The man many regard as the greatest trainer in history, Vincent O’Brien called Nijinsky II and Sir Ivor, “the two best horses he trained.” He described Nijinsky as the most brilliant of his runners, Sir Ivor the most determined. A.B. (Bull) Hancock Jr., in his last decade at Claiborne and nearly 20 years after importing Nasrullah, was still the “syndicate-maker,” and his efforts would bring these great European champions to stud in Kentucky.
The first time Hancock bought Sir Ivor, he paid $42,000 on behalf of Raymond Guest at the 1966 Keeneland summer sale. The handsome bay was from the second crop by Claiborne stallion, Sir Gaylord, a son of Claiborne’s Turn-to out of the Princequillo mare Somethingroyal (later famous as the dam of Secretariat). Sir Ivor made his first start at two on Irish Derby day at the Curragh, finishing fourth in the only unplaced performance of his career. A maiden winner next out, he went on to take the Irish National Stakes and French Grand Criterium. Named 1967’s Champion 2-year-old in Ireland, Sir Ivor enjoyed his first Classic success at Newmarket in the English Two Thousand Guineas. At Epsom, he appeared hopelessly beaten but broke through a bottle-neck to storm clear under Lester Piggott in the Derby. His electrifying run secured Horse of the Year honors and helped globalize the market for racehorses by showcasing the quality of the modern American Thoroughbred. Following Sir Ivor’s success, European buyers flocked to Keeneland’s summer sale where they plucked such dazzling stars as The Minstrel, Storm Bird, Alleged and Claiborne bred/sold Nureyev. “The biggest difference Sir Ivor made was in the Keeneland sales, because he was the first really good horse that had ever been bought here and gone across the ocean and succeeded,” breeder Alice Chandler notes, “That’s what brought the people – the Europeans, later the Arabs, the Japanese, many other people – to the Keeneland sales.”
Sire of 94 stakes winners from 804 foals (12%) and broodmare sire of more than 150 stakes winners, Sir Ivor’s progeny performed well at home and abroad. At the time of his passing in 1995, Sir Ivor was the leading sire of stakes winners from the Royal Charger branch of Nearco’s male line. Particularly fond to Claiborne was Sir Ivor’s daughter, Ivanjica, from the last crop of foals raised by A. B. (Bull) Hancock Jr. Seth Hancock oversaw her preparation for the 1973 Keeneland July Sale and watched with pride she avenged Sir Ivor’s loss in the Arc. Ivanjica was France’s Champion Filly at three and Horse of the Year at four for trainer Alec Head and owners Jacques Wertheimer and Mrs. Head. Later champions by Sir Ivor included Lady Capulet (dam of El Prado), Cloonlara, Godetia, and Malinowski.
Pensioned in 1990, died Nov. 18, 1995. Buried at Claiborne Farm Marchmont Division