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.”
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.”
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.”