One of the underbidders on the stallion Fusaichi Pegasus doesn’t feel that he has missed out.
“This is a win-win day for Stone Farm,” said Arthur B. Hancock III, owner of a spread in Paris, Ky. “When you sell a horse, you want to see him do well. You’d hate to sell a horse like this one, and then have him not be able to outrun a pig.”
Hancock and his partners, Bob and Janice McNair of Stonerside Farm, bred Fusaichi Pegasus and sold him for $4 million as a yearling. Then, after the colt won this year’s Kentucky Derby, they were apparently not close as Irish-based Coolmore Stud outstripped heavy-duty bidding from Sheik Mohammed of Dubai and almost every major breeding farm in Kentucky to buy Fusaichi Pegasus for what is believed to be $70 million.
Richard Henry, a spokesman for Coolmore, would not confirm the amount of the winning bid, only saying that it had broken the record, set in 1983 when Shareef Dancer, the Irish Derby winner, was syndicated for $40 million.
“I can’t say for the record what the top bid was,” Hancock said. “But if you put it at $70 million, that would be a good guess.”
For the rest of this year, Fusaichi Pegasus will remain in control of Fusao Sekiguchi, the 64-year-old Japanese entrepreneur who outbid Coolmore and others to buy the Mr. Prospector-Angel Fever colt before he’d ever run a race. Fusaichi Pegasus, who finished second to Red Bullet in the Preakness, two weeks after the Derby, and was knocked out of the Belmont Stakes because of a minor foot injury, will remain with trainer Neil Drysdale at Hollywood Park.
Drysdale said Tuesday that the horse will return to serious training next week, with the likelihood that he will run once or twice before the year-end goal, the $4-million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.
After the Breeders’ Cup, Fusaichi Pegasus will be retired from racing to do double duty as a stud, at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky., the first half of 2001 and at the Coolmore farm in Australia the rest of the year. Because of the whopping price Coolmore paid, Fusaichi Pegasus’ stud fee will be high--probably $200,000 in Kentucky--and he will be bred to perhaps 200 mares a year, twice what a popular stallion might service if he were only based in the U.S.
If Fusaichi Pegasus does start at $200,000, he will be the most expensive first-year stallion since 1982 horse-of-the-year Conquistador Cielo, whose initial stud fee was $182,000 in 1983 after he was bought by a breeding syndicate for $36.4 million. Conquistador Cielo was also sired by Mr. Prospector. Of the established sires in Kentucky, Storm Cat, who commands $300,000, is believed to be the most expensive.
Coolmore is the fiefdom of managing partner John Magnier, whose family has been involved in racing in Ireland for 150 years. Magnier, 52, is married to the former Susan O’Brien, whose father, Vincent O’Brien, was arguably the best horseman to train in Ireland. Many of the Coolmore horses run in the name of Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor, a partner who raced Thunder Gulch, winner of the 1995 Kentucky Derby. Thunder Gulch is part of the stallion band at Ashford Stud.
Largely unapproachable by the press, John Magnier is a scholarly bloodlines expert with a gritty determination when he fancies a horse. He doesn’t meet his match in the sales ring often, but in 1998, at Keeneland, Sekiguchi outbid him for Fusaichi Pegasus. As the bidding soared, Sekiguchi told his bidder, John Ward, that he was prepared to go to at least $5 million.
Trainer Wayne Lukas, who second-guessed himself later, advised Magnier’s group that Sekiguchi wouldn’t stop bidding until he had bought the horse. The $4-million price tag made Fusaichi Pegasus the most expensive Keeneland yearling in 13 years.
Hancock said that the death of the 29-year-old Mr. Prospector, in June 1999, of complications from a stomach ailment, might have enhanced the bidding on Fusaichi Pegasus as a stallion.
“He was the top-priced yearling [for 1998] by far,” Henry said. “He is by Mr. Prospector. He has an outstanding pedigree, and he won the Derby. That is the Holy Grail. They come along once in a lifetime.”