Man About Town - By Evan Hammonds

Purses in the United States as reported in the monthly Thoroughbred Economic Indicators were down 79.64% from a year ago for the month of April alone, and year-to-date purses are off 28.85%.

That’s to be expected these days with the majority of tracks having been closed since the end of March due to COVID-19 concerns.

That also means there hasn’t been much movement on the 2020 general sires list since early March. The current market leader is New Year’s Day, the sire of Saudi Cup winner Maximum Security, with more than $10.3 million to his ledger.

There was a time when there was not a lot of movement as to where the leading sire stood. Prior to 1974 mighty Claiborne Farm had stood the leading sire for 15 consecutive years (1955-69). After breakthrough years by Hail to Reason (1970) and Northern Dancer (1971), Claiborne reclaimed its hold as the home of the leading sire with Round Table (1972) and Bold Ruler (1973).

Former BloodHorse editor Edward L. Bowen pointed that out to us last week upon hearing of the death of Preston Madden at 85. It was Madden who stood the 1974 leading sire T. V. Lark at his family’s Hamburg Place east of Lexington.

Madden, grandson of John E. Madden, a key figure in the Thoroughbred industry more than a century ago and the “Wizard of the Turf,” made his own way in the business. Taking the helm of his family’s storied farm, Preston Madden is best remembered around Central Kentucky for a gregarious lifestyle and as the breeder of 1987 dual classic winner, 1988 Horse of the Year, and “America’s Horse” Alysheba. But long before that, he was known for heading the syndication of T. V. Lark and guiding the Cal-bred’s stud career.

Madden, looking to make his own splash in the industry, led a group in 1961 to purchase T. V. Lark (Indian Hemp—Miss Larksfly, by Heelfly) for $600,000. Madden was in for a third while the other members read like a who’s who of the sport: from Bruno Ferrari, to Nelson Bunker Hunt, to Mrs. Connie Ring, Mrs. P.A.B. Widener, and Albert Yank.

In November of that year, with John Longden up, T. V. Lark defeated Kelso in the Washington, D.C., International—at the time the top turf race for older horses.

Madden, who marched to his own drum, toyed with the idea of shipping his star to South America to be the first North American horse to test Argentina’s Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini but backed off sending his runner on an arduous journey to run in the nearly two-mile race.

Retired after 19 wins in 72 starts, T. V. Lark earned $902,194 and the honor as the all-time leading Cal-bred earner, supplanting Swaps. He had three added-money winners from 18 foals in his first crop, including Madden’s seven-time stakes winner Pink Pigeon. T. V. Lark climbed the sire charts and finished second in 1972 and 1973 before his breakthrough in 1974. Grade 1 winner Quack and grade 2 winners Golden Don and Buffalo Lark were his stars that year.

Into the 1980s T. V. Lark’s pedigree ran through top sires Mickey McGuire (who stood at Hamburg) and It’s Freezing, and T. V. Lark was the broodmare sire of three-time grade 1 winner and sire Bates Motel. T. V. Lark is also the broodmare sire of Madden-bred (co-bred with his brother, Patrick Madden) Mairzy Doates, winner of the 1981 Japan Cup (G1).

Madden had many other successes in the horse business and in the development of part of his farm. Hamburg Place today is Lexington’s main shopping hub.

He was always a laid-back, cool character with a sharp, philosophical wit. He was one of those guys that everybody wanted to hang out with.

After Alysheba won the Kentucky Derby, Madden told BloodHorse magazine:

“The horse business is not really as difficult as it seems. If you are willing to devote all your time and your physical and financial effectiveness to it—and if you live long enough—you may eventually get lucky…as I have.”

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