‘He’s Still Got A Whole Lot Of Spunk In Him’: A.P. Indy Turns 30

by | 04.01.2019 | 8:10pm
A.P. Indy and groom Asa Haley at Lane's End.

There's not much about A.P. Indy's three decades of life that hasn't been thoroughly documented. When a horse sells for $2.9 million as a yearling, wins a Triple Crown race, a Breeders' Cup Classic, and a Horse of the Year title, then becomes a breed-shaping stallion, people tend to take notice.

What's almost as impressive is the two decades of life the RCA boombox sitting outside A.P. Indy's stall has spent serenading the Lane's End stallion barn. It's covered with a filmy layer of dust and it lets out a loud squelch when the volume is adjusted, but its open defiance of advanced age makes it a perfect fit for the horse it entertains.

“His old groom bought it from a yard sale,” said Asa Haley, A.P. Indy's groom. “I've been on the farm for 22 years, and I've been in the stud barn for 19, and that's been sitting here the whole time, and it still plays. We'll sit here and listen to [University of Kentucky] basketball on Saturdays and stuff on his radio.”

So, what's A.P. Indy's favorite channel?

“Whatever's playing,” Haley said.

A.P. Indy has been 30 years old in the eyes of The Jockey Club since Jan. 1, during the universal Thoroughbred birthday, but he hit the milestone in an official capacity on March 31. By the end of the year, he'll be the same age as superstar musician Taylor Swift, Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, recently retired football player Rob Gronkowski, and star basketball player James Harden.

What separates A.P. Indy from the rest of the A-listers in his age group – aside from the obvious species classification – is the trajectory of his time in the spotlight. Compared to the others, A.P. Indy's peak headline-grabbing days came when the others were in daycare.


After topping the Keeneland July select yearling sale, A.P. Indy went on to rack up a Grade 1 win in the Hollywood Futurity as a juvenile before coming back with a vengeance at age three. His sophomore campaign in 1992 started with four consecutive graded victories, culminating with a win in the Belmont Stakes. He then turned his attention to older competition, and wrapped up his season with a two-length score in the Breeders' Cup Classic that locked down Horse of the Year honors.

When a horse retires to stud, his name usually moves from the headlines of the newspaper's sports section to the trade publications, but A.P. Indy used the new space to his full advantage. He returned to stand at his birthplace, Lane's End, for the 1993 breeding season and set a course to the top of the sire lists. Listing off each of his high-level runners would be an exercise in tedium, but the highlights include 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, classic winners Bernardini and Rags to Riches, and champions Tempera and Honor Code.

A.P. Indy's peak at stud came during the industry's pre-Great Recession boom period, and his stud fee reflected it, raising to a dizzying but deserving $300,000. He's since become inescapable on pedigree pages, both as a sire of sires and a broodmare sire.

A.P. Indy was pensioned after the 2009 breeding season. For most, this often means a relocation to a quiet corner of the farm or a paddock at a spot like Old Friends to accept admirers, but a cornerstone of Lane's End can't just be pulled out without affecting the entire structure of the place. Instead, he remains in the same stall in the front barn, about as close to the front door of the stallion complex as possible, and his paddock is unavoidable to someone visiting the farm.

“He's such a famous horse, they just left him where he was,” Haley said. “I think at one time, there was talk about moving him to a different stall, but it didn't happen.”

The partnership between Haley and A.P. Indy is probably the only one in the Lane's End stud barn that can rival the stallion and his radio in terms of longevity. Haley, a native of Winchester, Ky., was shifted to A.P. Indy about 13 years ago.

A.P. Indy's advanced age makes him a somewhat unique case in a working stallion operation, but Haley has experience in the field. His previous charges included the stalwart Dixieland Band, who lived to age 30.

“Just be easy and gentle with them,” Haley said. “Don't rush them. Just let them do their thing. Once you get to understand the oldness of the horse, you get to understand what you're supposed to do with them, and what you can't do with them. I didn't rush Dixieland Band, and I don't rush this guy about doing anything, either. I just let them do what they want to do, and talk to them. They pretty much know.”

It's clear watching he two interact in the stallion's stall how comfortable they are around each other. As Haley talked about the pensioner, A.P. Indy's mouth formed a light clamp around his bare forearm. What might be perceived by some as an act of aggression, Haley saw as a sign of trust.

“This guy bites on me every day,” he said. “This is pretty typical for me and him, to get bit on all day, but it's not a mean bite, it's a play bite. He just holds on to me like a pacifier.”

A.P. Indy's stall plate at Lane's End.

It might not be a savage bite, but Haley said he could feel A.P. Indy's teeth when he locked in. The stallion's dental features are still in good shape at age 30, both on the top and bottom.

Still, the signs of age are abundant in the old stallion. The signature sway in his back runs deep, the gray around his muzzle is growing more and more pronounced, and he's had to switch to soft peppermints for his treats. The level of care Lane's End puts into its star pensioner is apparent, though, in the ways that A.P. Indy doesn't act his age.

“He's a pretty happy horse,” Haley said. “If something's wrong, I'll know real fast. Being his groom for so long, that's one thing you pick up on, is when something is wrong with him. Just the small things that you know.

“When he goes out, sometimes he still likes to kick his heels,” he continued. “Even at 30 years old, he still likes to run and kick. He's still got a whole lot of spunk in him.”

Even as his odometer continues to click over into higher numbers, there is little to suggest that A.P. Indy is going anywhere anytime soon. For a horse his age to look and feel as good as he does, it's fair to place him in the same breath with cockroaches and Twinkies in his likelihood to outlast us all.

However, the tough reality with any form of animal husbandry is that it will almost certainly one day end with a vacant stall.

It's nearly impossible to imagine the Lane's End stud barn without its most prominent resident, but at his age – roughly his mid-80s in human years – it's hard not to put a little more stock into each visit with the horse, not knowing how many might be left. Haley said he hopes to have at least a few more years with the stallion, and he'd worry about what comes next when it happens.

“I think that day, I'll pretty much stay home,” Haley said. “If it's something that's going to have to be done. I don't want to be around, but if I have to, I'll be there. I'd prefer to be at home.”

A.P. Indy's halter and stereo outside his stall at Lane's End.

Having worked in Lane's End's stallion complex so long, Haley has gotten a first-hand account of A.P. Indy's effect on the breed through the generations. The farm's 2019 roster includes two sons of A.P. Indy (Mineshaft and Honor Code), two grandsons (West Coast and Mr Speaker) and a great-grandson (Tonalist). In addition to his duties with A.P. Indy, Haley also tends to Mineshaft and newcomer West Coast.

Now 20 years old, Mineshaft has become one of the elder statesmen of the Lane's End stallion roster in his own right. He trails only Lemon Drop Kid as the longest-tenured active stallion on the farm. Having dealt with his sire for so long, Haley said he has a bit of a roadmap for working with Mineshaft as he reaches his later years.

“Mineshaft is beginning to get a little sway [in his back], just a little, not a lot,” he said. “I can see it coming since I've been around him so long. I hope it doesn't go as much as his, but I can see it just a little bit.”

A.P. Indy's life as a tricenarian pensioner is spent largely as a goodwill ambassador for Lane's End, and like anyone successful in the public sphere, he knows how to put on a good show when the people ask for it. One of his soft peppermints always helps grease the wheels for him to show off one of his favorite tricks.

“That's his thing – once he gets that peppermint, he'll lick the door,” Haley said. “I guess it keeps the flavor around, I don't know, but he does it every time.”

That's what separates A.P. Indy from the other 30-year-old mega-stars out there. Being treated with reverence goes with the territory, but the horse has experienced a full life in the span of time where many of his human counterparts are just getting started.

When that happens, even the little things like a look in his eye or a few laps of his stall door with his tongue feel more significant because they're watched with a sense of appreciation, both for what he's done and for the fact that he's still here to do them. Not a bad gig for an old thirty-something.

“When we have visitors come in, the first thing they want to do is see A.P. Indy, and that makes me smile,” Haley said. “It lets me know that a whole lot of people know about him.”

Twitter Twitter
Paulick Report on Instagram