from the Kentucky Horse Park
Alysheba, a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner and Horse of the Year, was euthanized March 27 at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute near Lexington. The 25-year-old pensioned stallion, who resided at the Kentucky Horse Park, and was buried at the Park’s Hall of Champions across from the grave of the great John Henry.
Alysheba fell in his stall and was not able to get up. Dr. Nathan Slovis was immediately called to the Horse Park, and an equine ambulance transported Alysheba to Hagyard Equine across the road from the Horse Park. Dr. Slovis and his team treated Alysheba and evaluated his condition. By evening, it was clear that he had sustained an insurmountable injury.
“Due to a chronic degenerative spinal condition that led to ataxia and instability, Alysheba fell in his stall yesterday injuring his right hind femur,” said Kathy Hopkins, the Horse Park’s director of equine operations, on March 28. “Complicated by his advanced age, this trauma resulted in severe pain that did not respond to analgesic therapy. The resulting pain and suffering, and the inability to stand unaided, led to a joint decision for euthanasia. This very difficult decision was made by the veterinary staff of Hagyard Medical, the veterinary staff of His Majesty King Abdullah (of Saudi Arabia), and those who loved and cared for him at the Kentucky Horse Park.”
Alysheba stood for a time at King Abdullah’s farm in Saudi Arabia. He arrived at the Horse Park from Saudi Arabia last October.
“Alysheba had just become part of the Kentucky Horse Park family last fall, and we were looking forward to having him for many years to come,” said John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park. “Discussions with Dr. Slovis and King Abdullah’s team, however, led us to conclude that this was the right thing to do for Alysheba, and Hagyard’s staff performed admirably in such a difficult situation. I am grateful to His Majesty for giving us the opportunity to enjoy this special horse and share him again with his many fans, and I am happy that his last days were spent here on his native soil.”
Frank McGovern, general manager of King Abdullah’s stables in Saudi Arabia, participated in the decision and thanked the park staff for trying to save Alysheba. “His injury is one of those incidents that is not uncommon in older horses, and, unfortunately, nothing can ever be done,” McGovern said. “I am glad that he was back home and enjoying the first shoots of spring before this happened.”
McGovern added his thanks to the Kentucky Horse Park team “for their work in making Alysheba a star again.”
Before coming to the Kentucky Horse Park, Alysheba spent the previous eight years in the royal stables of King Abdullah after standing his first years at stud at William S. Farish's Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Ky. He was sent to the Horse Park as a gift to the American people.
Bred by Preston Madden at his Hamburg Place near Lexington, Alysheba (Alydar--Bel Sheba, by Lt. Stevens) was sold as a yearling to Dorothy and Pam Scharbauer for $500,000 at the 1985 Keeneland July yearling sale. They campaigned him under the guidance of Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, who said, “He stuck out like a diamond in a rock pile.” Later, Van Berg observed, “He was so smart he knew what he was doing all the time.”
As a 3-year-old in 1987, Alysheba not only won the Kentucky Derby but also the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and the Super Derby (gr. I). He was beaten a nose by subsequent Horse of the Year Ferdinand in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). Alysheba was voted champion 3-year-old male.
At 4, he was even better, winning six grade I stakes: the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Santa Anita Handicap, Philip H. Iselin Handicap, Woodward Stakes, Meadowlands Cup Handicap, and the Charles H. Strub Stakes.
Alysheba was voted 1988 Horse of the Year and champion older male. He is listed at No. 42 on The Blood-Horse’s list of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century. Until two-time Horse of the Year Cigar came along, Alysheba was the world’s richest Thoroughbred, with earnings of $6,679,242.
Chris McCarron rode him in all 10 of his career stakes wins.
As a stallion, Alysheba sired 18 stakes winners and the earners of $16.1 million. His best runner was 1994 Canadian Horse of the Year Alywow.
A memorial service for Alysheba will be planned at a later date.
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