05/01/2013 4:42PM

Catching up with A.P. Indy: Still carrying himself like a champion

Photos by Z
A.P. Indy, now a 24-year-old pensioned resident at Lane’s End Farm, has his final foal crop heading to the track this year.

During the month of April, chaos reigned in the Simon household as we prepared to move from Lexington, Ky., to New York City. For weeks, we’d existed in a surreal explosion of cardboard boxes, up to our eyeballs in the bittersweet detritus of 26 years of life in a well-loved home.

Amid the packing, planning, bickering, and emotional meltdowns (mine), work needed to be done, conference calls to be made (Mark’s), interviews to be conducted, and articles to be written. How, then, in the midst of this crunch time, did we find ourselves one morning strolling through a stallion barn at Lane’s End? How could we possibly have spared a moment for something so ... enjoyable?

Call it a much-needed moment of peace in a personal world steeply atilt. Or perhaps the Simons simply wanted to pay their respects to an industry icon before it was too late. Either way, there we were.

Twenty-one years ago, Mark had the privilege of witnessing firsthand A.P. Indy’s brief but inexorable march to greatness. He’d been on hand for the son of Seattle Slew’s triumph in the 1992 Belmont Stakes and for his romp over older stars in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Gulfstream Park. He had reported with admiration on the colt’s honest, resolute style of running – and winning – with head low, legs churning, efficient to the nth degree.

A.P. Indy did not dropkick his rivals off the track in the manner of his broodmare sire, Secretariat, nor did he ram his way through crowded fields like a Mack truck, as did his sire, but he got the job done well and properly, eight times in 11 starts.

I, on the other hand, could only admire the 1992 Horse of the Year from afar. While Mark traveled and wrote, I stayed home, aging five years for every one, locked in mortal combat with a pair of spirited and highly opinionated preschool-age daughters. Though I had never seen A.P. Indy in the flesh, I was well aware of what he was and what he meant to a sport in dire need of stars. So, count me among the legions of fans disappointed when he retired late at 3, largely for economic reasons.

Co-breeder and co-owner Will Farish explained at the time to Daily Racing Form: “We wanted to keep him in training. He’s very sound and such a brilliant horse, but it would be taking a tremendous risk with a great sire prospect. So many of our top horses have been retired to Europe or Japan that we need a horse like this to stand in the U.S. Everyone involved concluded that this was the right thing to do.”

As it turns out, Farish was onto something.

Off A.P. went to Lane’s End, the Versailles, Ky., farm where he was born and raised, and where his introductory fee of $50,000 would soon look like a steal.

Unlike Northern Dancer or even Mr. Prospector, A.P. Indy was as American as apple pie. As a yearling, neither Arab sheikhs nor major European players were interested; they sat on their hands while Japanese businessman Tomonori Tsurumaki outlasted trainer D. Wayne Lukas in a bidding battle, acquiring the future champion for $2.9 million.

In later years, virtually all of A.P. Indy’s best sons and daughters excelled on these shores, and it started early: His first 47-foal crop eventually netted 13 stakes winners, including Grade 1-winning fillies Royal Indy, Runup the Colors, and Tomisue’s Delight and future top American sire Pulpit. And it just kept getting better.

As for my personal non-acquaintanceship with the great stallion, life continued to intervene as the years flew by. Though we resided in the same area code, I was always too busy, too harried, too something, to even think about arranging a visit. But now that he was old, and I was old, now that our girls had flown the nest and Mark and I were getting ready to do the same, it was time.

Lane’s End’s marketing director, Joyce Fogleman, an old Thoroughbred Record friend of Mark’s, met us at the stallion complex that morning for a tour. A quick saunter through the foyer and into the architecturally stunning barn brought us to a smiling man whom Fogleman introduced as stallion manager Bill Sellers, a 31-year farm employee.

We ambled on as a group, making small talk before pausing at the open door of a stall bigger than our soon-to-be Manhattan living room. Therein, a stallion the color of milk chocolate stood chill, clearly enjoying the vigorous brushing administered by the man at his side. I’d never seen this horse before, but somehow I knew him at once.

Asa Haley, A.P. Indy’s groom of eight years, finally unclipped the tie and led his prized charge out into cloud-muted daylight, where he promptly assumed the “Tony Leonard” – that classic conformation pose with legs just so, head up and alert. Smart, old stallions like A.P. Indy and Storm Cat could perform this ritual in their sleep, and why not? The paparazzi have been after them for years.

By the looks of him, it is hard to believe A.P. Indy is more than two decades removed from his days of racing glory. His back has a pronounced dip, and for some years, he’s worn therapeutic adhesive front shoes – a concession to the old foot problems that kept him out of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and compromised his chances in the 1992 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Two breeding seasons ago, he was pensioned due to declining fertility, but other than that insult, time has been kind to A.P. Indy, who exudes the aura of a much younger stallion. He remains muscular and balanced, deep through the heart, and anchored behind by those same mighty quarters that once propelled him to victories at the highest level of our sport.

There is nothing whatsoever small about A.P. Indy, in body or attitude, a fact he underscored by fashioning a quick right-hind shot at nothing in particular upon exiting his stall. It was a not-so-subtle reminder that despite his advanced years, he remains 100 percent stallion from fetlock to forelock.

The recently deceased Storm Cat, whom I recently visited on his 30th birthday, seemed to dwell very much inside his own head. Conversely, A.P. Indy was completely in the here and now. After a moment of holding the “pose,” he began to fidget restlessly, gradually morphing in front of us from equine statue into a well-mannered coil of controlled energy.

He began demanding the attention of Haley, snatching at the lead shank, gnawing on the chain, flicking his ears back and forth at lightning speed, all the while taking in his world with a highly animated white-rimmed eye. When he deigned to turn that distinctive orb in my direction, my mental musings of the moment took a sharp, 180-degree turn.

Nope, I would not be asking to pose for a picture with this cool mix of danger and dignity. Legendary turf journalist Charles Hatton once described his introduction to Man o’ War thusly: “I would no more have walked up and put my hand on his shoulder than I would have poked the Queen of England in the ribs.” So it was for me with A.P. Indy, and apparently for Mark.

We stood, looked, admired – but did not touch – and in the end, checked off a bucket-list item we hadn’t known was missing. Seen A.P. Indy? Oh, yes, we surely did.

A.P. Indy is a statistical powerhouse the likes of which this industry has seldom seen. More than 25 percent of his racing offspring have been of proven stakes class; 148 have won stakes (81 graded), and another 82 placed in such company. In virtually every numerical category, A.P. Indy ranks among the top half of 1 percent of all stallions worldwide.

His final juvenile crop of 22 fillies and 13 colts will begin racing in earnest sometime this summer, the blue-blooded issue of champion mares, classic winners, millionaires, and Grade 1 producers. They represent the sire’s swan song as a progenitor of racehorses, and as always, expectations for them are sky-high.

Additionally, the 2013 classic trail has been loaded with contenders carrying A.P. Indy’s precious DNA, among them Orb, Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, Flashback, Carve, War Academy, Super Ninety Nine, Dynamic Sky, Tesseron, Departing, Mr Palmer, and Siete de Oros.
 In the broader scheme of things, this two-time leading American sire has been entirely responsible for hauling the male line of Bold Ruler triumphantly into the 21st century.

Sons and grandsons such as Bernardini, Pulpit, Malibu Moon, and Tapit illuminate the racing scene these days with their own brilliant offspring, while daughters are proving worth their weight in diamonds. Champion Royal Delta and 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver are just two of the 88 stakes winners thus far produced by A.P. Indy mares.

As his cold, hard numbers shoot into the stratosphere, the aging pensioner himself lives on in quiet comfort, far from the madding crowd. He does not seem to fret for the old days, nor does he become outraged when his champion son Mineshaft across the aisle heads to the breeding shed on a spring morning.

Horses appreciate routine, and routine is what A.P. Indy gets. For nearly a decade, he’s been tended to by Haley, with whom he has developed a playful and affectionate camaraderie, and every evening at the same time, he is turned out in the same pasture he has occupied for years. His diet doesn’t waver much, either.

Sellers notes that he is an easy “keeper” who has long battled weight problems, to which I would have high-fived the stallion had that been physically possible. Unlike myself, A.P. Indy has someone carefully monitoring his food intake – he noshes daily on about four quarts of grain, reasonable amounts of alfalfa and timothy hay, and, of course, pastures on the region’s signature limestone-rich bluegrass.

If A.P. Indy could comprehend the facts of his extraordinary life, would he be impressed, or could he not care less? The world’s most expensive yearling of his year, possessed of Cary Grant looks and a royal pedigree to rival Prince William’s, he became a Grade 1 winner, a classic winner, a Horse of the Year, a Racing Hall of Famer, a two-time leading American sire, and a chef-de-race, the latter designation reserved only for the most influential of progenitors.

While A.P. Indy likely has no clue or care regarding the profound impact he’s still in the process of making, he seems somehow aware that he is special, one in a million or more.

Hundreds of visitors converge on Lane’s End for the farm’s occasional fan-appreciation days. Fogleman said most seem eager to acquaint themselves with big names of recent years, the Curlins, Quality Roads, Union Ragses. A.P. Indy’s racing star set so long ago as to place him outside the memory parameters of many current fans.

But, added Fogleman, those in the know are drawn in a different direction, away from the proud, young bucks and down the shed row to the stall of the big, blaze-faced bay with the lively, almost human-like eye. There, they pay homage to a horse destined to go down in history as one of the best of the best, who will be revered through the ages by racing’s historians and forever praised by pedigree analysts of the future.

Someday, A.P. Indy will join his dam, Weekend Surprise, and classic-winning half-brother, Summer Squall, in the Lane’s End cemetery, where a striking bronze in his image holds pride of place. Someday, his name, omnipresent now, will have receded from the four- and then five-cross pedigrees of late-21st-century champions. Someday, A.P. Indy will exist only in the record books and distant stirps of equine family trees. Someday, but not now, not yet, not anytime soon.

A.P. Indy

1989, dk. b. or br. h.
by Seattle Slew—Weekend Surprise, by Secretariat
Major wins: 1992 Belmont Stakes (G1), 1992 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), 1991 Hollywood Futurity (G1), 1992 Santa Anita Derby (G1)
Racing honors: 1992 Horse of the Year, 1992 champion 3-year-old male
Earned: $2,979,815
Stood at: Lane’s End Farm, Versailles, Ky. Pensioned in 2011.
Breeding honors: leading sire in 2003 and 2006
Top foals: Horse of the Year, champion older male and multiple Grade 1 winner Mineshaft, champion 3-year-old colt and multiple Grade 1 winner Bernardini, champion3-year-old filly and multiple Grade 1 winner Rags to Riches, champion 2-year-old filly and Grade 1 winner Tempera, Canadian champion older male and Grade 2 winner Marchfield, Canadian champion 3-year-old male Eye of the Leopard, multiple Grade 1 winner Aptitude, multiple Grade 1 winner Music Note, Grade 1 winner Stephen Got Even, multiple Grade 1 winner Love and Pride, Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy, Grade 2 winner Pulpit