06/26/2017 11:40AM

Lord Nelson misses stud season but is on the mend

Barbara D. Livingston
Lord Nelson missed the 2017 breeding season.

Lord Nelson retired to Spendthrift Farm as one of the hottest stallion prospects of the 2017 class, but things didn’t go as planned.

The Grade 1-winning son of Pulpit was the morning-line second favorite behind Masochistic for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but was scratched and subsequently retired after a cut in his right front foreleg developed an ill-timed infection.

It proved hard to shake and brought further complications. Fingers were crossed that Lord Nelson would recover in time to begin the breeding season, but those hopes were dashed when he developed laminitis in both of his front hooves.

Spendthrift announced that Lord Nelson would miss the 2017 breeding season on Jan. 20. He would have stood for an advertised fee of $25,000 and likely met a full book of mares in his first year at stud.

As the breeding shed closes for the season, Lord Nelson continues the slow, steady path to recovery at Spendthrift Farm. He continues to be treated with antibiotics for the infection and has a cast on his right hoof to stabilize and take pressure off the foot. His left hoof previously had a cast, but it has improved to the point that it has been replaced with a special shoe.

“Right now, he’s doing pretty well,” said Ned Toffey, Spendthrift’s general manager. “We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re going to be able to breed him next year, but we’re still at a point where that’s not a certainty. He needs to do well for an extended period.”

Recovery from laminitis will depend on Lord Nelson’s ability to produce a hoof’s worth of new growth on the affected feet. Momentum can swing at a moment’s notice, but Toffey said the horse had about 50 percent new growth on his left foot, while the right hoof has been a slower process and has 20 percent growth.

Toffey is one of about five Spendthrift staff members who see Lord Nelson every day. Another is Jim Morehead, Spendthrift’s farm veterinarian.

Morehead and Toffey worked together at Three Chimneys Farm in the twilight of Seattle Slew’s stallion career when the champion fought debilitating back pain. Morehead consulted with specialists from across the country while treating Seattle Slew and got him back to the breeding shed after he had ended one season prematurely.

He did the same with Lord Nelson, working closely with staff at Kentucky clinics Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.

Besides their different physical issues, Morehead said the biggest difference between the two patients was their age. Seattle Slew was past 20 years old when his orthopedic woes became serious, while Lord Nelson is 5. Not only is it easier for a younger horse to recover physically, he is not as set in his habits as an older stallion, which can make him a more manageable patient.

“It’s tougher on the old boys,” Morehead said. “Being a youngster has been helpful.

“Some horses just don’t have it in them. They couldn’t any more be put in a stall like [Lord Nelson] has been. They would just lose their mind, but he’s been a champion. He’s got a great personality. He’s friendly with people. He wants to get better, so that helps everybody try hard on him.”

Though he remains in his stall for most of the day, Lord Nelson has improved to the point where he is allowed grazing time at the end of a shank three times a day for a total of about two hours. Full paddock turnout remains too much of a risk in his current state.

“He’s still going to have that flight response,” Morehead said. “It takes one crow flying overhead that decides to land next to him that sends him going. He enjoys it. He grazes, looks around, just takes everything in, and he’s happy to go back inside.”

The list of contemporary stallions to recover from a severe bout of laminitis and go on to a normal career at stud is short. The most recent high-profile example is WinStar Farm’s Paynter, who overcame the disease while also fighting a life-threatening case of colitis and went on to cover 285 mares in his first two seasons at stud.

While Lord Nelson is trending in the right direction, both Toffey and Morehead noted that the horse will require careful monitoring for the rest of his life.

“It’s a tough condition to get horses through on the acute phase, and then it takes long-term management of their chronic situation,” Morehead said. “Once a horse gets laminitis once, they’re more prone to it for the balance of their lives because many times the things that set them up in the first place are still present at a lower level.

“If you don’t have normal circulation in the limbs, and if down the road he doesn’t have good circulation, he doesn’t have to develop laminitis, but he’ll be at a higher risk,” he added. “It’ll just take management.”