Horses Americans Should Know VII - Sea the Stars

By Lisa Grimm,

While the US racing world waits for news of where Rachel Alexandra will appear next after another effortless bullet work, European racing fans got a chance to see their all-conquering hero again today when Sea the Stars set a track record at York in the Juddmonte International. The 3-year-old colt had scared off most of the competition long before he took to the track - only Ballydoyle was able to muster up three horses to face him. For those on this side of the pond who might not have been paying attention, here's how we arrived at this point.

Sea the Stars is nothing if not regally-bred; he is the latest Group 1 winner out of Kentucky-bred Arc winner Urban Sea, who died earlier this year from foaling complications. Her other star offspring include Black Sam Bellamy, My Typhoon and world-beating racehorse (and now top sire) Galileo. Even on his sire's side, there is a tradition of strong female performances - Sea the Stars is by Cape Cross (also the sire of Ouija Board), whose own dam was a champion.

But a fantastic bloodline doesn't necessarily translate into a great racehorse - indeed, a number of Sea the Stars' siblings are unraced - and his first start at two wasn't hugely inspiring (although certainly not discouraging); he finished a close fourth in a seven-furlong maiden race at the Curragh that also featured recent US immigrant Black Bear Island getting up for second. Moving to Leopardstown a few weeks later, Sea the Stars won and hasn't looked back since.

He finished 2008 with a win in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes and made his 2009 debut in the 2000 Guineas, defeating a field that included Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman, the former 2-year-old champion. His win came despite a loss of training time earlier in the spring due to illness, but trainer John Oxx had no worries. The form of that race has certainly held up - Rip Van Winkle went on to convincingly beat his elders in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last month - but it's clear he doesn't enjoy running against Sea the Stars.

Their next meeting, at Epsom in the Derby, was no more successful for Rip Van Winkle; he finished a well-beaten forth to victor Sea the Stars, who matched his elder half-brother Galileo in winning the race. The two horses met again in the Eclipse, which included talented older horses such as Breeders' Cup Turf winner Conduit and Cima de Triomphe (last seen finishing fourth in the Arlington Million). But even a bit of traffic trouble did not bother Sea the Stars - he ran right past Rip Van Winkle, who hung on for second this time. With the win, Sea the Stars became the first horse to win the 2000 Guineas/Derby/Eclipse treble since 1989.

It seems that the English Triple Crown is not among the goals for Sea the Stars, however - the St. Leger distance is predicted to be a bit longer than he would want to run. His future plans are said to include the Irish Champion Stakes - and perhaps the Arc or Breeders' Cup Classic; it's unlikely we'll see him race as a 4-year-old, which is rather a shame. At of this writing, he has a 6-race winning streak - it would be interesting to see how long (and how internationally) he could stretch it, given more time. It is not often we get to hold up the American horse as the more seasoned competitor, but it works in our favor in this instance - Rachel Alexandra has 10 wins from 13 starts and is on an 8-race winning streak, while Sea the Stars has won 6 out of 7.

We are lucky enough to be enjoying a year in which the two best 3-year-olds the US and Europe are already being hailed as all-time greats; wouldn't it be exciting to see them face each other (someday, somewhere, on some neutral surface)? Granted, it's a remote wish - but it would be quite a sight to behold. Here's hoping against hope that both are in training next year.

For other horses profiled in this series, including last year's Breeders' Cup Classic winner Raven's Pass, check out Horses Americans Should Know.

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