A.P. Indy at 30: A Living Legacy

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A.P. Indy at Lane's End | Sarah K Andrew

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How wonderful, that the heart sustaining him as he slithered from womb to foaling straw should since have pumped unfailingly across three decades. Over 600 million times, that is, at the typical resting pulse of the Thoroughbred; never mind the drastic elevations required in, for instance, winning the 1992 GI Breeders' Cup Classic; or indeed when covering Preach, dam of Pulpit, on returning to his birthplace the following spring. But the fact is that the A.P. Indy of flesh and blood, whose 30th birthday falls this Sunday, is already immortal–both as rendered in bronze outside the Lane's End stallion barn, where he is housed to this day, and in the pages of the Stud Book.

The very expression “living legend” transcends a similar margin of mortality as the venerable old champion. Legends can't die, if they only exist in the realms of myth. But nor do stallions tend to live long enough to preside over the flowering of their influence through great-grandsons at stud. A.P. Indy, however, can be celebrated not just as the cherished creature who still lights up human lives–from Asa Haley, who has faithfully tended him daily for 15 years; to those of us privileged to crown a visit to the farm with a single, fleeting audience–but also as the fount of a vital genetic legacy.

For A.P. Indy has salvaged a sire-line that might otherwise have been all but extinguished by the proliferation of those tracing to Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector.

It once seemed incredible that the Bold Ruler male line could ever be in peril. Through the 1970s Bold Ruler, his sons and a grandson between them accounted for seven Kentucky Derby winners: his own greatest son, Secretariat, won in 1973; Bold Commander produced Dust Commander to win in 1970; Bold Bidder came up with two winners, Cannonade in 1974 and Spectacular Bid in 1979; in 1975, along came Foolish Pleasure for What A Pleasure (though another son of Bold Ruler, Reviewer, appeared to have produced an even better 3-year-old in the filly Ruffian, favoured by their regular jockey in the tragic match race); Bold Forbes, by Irish Castle, won the 1976 running; while Boldnesian's son Bold Reasoning sired the 1977 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew.

Yet it is the Seattle Slew branch alone that has been able to flourish in the 21st Century, entirely thanks to the colt foaled by Weekend Surprise on Mar. 31, 1989.

In fairness, the success of A.P. Indy is doubly underpinned by Bold Ruler, as Weekend Surprise was a daughter of Secretariat. As such, she would become a key contributor to the redemption of Secretariat's reputation at stud, as a broodmare sire.

Of course Secretariat's dam, Somethingroyal, herself a conduit for one of the great distaff influences in Princequillo, also delivered Sir Gaylord, in turn responsible for mighty broodmare sires in Sir Ivor and Habitat. Sir Gaylord also sired Gay Missile–whose mating with Buckpasser, another distaff influence as good as you can get, produced the dam of Weekend Surprise, the celebrated matriarch Lassie Dear.

So it's not just about that Seattle Slew-Bold Ruler top line. Not only are A.P. Indy's first three dams by epoch-making broodmare sires in Secretariat, Buckpasser and Sir Gaylord; the first and third of those are also half-brothers, making Weekend Surprise inbred 2×4 to Somethingroyal.

Some of us, moreover, will also find comfort in the duplication of both Somethingroyal's sire Princequillo, and the sire of Sir Gaylord, Turn-to, in the top side of A.P. Indy's pedigree: their respective sons Round Table and Hail To Reason having sired two of Seattle Slew's grandparents. (Incidentally Nasrullah, already present top and bottom through his son Bold Ruler, gets an extra footprint in A.P. Indy's pedigree {taking him to 5x5x4} as damsire of one of those grandparents, Poker–who sired Seattle Slew's dam, My Charmer.)

Parchments of scroll, no doubt, to some of you. But even a stallion who breathes as much life into a sire-line as A.P. Indy should not benefit excessively from the industry's childish inability to distinguish between the sheer volume of genetic samples accumulated by stallions, especially in this era of appallingly large books, and their actual influence. Just because a mare is confined to one foal per annum, that does not alter the fact that her genetic contribution to every foal is exactly the same as that of her mate.

Nobody, anyhow, was blind to the significance of A.P. Indy's dam when he was presented for sale at Keeneland's great yearling sale in 1990. That's because the Grade I-placed, Grade III winner Weekend Surprise had been freshly exalted in the Preakness, only a few weeks before, when her son Summer Squall (Storm Bird) avenged his Kentucky Derby defeat by Unbridled.

(Sorry for this detour, but it's fun to note that Pleasant Tap, third in that Kentucky Derby, would eventually chase home A.P. Indy in the Breeders' Cup Classic. What a splendid horse he was, too; and what a pity his hardiness and outcross blood didn't get anything like the same traction when he accompanied A.P. Indy to Lane's End.)

Weekend Surprise's bay son, bred by Lane's End founder William S. Farish in partnership with William Kilroy, duly topped the sale when Tomonori Tsurumaki gave $2.9 million through BBA Ireland. The Japanese businessman–who had recently made an even bigger splash at auction when paying $51.3 million for Picasso's Les Noces de Pierrette, then second only to Van Gogh's $53.9 million Irises–named him A.P. Indy for the motor racing circuit, Autopolis, he was just about to launch. (With fairly catastrophic consequences, it turned out, for his solvency.)

Sent into training with Neil Drysdale in California, A.P. Indy was beaten on his Del Mar debut, after which he had surgery for an undescended testicle. (Summer Squall, incidentally, was also a ridgling.) Thereafter he quickly graduated through the later juvenile ranks–winning maiden, allowance and GI Futurity S.–and resumed seamlessly with wins in the GII San Rafael and GI Santa Anita Derby.

A raceday defection from the Kentucky Derby, with hoof problems, proved even more exasperating when he was able to win the GII Peter Pan S. just three weeks later, setting him up for the Classic he plainly merited in the GI Belmont instead. Things did not fall right in his next two starts, but he produced a fitting finale at the Breeders' Cup–exhibiting that trademark air of fluid, effortless commitment–to be confirmed not only champion colt of his generation but also Horse of the Year.

As we know, that kind of first career offers a horse no guarantees for his second. Before he was pensioned in 2011, however, A.P. Indy sired 693 winners from 947 starters–including 94 at graded stakes level, and 29 at Grade I–for an overall ratio of 13% stakes winners. From 18 crops, at an average book of just 68, he produced a dozen champions, and his latest credits as an outstanding broodmare sire (unsurprising, given his family) are none other than Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}) and Improbable (City Zip).

But it is through his sons, and now grandsons, that A.P. Indy has truly set himself apart. He accounted for three of the top dozen American stallions of 2018, in Tapit (by his son Pulpit), Flatter and Malibu Moon; other high achievers include sons Bernardini (who has himself made an exceptional start as a broodmare sire), Mineshaft, Congrats and leading regional sires Jump Start and Friesan Fire; grandsons like the promising Dialed In (Mineshaft) and Orb (Malibu Moon), or the deplorably under-rated Sky Mesa (Pulpit); plus now great-grandsons like Tapizar and Trappe Shot, among the first of many now bidding to establish Tapit as a sire of sires.

And there's a whole lot still to come: Honor Code, from A.P. Indy's final crop, is now standing at Lane's End himself; likewise grandsons Mr Speaker (Pulpit) and West Coast (Flatter) and great-grandson Tonalist (Tapit). Then there's California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) starting out at Taylor Made; Lord Nelson (Pulpit) at Spendthrift; and Commissioner, another of the patriarch's last sons, at WinStar; and others besides.

The popularity of this dynasty reflects the balance A.P. Indy has been able to achieve between his own two-turn success–drawing upon strong reserves of Classic blood–and the kind of speed associated above all with Mr. Prospector, whose daughters gave him graded stakes winners at a clip of 12%. These included Macoumba, Prospectors Delite, Praise and Preach, who respectively produced Pulpit, Mineshaft, Flatter (also full brother Congrats) and Malibu Moon. Bernardini, moreover, is out of a daughter of Mr. P's grandson Quiet American.

Honor Code and Jump Start, meanwhile, are out of mares by another source of dash in Storm Cat. Admittedly the latter is a terrific broodmare sire, period; and likewise Deputy Minister, who sired the dam of A.P. Indy's greatest race filly, Rags To Riches. All in all, however, with much of this we're looking at the sort of balance that promises the ultimate grail of dirt racing: the ability to carry speed.

Now, personally, I don't buy into synergies of entire sire-lines quite the way some people do. There have been enough dud siblings to champions to show that it's hard enough to get just two coins to land the same way twice running, never mind all the others thrown into the air alongside. If Seattle Slew and Mr. Prospector work so well together, I don't see how we can be certain that this is about the Bold Ruler and Native Dancer lines–any more, for instance, than we can credit it definitively to the fact that Myrtlewood is fifth dam of Seattle Slew, and fourth dam of Mr. Prospector.

Okay, so that's ancient history again: Myrtlewood beat Seabiscuit in Detroit in 1936. But it's a free country. You can credit Pulpit's importance to alchemy between sire-lines, if you like; or you can simply note that there is barely a sire in his first five generations, top to bottom, lacking historic resonance. Until we can trace all the different attributes of a champion through his pedigree, like a dye, at least we know there's hardly a strand in this twine that wouldn't be entitled to bring the critical ones through.

Whichever way you look at it, you can hardly fail to be excited by the possibility of A.P. Indy having saved the best until last. Honor Code has none other than Serena's Song (Rahy) in the parallel slot to Lassie Dear, in his top and bottom maternal lines; and, while we've just noted that he's out of a Storm Cat mare, it was mating Serena's Song with the usual suspect, Mr. P, that produced Honor Code's grand-dam.

Honor Code's first crop had an eerily familiar stamp, and proved in corresponding demand at the sales. So far, so good, albeit there's naturally still a long way to go. But then that's been the thing about A.P. Indy since that day, 30 years ago, when his gawky limbs sloughed into the straw in a sac of lifeblood. By a Triple Crown winner, out of the daughter of a Triple Crown winner, he has done exactly what he was bred to do: Horse of the Year, founder of a dynasty.

Just as well, for the mystique (and therefore the sustainability) of our business, that not every sale-topper goes ahead and does something like that. At the same time, we do need enough of them to make sense of the market's valuations.

So if extra champagne has been laid in at Lane's End, where the team strikes such an expert balance between commercial realities and the genetic family silver of the Classic racehorse, then we should all join the same toast.

And that's to Mr. Farish, who turned 80 just a few days ago; to the farm he opened at 40; and to the horse who has become both source and symbol for so much that it stands for.

 

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