Prominent runner and successful sire Big Spruce was euthanized Dec. 28 because of the infirmities of old age. The 32-year-old pensioned stallion resided at Graham J. Beck's Gainesway Farm near Lexington. He leaves behind fellow pensioners Lyphard (now 33), Stop the Music, and Irish River.
A son of French Derby (Fr-I) winner Herbager, Big Spruce enjoyed his best season as a 5-year-old in 1974. He proved tough enough to beat Forego in both the Governor Stakes and Marlboro Cup Handicap at Belmont Park in back-to-back starts that September. Three months later, he closed out his career with a victory in the Gallant Fox Handicap (gr. II). He was retired with nine wins from 40 races and earnings of $673,117. His earlier stakes wins had come in the 1973 San Luis Rey Stakes (gr. IT) and Gallant Fox, plus the Lexington Handicap on grass the previous year.
Big Spruce entered stud in 1975 at Gainesway, then owned by John R. Gaines, as the property of a syndicate. Maxwell Gluck, who bred and raced him in his Elmendorf Farm, retained a half-interest.
Big Spruce sired successful dirt and turf runners and achieved a measure of fame in 1981, when his sons Super Moment, Spruce Needles, and Splendid Spruce each won a grade I stakes. Super Moment captured the Charles H. Strub Stakes (gr. I) on his way to millionaire status. Spruce Needles took the Arlington Handicap (gr. IT), and Splendid Spruce scored in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). Overall, Spruce Needles' runners earned $1.9 million that year, good enough for seventh on the general sire list.
Big Spruce, who was produced from the Prince John mare Silver Sari and was a half-brother to stakes winners Manta and Jabot, sired a total of 43 stakes winners, including additional grade I winners Acaroid, Catatonic, Back Bay Barrister, and Sweet Diane. His runners earned a total of $19 million.