John Oxx has expressed his pleasure in the post-racing career of his legendary horse, Sea The Stars, who has been inducted into the Qipco British Champions Series Hall of Fame.
Oxx, a highly respected trainer in the racing world, achieved significant success with Sea The Stars, with the horse winning six Group One races in just six months.
Oxx’s quiet and humble personality is well-known in the sport, with the trainer never boasting about his accomplishments. However, his achievements with Sea The Stars will forever cement his name among the greats of horse racing.
Notably, Sea The Stars has gone on to produce his own champions, including Harzand, Stradivarius and most recently, Baaeed. The success of these horses has enabled Oxx to maintain a keen interest in the sport post-retirement.
“There was always going to be a second career for a horse like that and it’s a relief to see it going so well. We’ve all seen great horses go off to stud and not be so successful,” said Oxx.
“In his case he was such a brilliant horse, had such a good pedigree allied with a brilliant temperament – all the qualities that would have made it a surprise if he wasn’t a success at stud. But it’s still nice to see it happen.
“Every year he’s had good horses, but with Baaeed last year – to get one at that type of level and that rating, that’s difficult for those great horses to do.”
Asked if he felt under pressure at the time to be sent a half-brother to Galileo, Oxx said: “We were excited to be sent such a nice horse with his pedigree and looks, you already think you’ve half a chance. I didn’t feel pressure, the owner didn’t put any on us.
“The pressure built later on as he started some fast work and started to show his ability – then it built and built all the time then!
“With each race and new horizon conquered, along with it came a lot of pressure and a lot of responsibility, just making sure he was all right and ready to run.”
Sea The Stars only lost one race in his career, which helped relieve the stress of maintaining a perfect winning record.
“I don’t know about the pressure of keeping an unbeaten record intact, you always need to be prepared for a horse to lose a race, it doesn’t always tarnish their record. I always felt first time out it was nice to give them a race where they learned something,” said Oxx.
In his three-year-old season, Sea The Stars won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket without needing a trial, before going on to win the Derby and subsequently, a series of Group One races.
“Once he won the Guineas, the dream then was always to win the Derby, it was certainly mine as it is the Holy Grail in my book – to have a Guineas winner and then four weeks later win the Derby over 50 per cent further on a totally different track,” he said.
“Everything else afterwards could look after itself. We wanted him to be a Guineas-Derby winner, but then of course once you’ve won a Guineas you start to wonder will he stay in the Derby!
“He was an aggressive racer, but he was in the perfect position at Epsom and the first thing Mick (Kinane) said to me on coming back was ‘well Plan A worked anyway’.”
“In the Eclipse, it was a record time after they went a ferocious pace. He followed the leaders, but the pacemakers collapsed two furlongs out and he was in front too soon, he always pulled up a bit in front as he thought he’d won,” remembers Oxx.
“A furlong out he thought he’d already won and Rip Van Winkle was a very good horse. He put it up to him, but in the end he pulled away and won nicely. Jimmy Fortune, who rode Rip Van Winkle, told me later ‘your fella was only playing with me’.
“You always worry in a horse race as anything can happen and at York in the International we had three of Aidan’s (O’Brien) to beat and that was it. Two pacemakers and Mastercraftsman and the front two made a gap for Mastercraftsman which Mick also went through.
“However, he then took a pull and he just went to sleep for a little bit and he had to say ‘go’ twice to him. He was a little bit sluggish getting back up, but in the end he won easy enough again – and that was a record time. Aidan told me afterwards that was the best he’d ever had Mastercraftsman that day.
“When Mick got off him at York it had been six weeks since the Eclipse and he said he needed that run, it would bring him on. Sure enough at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Stakes he then put up what the handicappers said was his best ever performance.
“That was nice for the Irish crowd to see him. It was just about the only race he won by a decent margin as we could never get him to win by far! Because there was a doubt about him running the crowd might not have been what it may have been, but they certainly gave him some reception.”
Despite a challenging start to his preparation, Sea The Stars was able to win the 2000 Guineas at the beginning of his exceptional season, and this, according to Oxx, was a testament to the horse’s greatness.
He added: “The only hold-up we had all year was back on March 17 when he had a temperature of 103, which was a huge disappointment at the time.
“Because of his constitution he was back and did a bit of fast work two weeks later. Other horses couldn’t have done that. The fact he could win the Guineas the first Saturday in May is very unusual after a temperature like that. That shows you a lot about him.
“We knew he was one of the greats after he won the Guineas and the Derby, so we had to run him in all those races. He missed the King George, but he had to have a little pause and that was the only one he missed. He had to win a sequence to prove himself as one of the greats. It’s a rarity and thank goodness it happened, there won’t be many in 100 years that do it.”