With the Kentucky Derby of 2007 approaching, all race fans
are slowly turning their eyes towards Churchill Downs in
Louisville, where the hopeful Thoroughbred bluebloods and
their entourages will soon be descending. Should one of
those royally-bred horses–Circular Quay, Street Sense, or
Cowtown Cat, for instance– prove very, very good, and
very, very lucky, he will, in mid-June, have a Triple
Crown to grace his brow. He will, in the not-too distant
future, and probably before his fourth birthday, head for
the breeding shed in the company of some of the finest
females in Thoroughbred-dom.
The most expensive Thoroughbred in history is 2000
Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, who never won
another race. His breathtaking good looks, and his own
sire, Mr. Prospector, were to a large degree responsible
for the fact that when he was syndicated as a stallion the
asking price was $60 million dollars.
Those syndicate members’ first duty regarding FuPeg, as he
is known, was not to improve the breed. It was to get a
return on their investments, either by breeding their own
mares to him and racing or selling the offspring, or
charging horse owners not in the syndicate $100,000 for
one of their mares to have a private audience with FuPeg.
Since FuPeg began the trend, four other non-Triple Crown
winners have followed him into retirement with $100,000
price tags attached to their company–Smarty Jones,
Ghostzapper, and Bernardini. More than a few
non-racetracking Americans fell in love with Smarty, have
never heard of Ghostzapper, and may resent Bernardini
because he is not Barbaro.
So how much, , would a Triple Crown be worth to the owners
of a colt talented enough to win it? Given that the 1977
Triple Crown winner, the immortal Settle Slew, more than
equaled his racetrack glory by his performance as a sire,
the possible figures are mind-altering.
On the other hand, winning a Triple Crown is not guarantee
of a colt becoming a sire of Seattle Slew’s caliber. The
unchallenged master and commander of all the Triple Crown
winners was Secretariat, and he did not reproduce himself.
How could he have? Neither did Calumet’s two Triplers,
Citation and Whirlaway; nor its first and its most recent
winners, Sir Barton and Affirmed.
On the other hand, the 1930 Triple Crown winner Gallant
Fox sired its 1935 winner Omaha; granted, those were the
days when an entire year’s crop of Thoroughbreds numbered
less than 5,000, so the competition was not nearly as
fierce as it is today.
And 1937 Triple Crown War Admiral, a small horse–in
spite of Hollywood’s need to portray him otherwise in the
movie “Seabiscuit”–shows up in the pedigrees of some of
the greatest horses of the last fifty years, including
his grandson Buckpasser and, wouldn’t you know it, his
Triple Crown winning great-grandson Affirmed, and
great-great grandson Seattle Slew.
Count Fleet, the 1943 winner, is the
great-great-grandfather of FuPeg.
And let’s not forget Assault, the 1946 winner who proved
infertile. Buying a Triple Crown winner, it seems, is no
guarantee of anything, except that you will have to spend
a very large sum of money.
But consider that last year a Thoroughbred two-year-old,
since named The Green Monkey, sold at auction for $16
million and promptly suffered a hip muscle injury which
has kept him away from the racetrack. Given that, paying
a considerable amount of money for a horse which could be
another Seattle Slew does not seem like such a terrible
FuPeg, by the way, is now offering the ladies his company for a mere $75,000.
Pictures of the last Kentucky Derby
Picture of Barbaro the great champion
Picture of Fusaichi Pegasus (FuPeg)
Picture of Street Sense
Picture of Cowtown Cat
Picture of Circular Quay