By Alicia Wincze Hughes
Content courtesy of the Lexington Herald-Leader
Time has made the sway in the dark bay stallion's back pronounced. It has cast a mellow tinge on his king-of-the-hill attitude and kept his belly ample even as a few ribs fight to show themselves upon the frame that has been celebrated since it first emerged at Lane's End Farm 26 years ago.
But there are some things the passage of a couple of decades can't alter. The distinctive white striped face still bows low with every stride, the same way it rhythmically bobbed its way between rivals coming off the final turn at Gulfstream Park on Halloween in 1992, powerfully pulling himself and jockey Eddie Delahoussaye to the front.
Twenty three years ago, A.P. Indy ended his on-track career in the triumphant manner one wants to see great athletes wrap up their sporting days, defeating older rivals by two lengths in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) to bring the curtain down on a campaign that would see him honored as champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year.
Eight years after that feat, he would be enshrined in racing's Hall of Fame. He has never stopped being the fantasy of every Thoroughbred industry participant, from sale-topper yearling, to champion runner, to game-changing stallion to sire of sires.
A.P. Indy has earned one more label in recent years, that of oldest living Breeders' Cup Classic winner—and it's hard to believe he doesn't darn well know the power of his presence as he saunters from his stall on a September afternoon to grab a bite of grass on the lawn before the statue of himself that sits at the rear of the Lane's End stallion complex.
Given his history of success at every point of call in his life, it figures that the son of Seattle Slew has a chance to add one more fanciful footnote to his career the year that racing's World Championships are held less than 10 miles from his birthplace.
A void was created in the breeding ranks in 2011 when A.P. Indy—sire of 11 champions and more than 160 stakes winners—was pensioned from stud duty at William S. Farish's Lane's End Farm due to declining fertility. In the year prior, horsemen took their chance at getting one last son or daughter from the stallion who once commanded a fee of $300,000 as just 36 live foals were registered from the 80 mares A.P. Indy covered during his final season at stud in 2010.
Having multiple top level horses emerge from his last crop would be a fitting enough swan song. That two of A.P. Indy's final 36 foals are scheduled to start in Breeders' Cup races when the event is held at Keeneland for the first time October 30-31 can only be categorized as another esteemed statistic in his legacy.
This Halloween, 23 years to the day after his father delivered the best race of his life, A.P. Indy's doppelganger son Honor Code is slated to face a field expected to include Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and champion mare Beholder in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic. One day earlier, his grade I-winning daughter Got Lucky—named for the multiple tries it took her dam, Malka, to get in foal to A.P. Indy in 2010—will attempt to reign in a divisional showdown in the $2 million Distaff.
"It's exciting. It's fun to sort of have it finish up this way," said Bill Farish of Lane's End Farm, which owns a majority share in Honor Code and has had the privilege of raising, selling, racing and standing his legendary sire. "You know, (A.P. Indy) had a great year for a horse with such a small crop out there. And it's fun to see them coming into the finale the way they are.
"Words really can't put into perspective what he's meant to us. How many sale toppers are yearlings the end up being that good where they are Horse of the Year and then go on and be two-time champion sire and then have the long term influence that he has had and will continue to have? It's pretty amazing."
Though A.P. Indy has only had two of his offspring win Breeders' Cup races—Tempera in the 2001 Juvenile Fillies and Eldaafer in the 2010 Marathon—his impact on the event goes far deeper than that tally. His grandson, Tapit —the current leader of the North American stallion ranks—has already had five of his offspring become Breeders' Cup winners and is slated to have at least a half dozen representatives in this year's event. Mineshaft and Pulpit, both of sons of A.P. Indy, have also yielded Breeders' Cup winners, and A.P. Indy is also the dam sire of the likes of two-time Distaff heroine Royal Delta.
What made A.P. Indy an all-encompassing force in the breeding shed was his ability to inject the dead-on balance of precocity, stamina, and grit into those that carry his blood. They were traits he embodied when he rattled off seven straight wins after dropping his career debut, form which prompted William Farish and William Kilroy during the summer of 1992 to buy back into the ridgling they bred and originally sold to Japanese businessman Tomonori Tsurumaki for $2.9 million at the 1990 Keeneland July yearling sale.
It is also why his camp remained relatively unshaken even as A.P. Indy headed into his Breeders' Cup run having suffered back-to-back losses for the first time in his career.
"Neil Drysdale was training him and he just had tremendous confidence in him," Will Farish recalled. "He was coming up to the Classic wonderfully. Having had the setback the morning of the Kentucky Derby (scratched due to a foot bruise) and then the delay after that, Neil was particularly careful with him but he was really doing everything pointing for the Breeders' Cup.
"And so, we really had maybe too much confidence. We had bought back into him after the Belmont...because he'd meant so much to the farm already. With what he had accomplished, we had great hopes for him but we also were pretty confident he was going to run a big race (in the Breeders' Cup)."
A.P. Indy had cemented his status as the best sophomore in training with his triumph in the 1992 Belmont Stakes (gr. I). And if defeats in the grade II Molson Million Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) made the Breeders' Cup Classic a must-win in order for Horse of the Year accolades to follow, it only served to heighten the drama for the horse who preferred to take the grinder's route to the winner's circle anyhow.
Just as he had when he departed the Keeneland sales pavilion as the most expensive yearling in the world in 1990, A.P. Indy's Breeders' Cup outing was the peak effort his connections came to expect.
It would be in 2012 while looking at yearlings to consign at public auction that the product of A.P. Indy's actions would hit the Lane's End crew in the most unexpected of ways.
The dark bay yearling out of Serena's Cat that was bred by Dell Ridge Farm mentally transported the Farishes back some 23 years. Yes, he was a physical masterclass. Yes, his pedigree could be the envy of the stud book. But it went so much deeper than that.
Honor Code was his father all over again, demeanor and hopes and all. And the Farishes broke a bit of their own protocol in deciding they simply needed to own one of the final pieces of their signature stallion's legacy.
"You hear these stories but he was such a stand out individual and had such a presence about him," Bill Farish said of the decision to buy a majority share in Honor Code from Dell Ridge as a yearling. "It's easy to say that we really liked him as a yearling but it was way beyond that. We were in love with him as a yearling and he just had that look about him and still does.
"It's pretty rare that we'll buy one right when we see it. It's not really what we do when we go look at horses for the sales. But he was just one that we were keen on right from the get go."
There have been sons of A.P. Indy that have emulated their father's championships (Mineshaft, Bernardini ). Honor Code invokes his sire's essence at an eerie level.
Injury kept the dark bay ridgling out of the Triple Crown races last year but he has developed into one of the leading handicap horses of 2015. Running with the same low head carriage that was his father's trademark, Honor Code has won three of five starts in his 4-year-old season including back-to-back triumphs in the grade I Met Mile and Whitney Stakes.
Even when A.P. Indy was running effortlessly, his style was never one to win by open lengths. Honor Code takes the heart attack quotient up a notch, often dropping well off the pace and coming with one run—like the one that rallied from nearly 20 lengths out of it at the half mile mark to catch the brilliant Liam's Map by neck in the Whitney.
"He seems to be totally consistent doing it with that terrific kick that he has," Will Farish said. "I mean A.P. Indy had it but...he didn't give up that much ground. But it doesn't bother Honor Code at all. He's just a remarkable character."
Like his father before him, there are questions about what version of Honor Code will appear when he makes what is expected to be his final career start in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
His third-place finish in the Kelso Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park on October 3 was viewed by some as a disappointing outing against a field he should have handled. He has never contested the Classic's 1 1/4-miles distance and one could argue he's about to face the best assemblage of horse flesh the race has ever gathered
Where American Pharoah is the crown prince and Beholder racing's queen, however, Honor Code is a descendent of royalty, one whose reign may have a final stand left to it.
"Beholder showed what a great filly she is and obviously American Pharoah is a spectacular talent," Will Farish said. "It will be very tough to take them on. But we feel we have an outstanding colt and whether he wins it or not, he's just an outstanding prospect for the future."