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Oxx denied fairytale farewell at the Curragh

John Oxx is looking forward to the next chapter in his life after saddling his final runners at the Curragh on Monday.

The Currabeg handler announced last month he was bringing the curtain down a glittering training career spanning over four decades at the end of this season.

After saddling Storm Legend to win at Naas on Sunday, Oxx sent three horses to the home of Irish Flat racing to contest the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund (C & G) Maiden.

And the popular trainer almost secured a fairytale ending, with Earlswood beaten less than a length into third place, after which Oxx said: “Those are my last runners and they all ran well.

“I thought the horse in third was coming to win, but he just got a bit tired. They are three nice horses and hopefully we hear more of them next year.

“The horse that won yesterday (Storm Legend) is going to Fozzy Stack and he’ll have a bit of fun with him. He could go for a Guineas trial.”

John Oxx with the great Sea The Stars
John Oxx with the great Sea The Stars (Niall Carson/PA)

Oxx will forever be remembered as the trainer of the brilliant Sea The Stars, who six Group Ones in the space of six months in 2009, encapsulating the 2000 Guineas, Derby, Eclipse, Juddmonte International, Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Other equine greats to pass through his hands include Sinndar, who won the Derby, the Irish Derby and the Arc in 2000, and Alamshar, who landed the Irish Derby and the King George three years later.

“The die is cast now and we’re looking forward to retirement. We’ve been very lucky, we’ve had a great run and have no complaints. We’re happy with the way life turned out,” Oxx added.

“There comes a time when it’s the right time to stop, and we’ve been thinking about it for a few years, as you have to have a viable business and there is no point going on when you don’t.

“The more we think about it, the happier we are. What’s the point in going on forever at it?

“I’ll still go racing as I’d miss the people and the chatting. That’s really what it’s all about, the communication with people. I’d miss that if I became a recluse.

“I’ll be doing a few bits for people although I won’t be over busy. I’ll be busy enough, I hope.”

Oxx looks back on ‘incredible’ Sea The Stars as retirement looms

John Oxx reflected on the achievements of the brilliant Sea The Stars and other equine greats the morning after announcing his impending retirement from the training ranks.

The quietly-spoken Currabeg handler released a brief statement on Monday revealing he was bringing the curtain down on a glittering career spanning over four decades at the end of 2020.

Oxx admitted the decision had been under consideration for some time due to the dwindling number of horses in his care.

“It’s not something you decide to do overnight – it’s been on our mind for a few years,” he told Sky Sports Racing.

“Now seems the right time as we don’t really have enough horses to justify keeping going. It was a pretty easy decision to make as you have to have a viable business.

“Trainers love to keep going, of course – we like what we do. We probably all keep going longer than we should, but it was pretty clear to us now is the right time to stop.

“I had a big stable at one stage and we did well, but stables are getting bigger and bigger now, which does make life harder for other trainers and smaller trainers.”

Oxx’s undoubted horse of a lifetime was Sea The Stars, who won six Group Ones in as many months in 2009 with victories in the 2000 Guineas, the Derby, the Coral-Eclipse, the Juddmonte International, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Oxx said: “I was always happy to say he was one of the greats and that’s good enough for me.

“He is certainly one of the best ever on ratings – he was an incredible horse. I suppose the thing about Sea The Stars is you only ever saw 75 or 80 per cent of what was in the tank. He always won comfortably and had plenty of gas left as he didn’t exert himself too hard.

“He’s one of those great horses that only comes along now and then – in a 100-year period you don’t see many horses like him and Frankel and Mill Reef and Nijinsky.”

Sea the Stars wins the Investec Derby at Epsom
Sea the Stars wins the Investec Derby at Epsom (Steve Parsons/PA)

Oxx revealed it was Sea The Stars’ bulletproof temperament, as much as his remarkable ability, that allowed him to enjoy such a spectacular three-year-old campaign.

“It was a terrific achievement for the horse, he had this tremendous energy and tremendous soundness and will to win – he had all the attributes you wanted,” said Oxx.

“You couldn’t take on that sort of programme with every horse, but we knew this fellow had that unique constitution and would be able to do it if we didn’t have any bad luck with ground or an injury along the way.

“We knew he had the capability to do it and we wanted him to prove himself one of the greats. It’s no good talking about it, saying a horse is this good or that good, they have to go out and win.

“To finish up and pull it off in the Arc was fantastic and such a relief for us to get him there and have him fulfil his destiny.”

Sinndar was another superstar for Oxx
Sinndar was another superstar for Oxx (Andy Gatt/PA)

Nine years earlier Oxx completed the Derby-Arc double with Sinndar, with an Irish Derby success thrown in for good measure.

“He was a great horse. I thought coming into his three-year-old season he might be a horse who would be placed in the Derby, but as soon as he ran his first race I knew there was a lot more there than was evident at home,” Oxx recalled.

“He was a beautiful horse with a wonderful temperament and as tough as nails. Every time he ran he was 5lb better than the previous time and he just got sharper as he went through his three-year-old year and stronger.

“Your grandmother would have ridden him out early in the year, but by the time it came to the Arc, you just had to watch him as he’d throw a jump and a kick – he wasn’t anybody’s ride in the end!

“He got stronger and more aggressive and more confident. That’s the way with those great horses, they’re never finished.”

The best filly to pass through Oxx’s hands was Ridgewood Pearl, who won four Group Ones in four different countries in 1995.

After providing the trainer with the first of eight Classic wins in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, Ridgewood Pearl went on to land the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp and the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Belmont Park.

Oxx said: “She was a really strong filly – masculine-looking with a terrific temperament.

“She was very consistent and always the same in her work and ate all her feed – she was a bit of a machine really.

“Sometimes those fillies that are very good – you’ve seen it with Enable recently – they’re just very tough and consistent and once they like racing they keep liking it.

“Ridgewood Pearl would go on any ground and nothing stopped her. She was a pleasure to train.”

Equine greats were brilliantly handled by John Oxx

Born: July 14, 1950. Father John was an eight-time Irish Classic-winning trainer.

Stable: Currabeg, County Kildare, Ireland.

First trainer’s licence: 1978.

First winner: Orchestra at Phoenix Park on March 31, 1979.

Sea The Stars was arguably the greatest horse of modern times
Sea The Stars was arguably the greatest horse of modern times (Daniel Hambury/PA)

2000 Guineas winner: Sea The Stars 2009.

Derby winners: Sinndar 2000, Sea The Stars 2009.

Irish Derby winners: Sinndar 2000, Alamshar 2003.

Johnny Murtagh on Alamshar is led in after winning the King George
Johnny Murtagh on Alamshar is led in after winning the King George (Sean Dempsey/PA)

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner: Sinndar 2000.

Breeders’ Cup winner: Ridgewood Pearl (Mile, 1995).

King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes winners: Alamshar 2003, Azamour 2005.

Mick Kinane and Azamour on the way to winning the Irish Champion Stakes
Mick Kinane and Azamour on the way to winning the Irish Champion Stakes (Haydn West/PA)

Other Group One winners:

Azamour (St James’s Palace Stakes 2004, Irish Champion Stakes 2004, Prince Of Wales’s Stakes 2005), Ebadiyla (Irish Oaks, Prix Royal-Oak 1997), Edabiya (Moyglare Stud Stakes 1998), Enzeli (Gold Cup 1999, Doncaster Cup 2000), Eurobird (Irish St Leger, Blandford Stakes 1987), Flamenco Wave (Moyglare Stud Stakes 1988), Foresee (Blandford Stakes 1993), Kastoria (Irish St Leger 2005), Khalafiya (Meld Stakes 1990), Key Change (Yorkshire Oaks 1996), Manntari (National Stakes 1993), Massyar (Gallinule Stakes 1993), Petite Ile (Irish St Leger 1989), Namid (Prix de l’Abbaye 2000), Ridgewood Pearl (Irish 1000 Guineas 1995, Coronation Stakes 1995, Prix du Moulin 1995), Sardaniya (Meld Stakes 1991), Shemaran (Gallinule Stakes 1995), Sinndar (National Stakes 1999), Takarouna (Pretty Polly Stakes 1993), Timarida (Irish Champion Stakes 1996), Winona (Irish Oaks 1998).

John Oxx to retire from training at the end of the season

John Oxx, trainer of the brilliant Sea The Stars and many other equine greats, has announced his intention to retire from the training ranks at the end of the season.

Oxx, who sent out Sinndar to win the Derby, Irish Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2000 and Alamshar to win the Irish Derby and King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2003, outlined his plans on Monday afternoon.

In a statement on www.irishracing.com, he said: “In 2021, I will not be renewing my trainer’s licence. It has been my good fortune to have enjoyed a lot of success and trained some great horses.

John Oxx with Mick Kinane and Sea The Stars at Epsom
John Oxx with Mick Kinane and Sea The Stars at Epsom (Daniel Hambury/PA)

“I am extremely grateful to all the owners who have sent me those horses to train since 1979, to all the great jockeys who rode them and to all the exceptional staff who have worked for us over the last 41 years.

“Over the years and right up to date I have been privileged to have some wonderful owners and I will greatly miss training for them but now is a good time for me to stop.

“My concern at the moment is that our staff can find alternative employment as our training business will cease at the end of this turf season in November.”

Oxx, who can also lay claim to winning at the Breeders’ Cup with Ridgewood Pearl and the Gold Cup at Ascot with Enzeli, will forever be remembered for the way he brilliantly handled Sea The Stars.

The Galileo colt won six Group Ones in the space of six months in 2009, encapsulating the 2000 Guineas, Derby, Eclipse, Juddmonte International, Irish Champion Stakes and the Arc.

Sea The Stars was a real superstar for John Oxx
Sea The Stars was a real superstar for John Oxx (Steve Parsons/PA)

He was ridden throughout this career by Mick Kinane, who was quick to pay tribute to Oxx.

He said: “He’s a fantastic trainer and an outstanding gentleman.”

“I loved every minute I spent with him.”

Johnny Murtagh did the steering on Sinndar, riding the son of Grand Lodge in all eight of his career starts, of which he won seven.

He said: “It’s the end of an era, I rode for him for many years and he was just a brilliant trainer.

Sinndar was brilliant in the Derby under Johnny Murtagh
Sinndar was brilliant in the Derby under Johnny Murtagh (Andy Gatt/PA)

“When he got those good horses he was able to keep them on the boil for the whole season – more importantly he was just an absolute gentleman.

“He was a father figure to me, someone I looked up to. As a jockey I was privileged to ride for him and when I set up training he was a big influence on how we set up our business.

“I wish him all the best, hopefully he won’t leave the industry because a person with so much knowledge needs to be involved.

“I joined him as an apprentice when I was 15, we won at the Breeders’ Cup together, we had great success together and I think we worked well together.”