They say behind every great daughter there is an amazing father, and for Champions Rachel Alexandra and Songbird that is certainly an accurate sentiment. Over the past decade, Medaglia d’Oro has made a strong impact on the race track with many Grade 1 winners and a certain pair of daughters bringing some of the most memorable performances by fillies in racing history.
With his supreme bloodlines, nearly perfect conformation, and versatile class as a racehorse in the early 2000s, his success at stud has not necessarily come as a surprise, but with 2 Champion fillies, 18 Grade 1 winners, and a total of 5 Grade 1 winners in 2017 alone, he has certainly set himself apart from the rest at Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud. So, let’s take a look back at the brilliant career and rising influence as a stallion of the globally adored Medaglia d’ Oro.
Medaglia d’Oro – meaning “Medal of Gold” – was born on April 11th, 1999. He was bred by Albert and Joyce Bell at their Katalpa Farm in Paris, Kentucky. His sire was the renowned Irish Champion El Prado, who was the first son of the great Sadlers Well’s to establish himself as a sire in the United States. The lower side of his pedigree was not quite as established, with his dam Cappuccino Bay being a minor stakes race winner and eventual claimer. Her sire Bailjumper was a multiple graded stakes winner and son of the great Hall of Fame inductee Damascus.
As a yearling in 2000, Medaglia d’Oro was sent to a training facility in Arizona to learn the basics of being a racehorse. The handsome young colt immediately displayed class beyond his years. Perfectly balanced and well-behaved, the uniquely named colt was doted upon by all who handled him. In Spring of 2001, Medaglia d’Oro returned to Kentucky, where he was placed in trainer David Vance’s stable at Churchill Downs to begin his racing career. With more time given for training and development, Medaglia d’Oro raced just once at 2, finishing 2nd in a Maiden Special Weight at Turfway Park.
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As a 3-year-old, the handsome son of El Prado had matured into a magnificent athlete. Standing at 16.2 hands high, he immediately caught the eye with his nearly faultless physique, professional nature, and keen look of a runner. Medaglia d’Oro made his highly anticipated 3-year-old debut in a 6 furlong Maiden Special Weight at Oaklawn Park, which he won impressively by open lengths. After his winning three-year-old debut, he was sold to Edmund Gann and transferred to legendary trainer Robert J. Frankel, which was a significant turning point in the young colt’s blossoming career.
With the 2002 Triple Crown season already in his connections’ minds, Medaglia d’Oro went immediately into stakes company after his exceptional sophomore debut, this time in California in the 1 1/16 Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Racetrack. Medaglia d’Oro and Laffit Pincay Jr. surged to another noteworthy win in an impressive performance validating the talent that Bobby Frankel knew was there . From the San Felipe he went on to another key prep for the 2002 Kentucky Derby in the 1 ⅛ mile Grade 1 Wood Memorial, where he finished 2nd by a head to Buddha after a hard fought stretch duel. Regardless of the loss, Medaglia d’Oro was one of the most highly regarded colt’s heading into the Triple Crown season.
In Medaglia d’Oro’s 17 race career, he would run out of the money just twice…and to the disappointment to his connections, those two races were the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. After a rough break and traffic throughout, Medaglia d’Oro ran a well-run 4th to War Emblem in the Kentucky Derby. In the Preakness, the colt ran a dismal 8th in the worst race of his career. Despite that poor performance, the decision was made to run in the Belmont Stakes as Frankel thought the added distance would be to the colt’s liking, and as usual, he was right. He finished 2nd in the 1 1⁄2 mile Belmont Stakes, narrowly beaten by long-shot Sarava.
After some time off, Medaglia d’Oro returned to his winning ways dominating the G2 Jim Dandy by 13 ½ lengths – earning an astounding Beyer Speed Figure of 120 under new jockey Jerry Bailey. From there he would win the G1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, finally redeeming himself as one of the leading horses of his crop taking the prestigious “Midsummer’s Derby” in a determined display of victory. In his last start as a 3-year-old, Medaglia d’Oro ran another significant second in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Classic to another lucky longshot named Volponi. Despite his many valiant runs, Medaglia d’Oro finished second to War Emblem in the Eclipse Award for champion three-year-old of 2002.
At 4, Medaglia d’Oro had appeared to have matured like fine wine starting off his 4-year-old campaign with a 7-length score in the Strub Stakes in February at Santa Anita and then won the Oaklawn Handicap in April by 2 3⁄4 lengths. After a rest, he returned to win the prestigious Whitney Handicap by a length over Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Volponi, becoming the very first horse to win Saratoga’s Jim Dandy, Travers, and Whitney. He then ran 2nd to Candy Ride in the Pacific Classic and again went on to run another significant 2nd in the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic to Pleasantly Perfect.
In 2004, the 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro made just two starts. He won the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in Florida, then at the end of March, he again finished second to Pleasantly Perfect in the Dubai World Cup, the richest race in the world at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates.
After 17 career starts, 8 wins ranging from 6 to 10 furlongs, 7 seconds, and over $5 million in career earnings, the grand old runner was retired to stud in 2005 at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms for a stud fee of $35,000. Medaglia d’Oro immediately became a popular stallion on the market and was moved to Stonewall Stallions in 2006, where he stood through 2009. His fee increased to $40,000 in 2007, then $60,000 in 2009.
From his first crop, he produced several stakes winners, most notably the great Rachel Alexandra, who was the 2009 Horse of the Year and one of the great fillies of recent history. As a result of his immediate and growing success, he was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud in 2009.
Starting in 2010, Medaglia d’Oro had become a globally popular stallion, shuttling to Australia for the southern hemisphere’s breeding season. His first Australian crop was moderately successful, but his 2nd Australian crop included Vancouver, who won the Golden Slipper Stakes and was named Australia’s champion two-year-old of 2014 and now stands as a promising young stallion at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
Out of his 2015 crop came the great Songbird who went on to echo the greatness of her sister before her, winning 9 Grade 1 races and 2 Eclipse Awards before her untimely retirement due to injury. Other top Medaglia d’Oro progeny includes Astern, C. S. Silk, Champagne d’Oro, Coffee Clique, New Money Honey, Gabby’s Golden Gal, Lochte, Marketing Mix, Mshawish, Passion for Gold, Plum Pretty, Vancouver, Violence, Warrior’s Reward, Elate, and most recent G1 winner Bolt d’Oro.
In 2016 his stud fee was raised to $150,000 in North America. He now is bred to some of the best mares around the world.
While most recognized as the sire of the magnificent fillies Rachel Alexandra and Songbird, Medaglia d’Oro has proved capable of getting high-caliber horses of both sexes. Though his great daughters, Medaglia d’Oro had immortalized himself as a sire of champions and continues to bring hopes of more great winners as we recently watched his 3-year-old filly Elate and 2-year-old son Bolt d’Oro claim Grade 1 wins on the East and West Coast.
Despite the retirement of his great Songbird, 2017 looks to be a particularly exciting year for the Darley stallion, who already has 5 Grade 1 winners in 2017 already. With Elate giving off hints of being another gifted filly on the rise from the golden Forty Niner line that he so dearly loves and 2-year-old colt Bolt d’Oro, remaining undefeated in 2 career starts claiming the Del Mar Futurity rising on the juvenile polls, the future continues to look bright for the 18-year-old stallion, and I have a sneaking suspicion he has more to prove as a champion sire.
One thing is for sure, whether it be on the track or the breeding shed, Medaglia d’Oro is a name one never forgets.