PARIS, Ky. -- As the brown grass turns to green in the land of the bluegrass, Cigar approaches his ninth spring with not a care in the world.
He is not being bred to mares. He is not training for races. He is, in the words of his keeper, veterinarian Phil McCarthy, simply being a horse.
"I've been around him long enough to know that he's a very happy animal," said McCarthy, who has cared for Cigar since May at his Watercress Farm in Kentucky.
As Desmond Ryan, farm manager, led Cigar out of his stall, the great brown horse arched his neck, and his rangy body began to swell -- as if he were ready to race again. Then he reared up on his back legs and pawed at the sky. And he did it again, and then a third time.
"If you had seen him when he first came here," McCarthy said, "he would have walked out of his stall with his head down between his legs."
McCarthy is a reproductive specialist assigned the task of determining whether Cigar can ever reproduce. After being retired in November 1996 as one of the greatest in history, the Maryland-bred champion was bred to more than 30 mares at Ashford Stud in Kentucky. None became pregnant.
A panel of veterinarians, including McCarthy, examined Cigar. Tests revealed no movement of his sperm cells.
"We decided the horse was, for all intents and purposes, sterile," McCarthy said. "That basically was about the end of the story."
But it was the beginning of McCarthy's quest to see whether Cigar's condition could be reversed. Nearly one year later, the veterinarian has concluded that the chances of that are remote.
"I wouldn't want to say we've seen zero change; we've seen a few mobile sperm cells," McCarthy said. "But it's been so few that the chance of Cigar getting a mare pregnant is very, very slim. For all intents and purposes, his condition is unchanged."
Hopes were high that Cigar the stallion would duplicate the successes of Cigar the race horse. He retired the richest thoroughbred in history with earnings of $9,999,815. He won 16 races in a row, including the inaugural $4 million Dubai World Cup, matching Citation's win streak established nearly a half-century before.
Cigar was born April 18, 1990, at Country Life Farm near Bel Air.
McCarthy, 47, inherited the two-time Horse of the Year because he works as a consultant to the insurance company that underwrote Cigar's $25 million fertility policy.
When the Italian company, Assicuazion Generali, paid the claim -- the largest in equine history -- it took possession of the horse. Allen E. Paulson, who owned 25 percent of Cigar, received $6.25 million, and Coolmore Stud (parent company of Ashford Stud), which owned 75 percent, received $18.75 million.
When Cigar was transferred to McCarthy's farm, he was not a happy horse. He weighed 960 pounds, whereas his normal weight is 1,300, which is what he weighs now, McCarthy said.
"He really went through a pretty dramatic transition," McCarthy said. "He came from the racetrack in November, and then he was breeding by February. Remember, this horse danced nearly every dance for two years. These horses are not machines.
"At Ashford, he never got any peace and quiet. He'd be in his stall snoozing, and a bus load of people would arrive to see him. Then he might be trying to eat, and another bus load of people would pull up.
"What we wanted to do was remove him from the public eye, give him the opportunity to be a horse."
McCarthy's Watercress Farm is 14 miles northeast of Lexington, off the beaten path of most high-profile farms in bluegrass country. Driving past you wouldn't know that grazing in one of the front paddocks is one of the greatest horses of all time.
McCarthy's treatment for Cigar's infertility has been surprisingly restrained. He said he has done nothing, and will do nothing, except "standard acceptable procedures."
They consist of allowing Cigar to return to peak physical condition, of adding mineral and vitamin supplements to his feed, of turning him out for hours on end in a large, lush paddock and of guarding his privacy and preserving his peace of mind.
"Cigar is in great physical condition," McCarthy said. "That to me is probably the single most important thing."
Although McCarthy has received treatment suggestions from around the world, he said he won't do -- nor is he under any pressure from the insurance company to do -- anything that might harm the horse.
"What if somebody next month asked me how Cigar was, and I said, 'Cigar died. I was giving him injectable oxygen to try to get him fertile, and he had a reaction and died'?" McCarthy said. "What kind of travesty would that be to the horse and to his many fans around the world?"
McCarthy said there isn't much he could do for Cigar anyway. He hasn't even been able to determine the cause of the infertility, he said. It could be congenital, or it could be acquired, meaning an injury or illness had caused it.
"In the final analysis, it's the same either way," McCarthy said.
Surprising, too, is McCarthy's attitude about Cigar.