08/19/2005 12:00AM

Cartwright, leading sire, dies at 15 after accident


CHICAGO - The Illinois breeding industry took a serious hit last week with the untimely death of Cartwright, the state's leading sire.

Cartwright was put down early on Aug. 10 after badly breaking his right femur in an accident at a veterinary clinic. The horse was only 15.

Cartwright stood at the downstate Illinois farm of his owner, Jake Bryant, who saw Cartwright rise from a complete unknown in the mid-1990's to the top of the Illinois sire list the last several years. Bryant got Cartwright started by breeding him to cheap mares he owned himself. When the winners started coming, outside breeders began upgrading Cartwright's annual book of mares. This past breeding season, 89 mares were bred to him; in 2004, it was 92.

Bryant, 73, has been tending daily to his 100-year-old mother, and had spent an entire day with her Aug. 8.

"I was gone all day, I come back, and the next morning [Cartwright] was lame on his left leg," Bryant said. "A horse of this caliber I don't need to mess with, so I took him to the University of Illinois right away. I guess he fell, or I don't really know what had happened, and broke his femur on the right side. They called me at 2 in the morning and said he'd shattered it in 18 places."

Bryant isn't sure why Cartwright went lame in the first place, but he said the original problem didn't seem to be serious and was unrelated to the incident that led to Cartwright's demise.

"He was insured, but not enough," he said. "Life's not fair, I guess."

Cartwright stood this past year for $2,500, a good sum in this era of Illinois breeding. His best horse is Wiggins, who finished off the board in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga in his last start. But more than anything, Cartwright got runners, horses who often were ready for the races at 2 and who usually showed enough quality to make money for their owners in Illinois-bred company, and sometimes beyond. As of Aug. 19, Cartwright had 85 runners and 38 winners this year for progeny earnings of $961,385.

"He was a good horse," Bryant said. "It's a pretty big blow to the farm, and I'd say it's a big blow to the state of Illinois. A woman called the other day and said, 'You've got to get another one like him.' I said there's not another one like him, and I know why, too. The pathologist at the clinic said the only other horse he'd ever seen with that big a heart was out of a 2,300-pound Percheron."

Bryant said he's keeping Cartwright's heart in a freezer. He's also already purchased a stallion he hopes can help fill Cartwright's void, a Gone West horse named Western Outlaw.