Moved to a tranquil area away from other stallions and shielded from most visitors, temperamental champion and dual classic winner War Emblem now spends his days in a quiet grassy paddock over looking fields containing grazing mares and foals.
In this peaceful area of the Shadai Stallion Station in Japan, the nearly black stallion has relaxed and overcome at least some of the foibles that kept him from covering any mares in 2007 and resulted in him siring only 43 foals since he began stud duty five years ago.
“He’s recovering,” said Dr. Nobuo Tsunoda, veterinarian for the stallion station, where War Emblem has stood since the Yoshida family purchased him for $17 million. “There are about 20 mares in foal to him now and he covered more than 30 this season.”
With what has been described as “intensive therapy” consisting of the relocation, changes in breeding shed handling techniques and hormone supplementation, War Emblem began in May to accept far more of the mares presented to him than he has in the past.
“Now about 70% are OK for him, but the other 30% remain very difficult,” Tsunoda said. “And if he hates a type of mare, he attacks them.”
Some of War Emblem’s peculiarities have included a dislike for large mares and an attraction to chestnuts over females of other colors, said Shadai spokesperson Mariko Yoshida. He has always been fertile.
“Before the treatment, we would have only a few that he accepted,” Yoshida said. “At the moment, he’s not so picky. He’s improving and acting like a horse.”
Experts from the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center have coordinated therapy for what they described as War Emblem’s breeding behavior dysfunction. Dr. Sue McDonnell, a specialist in stallion behavior, has described his case as “extraordinarily challenging.”
But the current success of the treatment can been seen even in the demeanor of the son of Our Emblem out of the Lord At War mare Sweetest Lady.
In previous seasons, he would frequently pin his ears, jig nervously and seem irritated when presented to visitors. When he was led out of his peaceful paddock on Sunday as a nearby mare nickered, he gazed around with interest and calmly posed for photographs.
Although Shadai officials were almost ready to give up on the stallion after last season’s debacle, the success of his limited number of offspring on the racetrack encouraged them to keep trying.
While full Japanese racing records were not immediately available, statistics provided through the Jockey Club show that War Emblem is credited with siring just 30 registered foals in his first two crops of racing age, although 38 were reported to have been born. Three of the registered offspring, or 10%, are stakes winners and each of those has earned more than $500,000.
All but one of those first 30 War Emblem foals have started and 16 have won. His average earnings per starter is $159,505.