LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Alysheba, winner of the 1987 Kentucky
Derby and Preakness and chosen 1988 Horse of the Year, has died.
The champion stallion was 25.
The charismatic star, dubbed "America's Horse" by racing fans,
Alysheba was euthanized Friday night following a fall in his stall
at the Kentucky Horse Park's Hall of Champions, where he was buried
The son of racing legend Alydar became a sensation for trainer
Jack Van Berg and owners Dorothy and Pamela Scharbauer during a
brilliant career that included a win in the 1988 Breeders' Cup
Classic. He retired as horse racing's all-time money winner with
more than $6.6 million in earnings from 11 victories in 26 lifetime
Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, who piloted Alysheba to
victory in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, called him "the
most talented horse I ever rode."
The talent became evident during Alysheba's stirring Derby win
over Bet Twice. He stumbled in the stretch before catching himself
to run down his rival in the final yards.
Only upon replay did McCarron realize how close his trip had
come to disaster.
"Falling didn't even go through my mind," McCarron said. "I
kept thinking there's only one horse left in front of us that was
going to prevent us from getting the roses. He just did an
incredible job of righting himself. I was focused on keeping my
balance and trying to stay on his back."
Van Berg wasn't surprised. Alysheba had a sense of balance and
athleticism rarely found on the track.
"He just had unbelievable ability," Van Berg said. "He got a
little gust of wind or whatever and got knocked down and he stepped
up before Chris knew what hit him. He was remarkable."
Alysheba backed up the Derby win by taking the Preakness. His
bid for a Triple Crown ended with a disappointing fourth-place
finish in the Belmont, a rare dull performance from a horse who won
fans over with his consistency and durability.
Being a bit of a showoff helped. Van Berg said he would get a
kick out of seeing Alysheba hop around the paddock before races,
preening for the audience.
"He was hard to handle sometimes, but the adrenaline would get
flowing and he knew it was time to go," Van Berg said. "He could
do things you wouldn't believe."
Namely, bring it every time.
"He always ran his race," McCarron said. "You could count on
him giving his best effort, even if he got in trouble or the track
condition wasn't to his liking."
One of his greatest performances may have come in defeat.
Alysheba lost to 1986 Derby winner Ferdinand in a photo finish at
the 1987 Breeders' Cup Classic, a setback that likely cost him
Horse of the Year honors.
McCarron said the loss may have been a blessing. Rather than
retire to the breeding shed, Alysheba returned to the track as a
4-year-old in 1988, winning six stakes races and getting a measure
of revenge in the '88 Classic, beating Seeking the Gold in the
early evening gloaming at Churchill Downs.
McCarron remembers seeing signs in the winner's circle
proclaiming: "Alysheba for President." The horse certainly seemed
to feel like one, carrying himself with the pride of a winner.
"He looked majestic on the track," McCarron said. "He'd stop
and let people take photographs. I believe he loved it."
Alysheba retired to stud in Kentucky in 1989 before being sold
and sent to Saudi Arabia. He arrived at the Horse Park last fall,
joining Cigar - who broke Alysheba's career earnings record - in
the Hall of Champions.
"He had an aura about him," park spokeswoman Lisa Jackson
McCarron said he saw Alysheba two weeks ago and offered his old
friend mints while standing out in his paddock.
"He looked fantastic," McCarron said.
The stallion fell in his stall, injuring his right hind femur,
and was euthanized Friday night at a medical center in Lexington.
Kathy Hopkins, director of equine operations at the horse park,
said Alysheba fell due to a chronic degenerative spinal condition.
"Complicated by his advanced age, this trauma resulted in
severe pain," Hopkins said. "The resulting pain and suffering,
and the inability to stand unaided, led to a joint decision for
Alysheba is the second champion horse to be euthanized in the
past two weeks. Lil E. Tee, who upset heavily favored Arazi to win
the 1992 Kentucky Derby, was put down at Old Frankfort Stud in
Lexington on March 18 at age 20.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)