El Gran Senor

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El Gran Senor
SireNorthern Dancer
DamSex Appeal
Foaled21 April 1981[1]
CountryUnited States
BreederE. P. Taylor, Vincent O'Brien, John Magnier, Robert Sangster
OwnerRobert Sangster
TrainerVincent O'Brien
Record8: 7-1-0
Major wins
Railway Stakes (1983)
National Stakes (1983)
Dewhurst Stakes (1983)
Gladness Stakes (1984)
2,000 Guineas (1984)
Irish Derby Stakes (1984)
Timeform top-rated two-year-old colt (1983)
Top-rated European two-year-old colt (1983)
Timeform top-rated three-year-old colt (1984)
Top-rated European three-year-old colt (1984)
Timeform rating 136 (1984)
Last updated on December 31, 2009

El Gran Senor (21 April 1981 – October 2006) was a champion American-bred Thoroughbred race horse, foaled at Windfields Farm (Maryland). He was the best horse of his generation in Europe at both two and three years of age, ahead of an outstanding group of contemporaries which included Chief Singer, Darshaan, Rainbow Quest, Sadler's Wells, Lashkari, Pebbles, Commanche Run and Northern Trick. His only defeat in eight races came when he was beaten a short head by Secreto in the 1984 Epsom Derby. El Gran Senor received a Timeform rating of 136. He also enjoyed notable success at stud, had been pensioned at Ashford Stud in Kentucky since 2000, and was 25 years old when he died on October 18, 2006.


He was born in 1981 and was bred at Windfields Farm (Maryland) by Windfields' owner E. P. Taylor in partnership with Vincent O'Brien, John Magnier, and Robert Sangster.[2] He had a pronounced parrot mouth, which he often passed on to his progeny.[3] His name comes from the nickname of Horatio Luro, trainer of his sire Northern Dancer. He went to Ireland to be trained by Vincent O'Brien, who had trained numerous major winners for Sangster including El Gran Senor's full brother, Try My Best, who was champion 2 year old in Great Britain and Ireland in 1977.

Racing career[edit]

The colt was unbeaten as a two-year-old. He won the Railway Stakes (Gr3) and National Stakes (Gr2) at The Curragh in Ireland. For his final race that year, he was sent to Newmarket in England for the Dewhurst Stakes (Gr1), the most prestigious two-year-old race in that country. His defeat of Rainbow Quest earned him an unusually high two-year-old rating of 131 from Timeform.

As a three-year-old, El Gran Senor again raced four times. Injury ended his season mid-summer. He easily won the Gladness Stakes (L) beating stablemate Sadler's Wells at The Curragh and then returned to Newmarket in England, where he competed in the 2,000 Guineas Stakes (Gr1), the first Classic of the year. In one of the highest quality ever 2,000 Guineas, El Gran Senor easily beat Chief Singer, Lear Fan and Rainbow Quest in that race. In the months that followed El Gran Senor's win at Newmarket, Chief Singer took the St. James's Palace Stakes (Gr2) and Sussex Stakes (Gr1) over a mile and the July Cup (Gr1) over six furlongs. Lear Fan, who later became a very successful stallion, won the Prix Jacques le Marois (Gr1) over a mile at Deauville in France. Rainbow Quest, who became one of the best stallions in England, won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Gr1) at Longchamp in France and the Coronation Cup (Gr1) at Epsom in England.

Despite doubts over his stamina, stemming from the amount of speed in the distaff side of his pedigree and the speed he had shown at Newmarket, El Gran Senor was an odds-on favourite for the Derby (Gr1) over 12 furlongs at Epsom. In the stretch, he engaged in a battle with another Irish-trained colt in Secreto and lost narrowly. Many felt that Pat Eddery had ridden an ill-judged race, hitting the front too soon, and not being able to use El Gran Senor's superior acceleration. Eddery later acknowledged that El Gran Senor should have won the race but that when the pacemakers dropped away early in the straight he found himself in the lead much earlier than intended.[4] Secreto had finished third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas (Gr1) to Sadler's Wells over a mile at The Curragh in his previous race. Both colts, trained by father and son (Vincent and David O'Brien), were sired by the same stallion, were bred at the same stud farm and, it has been reported, had shared a paddock as yearlings.

Secreto was subsequently injured and never raced again. He became a reasonably successful stallion. El Gran Senor went on to beat Rainbow Quest impressively in the Irish Derby (Gr1) over 12 furlongs at The Curragh.[5][6] He then sustained an injury (lameness due to a keratoma in his hoof) and was retired to stud in America.

Stud career[edit]

Throughout his stud career, El Gran Senor had low fertility and typically sired no more than 40 foals in any year - these days, most top sires and champions sire between 60 and 180 foals in a year. Over the course of his career, he fathered fewer than 400 foals. There were only 14 in his first foal-crop, but they included Al Hareb, who won the Racing Post Trophy (Gr1) over a mile in England. Al Hareb is at stud in Australia, and while his overall record is unremarkable, he did sire the top class sprinter Hareeba, a multiple Group 1 winning sprinter. El Gran Senor sired a total of 12 horses who won at the highest level - Group/Grade 1. These included South African classic winner Kundalini, top American fillies Corrazona, Spanish Fern and Toussaud, Breeders' Cup Sprint hero Lit de Justice, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner, Belmez, and multiple European Group 1 winner Rodrigo de Triano.[7]

He was pensioned from stallion duty at the age of 19, but his tally of 55 stakes winners represented a rate of more than 14% stakes winners to named foals - 10%+ is the usually accepted sign of a very good stallion. His record as a sire of successful stallions has been disappointing. As a broodmare sire, however, he has done very well. His top-class daughter Toussaud ranks among a tiny handful of mares who have produced as many as four Group/Grade 1 winners. Her son Chester House (by Mr Prospector) won the Arlington Million (Gr1). Her daughter Honest Lady (by Seattle Slew) won the Santa Monica Handicap (Gr1). Another son, Chiselling (by Woodman), won the Secretariat Stakes (Gr1) before taking up stallion duties in South Africa. Her fourth Grade 1 winner is Belmont Stakes (Gr1) winner Empire Maker (by Unbridled). Empire Maker stood at his owner-breeder Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farm in Kentucky until November, 2010, when he was sold to Japanese breeders, leaving seven crops including foals of 2011. Eleven days earlier, his two-year-old daughter Royal Delta won her first start by 12 lengths. Champion Royal Delta sold for $8.5 million in 2011 in mid-career, leading an upsurge in Empire Maker's ranking as a sire.

El Gran Senor was euthanized in October 2006 at Ashford Stud in Kentucky. [8]

Major winners[edit]

c = colt, f = filly, g = gelding

Foaled Name Sex Major Wins
1986 Al Hareb c William Hill Futurity
1986 Gran Alba c Christmas Hurdle
1987 Belmez c King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes
1989 Rodrigo de Triano c Middle Park Stakes, 2000 Guineas, Irish 2000 Guineas, International Stakes, Champion Stakes
1990 Corrazona f Beverly Hills Handicap
1990 Lit de Justice c Breeders' Cup Sprint
1993 Le Triton c Prix Jean Prat
1995 Saratoga Springs c Racing Post Trophy
1995 Spanish Fern f Yellow Ribbon Stakes


Pedigree of El Gran Senor (USA), bay stallion, 1981[1]
Northern Dancer (CAN)
Nearctic (CAN)
Nearco Pharos
Lady Angela Hyperion
Sister Sarah
Natalma (USA)
Native Dancer Polynesian
Almahmoud Mahmoud
Sex Appeal (USA)
Buckpasser (USA)
Tom Fool Menow
Busanda War Admiral
Best In Show (USA)
Traffic Judge Alibhai
Traffic Court
Stolen Hour Mr Busher
Late Date (Family: 8f)


  1. ^ a b "El Gran Senor pedigree". equineline.com. Retrieved 2015-01-30.
  2. ^ http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/358/el-gran-senor-pensioned
  3. ^ Morris, Tony (1990). Thoroughbred Stallions. Swindon: Crowood Press. ISBN 1-85223-331-1.
  4. ^ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11987019/Pat-Eddery-jockey-obituary.html
  5. ^ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301342731_Vincent_O'Brien_Biography
  6. ^ "Irish Derby to El Gran Senor". New Straits Times.
  7. ^ Blood-Horse Staff (7 July 2000). "El Gran Senor Pensioned". BloodHorse.com.
  8. ^ "Death of leading sire Senor". RTÉ Sport. 19 October 2006.[permanent dead link]