10/31/2016 10:36AM

Alphabet Soup still going strong 20 years after Breeders' Cup Classic win

Barbara D. Livingston
Alphabet Soup now resides at Old Friends Farm in Kentucky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Alphabet Soup doesn’t like to be passed.

“At night, when I come home and it’s dark, I open up the gate, and first I hear him and then see him – he kind of glows in the dark,” Old Friends founder and president Michael Blowen said. “He comes over, and it’s like paying a toll on the Massachusetts Turnpike – I’ve got to feed him a carrot in order to get up the hill.”

Twenty years ago, Alphabet Soup refused to be passed in a thrilling final furlong of the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Woodbine, besting Preakness winner Louis Quatorze by a nose. Another head back in third was the great Cigar, getting an emotional send-off in his final start.

Now 25, Alphabet Soup carries himself with a high-headed pride that suggests he knows his own notoriety. The nearly white stallion, who arrived at Old Friends after being pensioned last year by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs, is settled in a paddock near the front of the farm, adjacent to its main driveway. He is one of the closest horses to the front office.

“Nothing bothers him,” Blowen said. “That’s one of the reasons he’s down there – first on the tour right there because he’s so gentle and kind. He’s a good introduction to our visitors. They get to see a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, just this beautiful, beautiful horse, and on top of that, he has this personality [that is] very convivial. He’s in a perfect spot.”

Alphabet Soup won 10 of 24 starts, winning or placing in 13 stakes over four seasons, for earnings of $2,990,270. His best season came in 1996, when, in addition to the Classic, he scored Grade 2 victories in the San Antonio and San Pasqual handicaps and won the Grade 3 Pat O’Brien Handicap. He would have had six graded stakes wins on the season had he not been disqualified to third for interference in the Grade 2 Goodwood Stakes, his final Classic prep, making him a 19-1 longshot against Cigar.

Alphabet Soup made just one start following his Classic triumph, finishing second in the 1997 San Antonio. He retired to stand at Adena Springs’s Kentucky base but also had stints at the operation’s regional locations in Ontario, Florida, and New York during a productive stud career. His runners were led by Sovereign Award winners Alpha Bettor and Phantom Light as well as Grade/Group 1 winners Our New Recruit, Alphabet Kisses, and Egg Drop.

As the pensioner has moved into older age, his only health issue has been a common one. Gray horses are predisposed to developing melanomas, a type of tumor, particularly as they age. One study showed that more than 80 percent of gray horses over the age of 15 will develop the growths. But cutting-edge treatment has been available to Alphabet Soup, partially thanks to Stronach and team.

“Because he’s a gray turning white, he had the susceptibility to have these melanomas, and it was starting to affect his digestion, in eliminating stuff,” Blowen said. “[Dr. Bryan Waldridge] suggested this program they’d established at a veterinary clinic down in Florida, which would take the DNA of the horse and make a vaccine. So, we took a little bit of this tumor and sent it down to Florida, and they created this vaccine for him and sent it back.

“It’s an expensive proposition,” Blowen said. “We would pay for it – it wasn’t a question of whether we were going to do it or not. But I called Adena Springs up, and [The Stronach Group executives] Mike Rogers and Tim Ritvo both agreed, and within a week, we had all the money we needed.”

Other than being treated for melanomas, Alphabet Soup is in good health and has become a beloved part of the Old Friends family.

“It’s been such a thrill to have him here,” Blowen said. “I look back at that Breeders’ Cup and how I was rooting for Cigar, rooting for Cigar, rooting for Cigar. And now, 20 years later, I’m really glad Alphabet Soup beat him.”