Comparing the Greats: The Most Influential Sires of the Late 20th Century

In the world of modern Thoroughbred racing, lineage is everything. While there will always be unexpected superstars whose breeding is nothing to write home about, the majority of top-tier equine athletes have been bred in the black for generations.

Some stallions, in particular, have a knack of producing offspring to rival – even exceed – their own on-track prowess. The 20th century gave rise to many of these super sires, but three stand out when it comes to sorting the best from the rest.

Take a look at the horses who we believe are the most influential sires of the 20th century.

Sadler’s Wells

Foaled on the 11th April 1981, this striking bay stallion was the foremost son of another racing great: the incomparable Northern Dancer. Winning a phenomenal 18 sires championships across three countries, Sadler’s Wells produced more than 320 stakes winners, among them 80 horses with Grade 1 victories to their names.

While most of his offspring are found in Europe, Sadler’s Wells’ progeny has won major races around the world. At least one of the foals he’s sired has taken victory in each of the five British classics, and many have proven dominant in North America too.

As well as producing many phenomenal racehorses, Sadler’s Wells was also an incredible broodmare sire. His grandchildren through his daughters including several racing greats, from Arc de Triomphe winner Sakhee to 2000 Guineas champion Henrythenavigator, Taghrooda, Peeping Fawn, and Conduit.

His sons have also proved influential in the breeding shed. Among the most notable are champion sires Galileo, El Prado, and In The Wings, with the former looking set to out-produce even his magnificent sire.


Foaled in 1986, Danehill became a champion sire on both sides of the equator during his prolific stud career. The handsome bay made his mark when he became the all-time leading sire of stakes winners, with 349 victories among his offspring and a phenomenal 89 Grade 1 wins.

Danehill left his greatest legacy in the UK, where he was crowned champion sire three times. He also headed the general sires log in France on two occasions. Most notable among his progeny is one of his grandchildren: the incredible Frankel.

Danehill’s own sons have also enjoyed impressive careers at stud, with the two most prominent examples being Dansili and the titular Danehill Dancer. Among his grandsons are several younger stallions too, such as Teofilo and Siyouni.


Keeping it in the family, we also have to include Sadler’s Wells’ most famous stallion son on this list – the wonderful Galileo. Foaled in 1998 and still active in the breeding shed today, this striking blood bay was the winner of the Epsom Derby and Irish Derby, winning six of his eight starts.

Many of his offspring continue to dominate on track in 2021. Indeed, those who follow horse racing will find that many of the horses listed in the races at popular, bonus-offering sportsbooks like BetMGM descend from Galileo and his own famous sire, Sadler’s Wells. Judging by the way the reputations of this remarkable stud’s offspring proceed them, it’s no surprise that they are fan favourites for wagering in the US and Europe.

Galileo’s most famous son is Frankel, but he’s not his only notable progeny. The leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland in 2008, 2010, and every year consecutively between then and 2019, Galileo commands a stud fee of around 600,000 euros, making him the most expensive stallion in the world. His many Grade 1 winners include Love, Teofilo, and Serpentine.

Which of these three incredible sires do you feel has had the greatest influence on modern Thoroughbred racing?

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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