Cigar, a master at races, having problems in barn 2-time Horse of Year is believed infertile

March 07, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Cigar, one of the greatest and most popular horses of all time, failed to impregnate the first 12 mares he has bred.

He is feared to be infertile.

Allen E. Paulson, who campaigned the two-time Horse of the Year, said yesterday that Cigar is unquestionably infertile.

"I'm quite certain he is," Paulson said. "His sperm have no life."

But Dr. Barry Simon, manager of Ashford Stud, where Cigar stands in Kentucky, declined to comment on Paulson's statement.

While acknowledging that none of the first 12 mares bred to Cigar have become pregnant, Simon said the 7-year-old Maryland-bred stallion continues to keep his breeding appointments.

Asked whether a determination of infertility might prompt him to bring Cigar out of retirement for a second career in racing, Paulson hesitated, and then said: "I don't know. I doubt it. But who knows?"

Cigar has been bred to 35 mares so far, Simon said. Veterinarians have performed ultrasound examinations on only the first 12, he added. Ultrasounds are routinely performed on mares two weeks after breeding.

"We don't have a pregnancy yet," Simon said. "Of course I'm concerned. It's a difficult situation for everybody."

Although fertility problems in stallions recently retired from racing are not uncommon, no pregnancies in 12 attempts is highly unusual.

"It's a pretty alarming situation for Cigar," said Josh Pons, manager of Country Life Farm near Bel Air, where Cigar was born in 1990. "But to say he's infertile may be premature. To say he can't improve may be premature.

"It's extremely rare for a stallion to be completely infertile."

In the storied tradition of American thoroughbred breeding, only a handful of top racehorses have failed completely in the breeding shed. According to Blood-Horse, a horse-breeding and -racing magazine, the 1931 Kentucky Derby winner Twenty Grand and the 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault were sterile.

More recently, Precisionist, the 1985 North American sprint champion, and Lure, winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile in 1992 and 1993, proved to be huge disappointments as stallions.

But few horses have changed careers from racing to breeding with the fanfare of Cigar. He was retired last fall as the richest thoroughbred in history with earnings of $9,999,815.

But he will be remembered for one incredible 22-month span -- from October 1994 to July 1996 -- when he won 16 races in a row, matching Citation's 46-year-old record. By winning the inaugural $4 million Dubai World Cup a year ago on the desert sands along the Persian Gulf, Cigar became horse racing's first international superstar.

Paulson, his owner, turned down a $30 million offer for Cigar from Japanese breeders. He said he wanted to ensure that Cigar stood at stud in this country.

Shortly after retiring Cigar from the racetrack, Paulson sold a 75-percent interest in the horse to a top international breeding operation, the Ireland-based Coolmore Stud, and a top international breeder-owner, Michael Tabor. The deal, in which Cigar was valued at $25 million, called for Cigar to stand at stud at Coolmore's U.S. branch, the posh Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky.

Cigar's stud fee of $75,000 was the highest in years for a first-year stallion. The second-highest this year were Hennessy and Smart Strike at $30,000.

Despite Cigar's glitzy price tag, the owners of top broodmares worldwide had clamored for bookings. They were willing to gamble that Cigar's talent, determination and intelligence would overcome his modest pedigree and result in future generations of champions.

Simon, the manager of Ashford Stud, booked 85 mares, including the million-dollar racing winners All Along, Eliza, Estrapade, Lottsa Talc, Sangue and Very Subtle.

But now Simon is notifying their owners about Cigar's shortcomings as well as contacting the insurance company that holds a fertility policy on Cigar.

Simon said the policy, believed to be for $25 million, would pay the owners of Cigar, leaving owners of the mares scrambling for last-minute bookings with other stallions.

Also, Simon said, fertility experts have tested and examined Cigar. He declined to comment on the outcome of the tests.

"Cigar is still covering mares," Simon said. "We're just taking it one day at a time."

But Paulson, who booked 25 of his own mares with Cigar, said he is already arranging for breedings with other stallions.

"It's a sad day for everybody," Paulson said. "We were all looking forward to seeing little Cigars running around the racetrack."

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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