Alydar, second to Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races in 1978 but a winner ever since he went to stud, has suffered a broken leg in a stall accident in Lexington, Ky., and is in a life-threatening situation at Calumet Farm.
The 15-year-old stallion kicked the door of his stall Tuesday night and broke the cannon bone, just above the ankle, on his right hind leg.
Alydar underwent two hours of surgery Wednesday morning at Calumet and Larry Bramlage, one of the surgeons, said that he was in "grave" condition.
"It was a terrible break," Bramlage said. "It's a day-to-day situation."
Bramlage and the other surgeon, Bill Baker, used a steel plate and steel pins to fuse the broken bone. Fitted with a fiberglass cast, Alydar was back in his stall early Wednesday afternoon.
"The major worry right now is that the blood supply to the lower part of the leg has dropped off," Bramlage said. "Also, there is an infection to deal with."
There is a danger that Alydar's condition could lead to laminitis, a circulatory hoof problem that is frequently fatal. Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown champion, died of laminitis last year and two months ago, after a stall accident, the prominent sire Fappiano had to be destroyed because of hoof complications.
Baker said Wednesday that if Alydar weren't such a valuable sire, he probably would have been destroyed because of this injury.
In 1978, Alydar lost the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes to Affirmed by less than two lengths in an unparalleled rivalry. The only horse to finish second in all three Triple Crown races, Alydar still won 11 stakes, earned $950,000 and was elected into the racing Hall of Fame in 1980.
In breeding statistics through Oct. 29, Alydar is this year's leading stallion, his progeny having earned $5.8 million in purses.
Alydar has twice been the nation's second-leading sire, and he's finished in third place two times. His offspring have included Alysheba, Easy Goer, Althea, Miss Oceana, Turkoman and Criminal Type. Alysheba, who earned a record $6.6 million, was voted horse of the year in 1988 and Criminal Type is a candidate for national honors this year.