Hall of Fame: The Invasion of Invasor
Notable Accomplishments: 2006 Horse of the Year and champion older horse, 2006 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner, 2007 Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner, winner of the 2005 Uruguayan Triple Crown.
Rick Nichols, vice-president/general manager of Shadwell Farm: "There were a lot of key people in his life. The most influential person was Sheikh Hamdan himself. This horse had been brought to his attention; he had watched the video of him winning the Uruguayan triple crown and he said, 'I think he's really good, let's get someone down there to get him checked out.'
"I was traveling, so Greg Clark, my assistant, and Dr. Alan Ruggles from Rood & Riddle went down there to check him out. Time is of the essence in a case like that, because good horses don't really last on the market down there very long. Everything was okay, so we got him sent to Kiaran (McLaughlin).
"When we got him here, he really didn't look like a whole lot. He was kind of light and gangly. Kiaran said, 'He could be a $10,000 claimer or he could be a champion.' We were getting him ready to run Preakness weekend and there was the Pimlico Special (gr. I) or a grade III on the same day. Kiaran kind of wanted to go toward the grade III, but I said, 'We're never going to know what we've got if we don't go for the Pimlico.'
"We got Ramon Dominguez to ride him. Ramon was a key figure because during the race, going around the turn heading to the stretch, Invasor was kind of in the back goofing off, looking around. Ramon reached back and smacked him and it put running on his mind and he came flying up the stretch to win. That's when we knew we had something pretty special. Unfortunately when we got ready to run the next time, Ramon was obligated. But we put Fernando Jara on him and Fernando rode him to the rest of his victories, so that turned out pretty well.
"A very interesting thing happened after the Special. Kiaran went back to the spit box and there was an older gentleman—I have no idea what his name was, Kiaran said he was probably in his 80s—and he was in charge of the spit box. When Kiaran walked in there, he said, 'Sonny, I've been doing this a long time, and I've never seen a horse cool out as fast as that one did.' Which told us just what kind of engine this horse did have. It was the same with the World Cup; from time he crossed the line until I got back to the barn to check on him, which was a matter of minutes, he was standing there bright-eyed and full of himself, like, 'Hey, that was great, let's go do it again.'
"I have many great memories of him and his career, but the greatest moment I remember of racing with him was at Gulfstream Park before he won the Donn Handicap. Kiaran saddled him in the tunnel and when he walked out of that tunnel, the cheers and the roar of the crowd for him was just unbelievable. Chills went up and down my back and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. That was one of my best moments in my racing career.
"The main thing that was special about this story was the thrill it brought to Sheikh Hamdan, mainly because he had an important role in discovering the horse. People don't realize how rare it is to have a horse like Invasor; they think, 'Well, those horses come along every day,' but they don't. In 1989 we had Nashwan, whom we bred here at Shadwell. He was the first horse in history to win the English Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), the Epsom Derby (Eng-I), the Coral-Eclipse Stakes (Eng-I), and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Eng-I). He's as close to Invasor as we've ever had, and between those two, how many horses have gone through our stables?"
Invasor currently stands at Shadwell Farm near Lexington. His first crop are 4-year-olds of 2013.
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