(Originally published in the April 16, 2011 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
By Lenny Shulman
In the middle of the stallion complex at the Farish family’s Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky., looking over the walking paths where the studs are shown, a statue of A.P. Indy presides over the bustle of one of North America’s premier stallion operations. That the statue was erected long before the end of his stallion career, which was announced April 8, says all you need to know about A.P. Indy’s prominence at Lane’s End and to the Thoroughbred breed.
About the monument’s early installment, Bill Farish stated, “I think it was already clear what he was and what he was going to be. His place was already solidified.”
If ever a horse was bred to be a champion, it was A.P. Indy, sired by Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and out of Weekend Surprise, a multiple graded stakes-winning daughter of Triple Crown winner and icon Secretariat. But as Will Farish, A.P. Indy’s co-breeder, noted, “No patterns in Thoroughbred breeding turn out as expected all the time.”
A.P. Indy, however, turned out exactly as planned. Will Farish wanted to breed Weekend Surprise, a feminine-type mare, to a stronger-bodied horse, and Slew fit that bill. The resulting bay foal with the white blaze that poured crookedly off the left side of his nose was, in Farish’s words, “one of the best-looking horses we’ve ever raised, right from the beginning. And he never changed.”
Apparently not. The $2.9 million he brought at Keeneland July represented the highest price paid for a yearling in 1990. Bill Harrigan, farm manager at Fares Farm, where the youngster received his early training, called him “a man among boys. Physically, he was very gifted, and very confident and intelligent. He had a presence and a dominance about him.”
The racing career was short but sweet. Two seasons, 11 starts, eight victories, including four grade Is and a pair of grade IIs. A grade I winner both years, Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic (both gr. I) winner, and Horse of the Year.
“He’s what you do it for,” noted Bill Farish. “To accomplish all he did—leading yearling, Horse of the Year, champion sire twice, a great broodmare sire, and one of the best sires in a long time; I don’t know that you can even set out to aim that high.”
To have one like him come off your farm, make his mark at the races, and then come back to the farm to further the breed represents a seminal achievement for a breeding operation.
“What has he meant to us? You can do a lot of things well in our business,” said Bill Farish, “but to be looked upon as achieving greatness, you have to produce something like A.P. Indy. Kingmambo came along at about the same time and was almost a European version of him. Certainly the two of them put us in a place we hoped but didn’t know we could achieve.”
Inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2000, A.P. Indy just about singlehandedly kept the Seattle Slew sire line going, and through him it has now branched out to nearly every important farm that stands stallions. His champion son Bernardini, whose first crop of 2-year-olds excelled last year, seems poised to take the mantle and run with it. Champion Mineshaft continues his sire’s work at Lane’s End. Congrats caught fire in Florida and is now standing at Vinery Kentucky. There are Malibu Moon, Pulpit, Flatter, Stephen Got Even, Aptitude, and a host of others.
And then there are his fillies. Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches; Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner Tempera; Telling; Serenading; Passing Shot; Tomisue’s Delight; Secret Status; Flashing; Runup the Colors; Music Note; Catch the Thrill; and many, many more.
At the time of his pensioning, A.P. Indy was the leading active U.S. sire by AEI, stakes winners, grade/group winners, grade I winners, and yearling sales average.
He also changed the life of a lapsed racing fan, rekindling a flame that had long since flickered out, with his charisma and the way he ran with his head low to the ground, as if thinking about something else while daring anyone to pass him. He didn’t need to beat ’em by a lot, but he did need to beat ’em. And by whatever bolt of lightning struck me about him, I needed to watch him do it. And needed to pay attention again to this great game of horse racing.
It is a sad day when the curtain falls on a career as brilliant as his. But gratitude being a more apt emotion than sadness, we can all—everyone he’s touched—give thanks for A.P. Indy.