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Sea The Stars profile: Champion colt born to be a king

| 01.05.2023

To celebrate Sea The Stars being inducted into the Qipco British Champions Series Hall of Fame, we’re taking a look at the wonder horse.

To own a champion racehorse must be the thing of dreams. When said racehorse is a son of your own champion mare, it must mean so much more!

That is what happened to Christopher Tsui, a prominent figure in the brilliant career of Sea The Stars.

What the John Oxx-trained colt achieved in his three-year-old season in 2009, winning six Group Ones in six months, in three different countries over distances ranging from eight to 12 furlongs, has rightly gone down in racing folklore.

But given his family also owned the remarkable Urban Sea, herself a Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner and the dam of the great Galileo, Sea The Stars did have every chance of reaching the very top.

“We were always very hopeful, he was a half-brother to Galileo and we’d already had a lot of success with the family of Urban Sea,” said Tsui. “Most of his siblings were stakes winners, so we were very hopeful he would do well on the racecourse.

“Obviously, you never know quite how good they might be until the day they start racing. I remember his first race very well, when he was fourth. I was a little disappointed, but John did tell us his first-time-out two-year-olds often ran like that.

“When he won his maiden next time, John told us he thought he was good, but as people know, John is always very careful and he would never jump to conclusions before he started seeing results.

“I do think between him and Mick Kinane, they knew quite early on he was something special.

“John didn’t push him at two, he did run him in the Group Two Beresford Stakes which he won, but it was a nice, easy start for him I guess – not too intense but building up nicely.”

Tsui hails super-dam Urban Sea

Having decided not to keep a champion like Galileo, Tsui said it was almost inevitable they would keep his half-brother, especially with Urban Sea advancing in years.

“I think we always wanted to keep hold of him when he was born, as by that point Urban Sea was getting older and we thought by 2006 when she had Sea The Stars she was 17, so we were keen to keep some of the progeny, we kept his little brother Born To Sea, too,” said Tsui.

“I couldn’t think of another mare like Urban Sea. Not only did she produce Galileo and Sea The Stars but Born To Sea was second in an Irish Derby, All Too Beautiful was second in the Oaks, Black Sam Bellamy won two Group Ones – her consistency was incredible. Don’t forget she won the Arc herself.”

Not only was Sea The Stars a champion on the track, he has gone on to enjoy an incredible second career at stud too, producing a Derby winner in Harzand, an Oaks heroine in Taghrooda and more recently Baaeed, rated in the realms of his sire.

“I think given her genes, there was a good chance he was going to be a success at stud, but we’re also very fortunate to link up with the Aga Khan, having access to such wonderful mares throughout the years. It all contributes to the success,” added Tsui.

“The range of horses he has produced, from Baaeed to Stradivarius, shows just how versatile he really was. John told us he could have won races over seven furlongs had we wanted to, but we didn’t. John always said the distance didn’t matter, he could have gone for the Leger if we wanted, it was more a question of picking the right schedule.

“What he did was very rare, six Group Ones in six months, in different countries as well, so you have to factor in all the travelling, it was incredible. I don’t know if it will ever be replicated. It was a hell of a season, for sure.

“It was quite nerve-wracking watching him. In the Guineas, we didn’t know how good he was, his first race was just excitement. We had some expectations, but when he won it was quite a surprise.

“As the races built up, he won the Derby and the Eclipse, the expectations went up with every race and he was always in the media. By the time of the Arc, all I could think was ‘just finish the race and get it done’. It was a relief, more than anything, when he won the Arc.”

As so often, the Arc attracted a big field and Kinane found himself in an uncompromising position. It was a testament to horse and jockey he was still able to win.

“The Arc is always a messy race with a big field, so anything can happen,” exclaimed Tsui. “He was a long way back and had a lot of traffic in front of him.

“He started weaving around and it was difficult to watch, but once he got in the clear he was gone, it was a tremendous race – I must have watched it 1,000 times since and I’m still amazed how he got out!

“The Arc was an amazing race, it always is, all the best horses in Europe congregate there. It has to be my favourite as I was also there when Urban Sea won it, I would have only been 10 or 11, so to be there 16 years later in that situation was very special.

“I think the Irish Champion Stakes was a race where he never looked in trouble, he was always relaxed and in control and when Mick let him go, he was just that much better, it was a much easier race to watch than most – especially the International at York.

“That was a four-runner race, three from Aidan O’Brien, and he still ended up squeezing through a gap, that was a bit more difficult to watch but he still won, and he broke the track record.”

Sea The Stars Arc de Triomphe

Having achieved so much at three, Tsui said there was little temptation to continue with him at four, knowing in racing nothing can last forever.

“It was a hard decision to retire him as he became so popular,” said the owner. “It wasn’t a decision like any I’d made before. People wanted him to go to the Breeders’ Cup, some wanted him to stay in training but ultimately we spoke to John and he said his coat was coming through.

“We spoke about it, but ultimately made the decision to retire him. So much can go wrong with a racehorse, especially at that time of year when all the races are abroad. Taking horses on an aeroplane is always risky and everything had gone so smoothly we didn’t want to push our luck.

“Obviously, Sea The Stars was one in a million. We hope to find another, but it will be very difficult.”

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Tony Kelshaw