Oldest living Kentucky Derby winner comes home

October 30th, 2008

Alysheba, once the world’s richest Thoroughbred, has returned from Saudi Arabia to Kentucky, the place of his birth. Thanks to the generosity of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who offered the former Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year as a gift to the American people, 24-year-old Alysheba will live out his days at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

“His Royal Highness King Abdullah realized how much Alysheba means to American racing fans and we are grateful for this magnanimous gift of one of his favorite horses to our country,” said John Nicholson, director of the Kentucky Horse Park. “We are grateful for his gift as well as for the great care His Majesty has provided for Alysheba.”

After standing his first years at stud at William Farish’s Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, KY, Alysheba was sold to King Abdullah and has spent the past eight years at the Royal Stables in Saudi Arabia.

Bred by Preston Madden at Hamburg Place in Lexington, the Alydar son sold as a yearling for $500,000 to the Clarence Scharbauer Jr. family of Midland, TX. “He stuck out like a diamond in a rock pile,” said Jack Van Berg, who trained Alysheba for the Scharbauers.

It was his spectacular win over Bet Twice in the 1987 Kentucky Derby – at the time referred to as the “Race of the Decade” – that started Alysheba on a career path that would see him become the world’s richest race horse with $6.6 million in earnings.

At three, in addition to the Derby, he won the Preakness Stakes and the Super Derby, but lost the Breeders’ Cup Classic in a photo finish with 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand. Ferdinand took Horse of the Year honors in 1987 and Alysheba was named champion 3-year-old colt.

As a 4-year-old, Alyshea won six more Grade 1 stakes races, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and claimed the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year. During his two-year career, he set track records for 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park and the Meadowlands, and defeated the era’s greatest runners, including Risen Star, Forty Niner, Bet Twice, Seeking the Gold, and the ill-fated Ferdinand.

Alysheba, who upon the death of Genuine Risk in August 2008, became the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner, will take up residence at Kentucky Horse Park in the stall formerly occupied by another Horse of the Year, John Henry, and across the aisle from Cigar, another all-time leading money earner.