Pivotal, one of the most successful British-based stallions of the recent era, has died at the age of 28.

Cheveley Park Stud, his home since his retirement in 1997, confirmed the news, saying that had passed away peacefully in his paddock.

Pivotal rose from a meagre level to become one of the most successful stallions worldwide, at one time commanding a fee of £85,000. Along the way, he has become a noted sire of sires sons, significantly through the French champion Siyouni. However, it is through his daughters that Pivotal has flourished, as a tally of 26 Group 1 winners attests.

Managing Director, Chris Richardson, said; “The story associated with the ‘Mighty’ Pivotal is truly extraordinary, considering he was the result of the very first covering his sire, Polar Falcon, was given.  Thankfully, as a yearling, it was decided to retain him to race, rather than offer him for sale, as we did with the other yearling colts by Polar Falcon that year.  Whilst in the hands of trainer, Sir Mark Prescott, Pivotal truly put Cheveley Park Stud on the map, giving owners David and Patricia Thompson their first Group 1 winner in the stud’s famous red, white and blue colours.

“Having covered a relatively small book of mares in his first year, his resulting progeny excelled and inspired at all levels, which they have continued to do throughout his career, both domestically and internationally.  On the world stage, Pivotal has excelled as a sire, a sire of sires and as a broodmare sire, to the highest level and all of us at Cheveley Park Stud have been so blessed to have been part of his life for 28 years.”

Pivotal: Cheveley Park Stud’s flagship stallion has died aged 28. Photo – George Selwyn

Pivotal retired to David and Patricia Thompson’s Cheveley Park Stud during the winter of 1996 ahead of the 1997 season. At the time, the stud boasted a popular array of stallions, many of them speed-orientated, including Pivotal’s own sire Polar Falcon, who had been sent out by John Hammond to win the 1991 Haydock Sprint Cup in David Thompson’s colours.

It is stud folklore how the big, strong chestnut Pivotal was the very first foal to be born by Polar Falcon, himself an attractive black horse. And what a worthy early representative he turned out to be. Sent to Sir Mark Prescott, he won two of his three starts at two, notably when breaking the track record at Folkestone, before striking in the King’s Stand and Nunthorpe Stakes at three. The latter came at the excruciatingly narrow expense of Eveningperformance in a photo finish that took 20 minutes to call.

Pivotal’s first-year fee was set at £6,000 but although a champion sprinter, securing interest from mare owners wasn’t all plain sailing as an opening book of around 60 would illustrate. 

Yet that first crop hit the ground running, becoming successful enough for Pivotal to emulate Cheveley Park Stud’s foundation stallion Music Boy as the leading first-crop sire of his year. The group also came to include Nunthorpe Stakes winner Kyllachy, German Oaks heroine Silvester Lady and top American turf filly in Golden Apples, thereby laying the foundations for a hugely influential stud career.

Today, Pivotal boasts a stud record that consists of 32 Group or Grade 1 winners. Kyllachy was one such horse to follow Pivotal’s example as a sprinter as did fellow speedsters Maarek, Somnus and Regal Parade. But in a remarkable show of versatility, Pivotal has also sired milers of the ilk of Lightning Spear, Immortal Verse, Excellent Art, Falco and Farhh. The latter also struck in elite company over 1m2f, the same distance that is also playing to the strengths of his current star Addeybb, the 2019 Champions Stakes winner. 

There was even an Epsom-Irish Oaks heroine in Sariska and a Dubai World Cup hero in African Story. That particular gelding formed part of a highly successful association between the stallion and Sheikh Mohammed that took off following Darley’s acquisition of a 25% share in Pivotal in late 2005. While a beneficial move to both parties – Darley also bred the Group 1 winners Farhh and Buzzword – crucially it also allowed the horse to remain in Britain.

Kyllachy: an early flag bearer for Pivotal and later a successful sire. Photo – George Selwyn

A number of Pivotal’s sons have gone on to catch the imagination at stud. Kyllachy was another fine servant to Cheveley Park Stud whose influence lives on within the current roster via his Group 1-winning son Twilight Son. 

Darley’s Farhh has overcome serious fertility issues to make his mark, notably as the sire of Group 1-winning miler King Of Change, himself now at stud.

However, the line flows at its most strongest through Haras de Bonneval’s Siyouni. The French champion sire of 2020, he boasts six Group or Grade 1 winners led by two Coolmore stars in Arc hero Sottsass and this year’s Poule d’Essai des Poulains, Prix du Jockey Club, Eclipse Stakes and Irish Champion Stakes winner St. Mark’s Basilica. Once available for as little was €7,000, Siyouni today commands a fee of €140,000.

Sottsass and St. Mark’s Basilica are both the products of Galileo mares and thereby supply further proof of the line’s ability to click with the Coolmore supersire. And it is this ability to work with Galileo, at times an overwhelming presence within pedigrees, that has helped propel Pivotal into rarefied company as a broodmare sire.

Pivotal became a top ten British and Irish broodmare sire back in 2012 when his eldest daughters were still only 12-years-old and was later crowned champion in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Only Galileo had his measure last year.

The productive partnership between Galileo and Pivotal includes Ballydoyle’s multiple Group 1 winners Magical and Rhododendron, both of whom are out of the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Halfway To Heaven. Another outstanding Pivotal mare, Beauty Is Truth, is the dam of dual Group 1 winner Hydrangea, 1,000 Guineas heroine Hermosa and Australian Group 1 winner The United States.

Then there is Love, a daughter of the Pivotal mare Pikaboo whose victory in last year’s 1,000 Guineas saw her become the second successive winner of the race to represent the Galileo – Pivotal cross after Hermosa. Love also landed the Epsom and Yorkshire Oaks during last season’s stellar campaign.

Outside those by Galileo, Pivotal’s record of Group 1 winners as a damsire includes triple Prix de la Foret heroine One Master, top older horse Cracksman, accomplished juveniles and speedsters Fairyland, Golden Horde and Advertise, and even a St Leger winner in Harbour Law.

His most recent Group 1 winner as a damsire came only several weeks ago when Tenebrism captured the Cheveley Park Stakes.

Pivotal was retired from stud duties earlier this year at Cheveley Park Stud, where he occupied the box once belonging to the iconic 19th century champion Isinglass. 

However, he got 15 of his 30 mares in foal in 2020, so his story is far from over.

Pivotal: 1993 – 2021 – Photo George Selwyn