Nice Try, George

The human George Washington may have been the Father of His Country, but it looks like his equine namesake will never be the father of anything.

As the top British racehorse of 2006, GW came to America to try the Breeders Cup Classic back in November and failed to catch Uruguayan wonder horse Invasor. His reward was to be retired to stud in Ireland and a long list of eager mare owners gladly paid the stud bills.

But it didn’t work exactly as planned. As it turned out, the owners had to pull another stallion off the track to sub for GW in the breeding shed when the mares failed to become pregnant, and the champion headed back to the racing yard.

That’s quite a change of mindset for a stallion and there were rumors that GW was being kept in isolation up until race day because of his preoccupation with his libido.

But Royal Ascot opened on Monday and as the Queen pulled up in her carriage, the idle talk was whether GW could successfully use one of the world’s premier turf races, the Queen Anne Stakes, as a warmup for an “older horse” career in racing.

And he did! He may not have been the winner, but he conducted himself like a gentleman on the racecourse and in front of his Queen and actually started running in the final furlong, to finish fourth.

England’s Guardian newspaper reported, “He appeared fit and well in the paddock before yesterday’s race, and while many had feared that he might be ‘coltish’ in the preliminaries, the Queen’s blushes were spared as his masculinity remained firmly where it belongs.”

What many people might not know about GW is that he was born and bred in the USA by Gretchen and Roy Jackson, owners and breeders of Barbaro. It was a most remarkable feat for them to breed the top 3-year-olds in both England and the US in the same year. That neither horse would be able to reproduce (Barbaro was euthanized while still in his racing career), is an odd, unsettling coincidence. GW was bought from the Jacksons by the international racing powerhouse of Coolmore.

GW’s fate brings to mind the failure of the great US stakes horse Cigar, who now resides at Kentucky Horse Park. Cigar was older when he retired; GW’s young age gives him a great opportunity to come back to racing. And there is always a chance that science will find a way to enhance his fertility and give him a second chance.

For an intriguing look at how fertility problems can cause mayhem in the horse world, rent the movie “Sympatico”, based on the play by Sam Shepherd. The movie starred Albert Finney, Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone, etc. and one of the two racing-related sub-plots involves non-disclosure of a stallion’s fertility problems. It’s a brutal film but worth seeing and the actors and Kentucky scenery are superb.




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