quality, Encosta De Lago and Flying Spur as well.

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