The heir of greatness, the ancestor of glory, A.P. Indy died on Friday, Feb. 21, full of years and laden with honors.
The grand bay was a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew (by Bold Reasoning) out of the exceptional producer Weekend Surprise, by Triple Crown winner Secretariat (Bold Ruler). Linebred to Bold Ruler through some of his most distinguished descendants, A.P. Indy had some of the best bloodlines in the breed.
With the pedigree to be a star, A.P. Indy never missed in proving those prospects to be correct. He grew into an exceptional yearling who topped the Keeneland July select sale at $2.9 million in 1990, went into training with the patient and savvy conditioner Neil Drysdale, earned black type at a 2-year-old with victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity, progressed to become a classic colt, won the Belmont Stakes, challenged the older horses and won the Breeders' Cup Classic, was named Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old colt, went to stud at Lane's End Farm, where the wondrous horse had been bred and raised, became a leading sire, a leading broodmare sire, and has a male line that is second to none in North America.
Not bad for one lifetime.
It is, in fact, almost too much to believe. But A.P. Indy did it, and I saw it. The horse's lifetime fell within the period that I've been equally fortunate to write about racing and breeding.
A.P. Indy became a significant part of what I wrote because on the racetrack and in the paddocks, in the sales rings and breeding sheds around the country, A.P. Indy set a standard of excellence with his athleticism and the qualities that he imparted to his progeny.
Strange to tell, but there was a moment, and it lasted for longer than a moment, when the success of A.P. Indy at stud was not a foregone conclusion. For one thing, there were “only” four stakes winners from the horse's first crop of juveniles, and that quartet didn't include Pulpit, the brilliantly fast bay who developed rapidly in the spring of 1997 to win the Fountain of Youth and the Blue Grass, then finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby; eventually those foals of 1994 included 13 stakes winners from 45 foals and 39 runners for an ostentatious 29 percent stakes winners and $8.9 million in earnings from the first crop.
That's salty by any measure, but several close observers were saying that A.P. Indy was not the sire you wanted if you were trying to breed early speed. Time proved that assessment; from the stallion's next three crops, there was only one more 2-year-old stakes winner. From each, however, there were G1 winners who excelled at 3 and later.
Then, from A.P. Indy's fifth crop, which were foals of 1998, came the strikingly handsome A.P. Valentine. This beautifully balanced colt was so full of quality that he sold to trainer Nick Zito, agent, for $475,000 at the 1999 Saratoga select yearling sale. Racing for Celtic Pride Stables, A.P. Valentine looked brilliant winning his maiden over Pure Prize (Storm Cat), then the G1 Champagne Stakes of 2000 over Point Given (Thunder Gulch), and A.P. Valentine became the first foray of the Coolmore organization into the A.P. Indy line when they bought the stallion rights to the colt.
Subsequently, both A.P. Valentine and Point Given were defeated in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile by Macho Uno (Holy Bull), who won by a snout over Point Given, with Street Cry third, and A.P. Valentine tailed off in last.
Although both Macho Uno and Street Cry missed the classics the following year, in the Kentucky Derby, the Champagne first and second renewed their rivalry. Point Given was fifth and A.P. Valentine was seventh as Monarchos trailed early, scorched home late to win by 4 ¾ lengths in the second-fastest Derby, 1: 59.97. Point Given, however, never lost again and won the Preakness and the Belmont over A.P. Valentine, who was an unappreciated second in each.
At the end of the year, the grand-looking bay was retired to Ashford, where he proved virtually sterile. A.P. Valentine, however, had done a good thing by emphasizing that his increasingly popular sire could get important juveniles, and if they showed their form at that age, there was likelihood of further improvement at 3.
In 2001, the year that A.P. Valentine was twice classic-placed, A.P. Indy's first important stallion son, Pulpit, had his first racers. From that crop of 2-year-olds came Pulpit's first G1 winner Essence of Dubai, home first in the Norfolk Stakes. With that, the import of A.P. Indy began to sink in, not just with the true believers, but with breeders and racing people everywhere.
A.P. Indy was not simply a very good stallion, not simply the sire of good-looking and highly saleable yearlings. He was an exceptional stallion who had gotten a very good stallion in his first major son at stud. Breeders took him to heart as the horse they had needed in a cup that was filled to the brim with Northern Dancers and Raise a Natives.
Big, beautiful, unerringly successful, A.P. Indy has since proven himself a major linchpin in the development of the breed. He is the horse who crossed well with the prevalent lines of the 1990s and reset the sire pool with sons and grandsons.
Even at 31, he was gone too soon. I cannot mourn him, however. He is too grand and brave for that. Instead, I bask in the reflected glory of his days and deeds, and I remember. I remember.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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