Grade 1 turf runner Mr Speaker arrived in Miami in December of 2016, after just completing his first Southern Hemisphere season at Haras Cordillera near Santiago, Chile.
All was going smoothly, until the well-bred son of Pulpit went through a series of medical tests required before he could officially enter the United States ... then the wheels came off.
Mr Speaker tested positive for piroplasmosis, a tick-borne protozoa that causes a variety of symptoms including anemia, weight loss, swelling in the limbs, colic, or even central nervous system disturbances, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
"We've been told it is the first time in 30 years a stallion has been denied entry in the U.S. because of this disease," said Bill Farish with Lane's End, where Mr Speaker entered stud in 2016.
How Mr Speaker contracted piroplasmosis is unknown, but the AAEP notes transmission is also possible from the reuse of needles or syringes. Regardless of the transmission method, Mr Speaker was returned to Chile, where he immediately began treatment.
"We were told he was tested in Chile before boarding the plane for Miami and was negative. Then he gets to Miami and tests positive. It is possible the stress from flying triggered the higher titer," Farish said. "He has been treated and the treatment has worked well. He is testing negative now, but we don't feel completely confident until he is back at Lane's End."
Mr Speaker arrived back in Miami Dec. 7 and will spend seven days in quarantine there before beginning his return trip to Lane's End.
With the stallion healthy again, Lane's End faces a new challenge—reintroducing a young stallion to U.S. breeders.
"We are in the throes of jump-starting him again," Farish said. "It is really tough for a young horse to miss a season, but he has so much going for him. He's bred on the same cross as Tapit , was a really good racehorse, and just a good-looking son of Pulpit."
Bred and raced by Phipps Stable, Mr Speaker is out of the winning stakes-placed Unbridled daughter Salute, and his second dam is multiple grade 1 winner and champion Personal Ensign. He won graded stakes at 2, 3, and 4. He captured the Dania Beach Stakes (G3T) at 2, the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T) and Coolmore Lexington Stakes (G3) on Keeneland's former all-weather track at 3, and took the Commonwealth Cup Stakes (G2T) at 4. Mr Speaker retired with $1,247,544 in earnings.
As a stallion, Mr Speaker covered 110 mares during his first Northern Hemisphere season. During his first tour of duty in Chile, he covered 100 mares and then bred 90 more in his second season.
"It has helped us that his first weanlings this year were well-received," Farish said of the 11 Mr Speaker progeny sold during the November sales. They averaged $32,655, with four of the weanlings bringing $50,000 and up. His top seller to date is a $70,000 filly out of Guess the Dance (Austin Powers) that Hidden Brook bought out of Select Sales' Keeneland November consignment.
"The sales are definitely affected when the horse isn't here and there is some uncertainty surrounding him," Farish noted. "But we got a lot of nice comments on the weanlings, so he has a good first crop under him that is going to have to carry him. We are hoping we can get a decent book to him this year."