A horse has to be pretty special for John Oxx to run him in the Derby, and Sea The Stars certainly passes the test, judging by the public thoughts of the master.
Despite a 30-year career as a trainer – many of those when right at the top of the tree – he has only fielded two runners in the great race.
It says everything about the precision of Oxx’s operation that those runners produced a winner from his first try with Sinndar in 2000 before Alamshar ran on to be a close third behind Kris Kin two years later.
Oxx is a highly intelligent, thoughtful man who picks his words with care but he singled out rare praise to the 2000 Guineas winner when speaking last week.
“He was such an important horse from the day he was foaled,” he said.
“There was great expectation right from the beginning with his pedigree and when a horse like that walks through the gates your hopes are high.
“Everyone assumed he was a Derby horse because he is a half-brother to (2001 Derby winner) Galileo but it was obvious to me early on there might be a doubt about his stamina – he is by Cape Cross rather than Sadler’s Wells and you wouldn’t get two more different pedigrees there.
“We didn’t soup him up as a two-year-old and had to wait until the spring to see if he had the speed for the Guineas
“Approaching Guineas time we began to see the right signs and we were pretty confident he’d be in the money.
“He is a tremendous individual and athlete. The race didn’t take anything out of him and he will progress a little bit.”
Oxx’s note of caution over Sea The Stars is whether he will get the mile and a half Derby trip, pointing out on more than one occasion that he is not sure either way.
He has been unable to resist the chance to try, and added: “For tradition there is no race like it. The unique demands of the track mean you will not win it unless you have speed and stamina.
“The beginning of June is quite early in the year for a horse to be mature enough to stay the distance. It is a demanding place and that is why Derby winners have been so successful over the last 200 years. You won’t win with a slow horse.
“Sea The Stars certainly has the look of a champion and is already a Guineas winner. Whether he can win the Derby as well as the Guineas is a tough call – it hasn’t been done now for 20-odd years, and Nijinsky 20 years before that. It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s worth pursuing. He’d be a great champion if he could do it.”
A little less is known about the colt’s owners, who have not been able to cheer him on yet. Christopher Tsui and his mother Ling are part of a wealthy Hong Kong family who owned Sea The Stars’ dam Urban Sea.
“They weren’t at Newmarket but they watch everything from a distance and they are very excited,” reported Oxx.
“People don’t see them, but they are absolutely wrapped up in this horse. Mrs Tsui is a very busy woman, she works almost constantly, but she said she couldn’t work for a week after the 2000 Guineas.”