When Gray Slewpy won the El Conejo Handicap at Santa Anita last month, he was listed as a ridgling.
A.P. Indy, one of the favorites for the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby, has been listed as a colt when he's run.
Yet Gray Slewpy and A.P. Indy underwent the same surgery by the same veterinarian, Greg Ferraro, who removed an undescended testicle from each horse.
A.P. Indy had his operation after his first start, a fourth-place finish in a maiden race at Del Mar last August. Since then, he has won four in a row, including the Hollywood Futurity in December and the San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 29. He and Bertrando are the horses to beat in the Santa Anita Derby two weeks from today.
Castrated horses are called geldings; horses with both testicles, but only one showing, are ridglings. A colt is a male horse 4 years old or younger with all of his reproductive organs. A male older than 4 that can reproduce is defined as a "horse."
"There is no racing classification for horses like A.P. Indy and Gray Slewpy," said Rick Arthur, a veterinarian at Santa Anita. "Technically, they're something that the textbooks refer to as 'hemi-castrates.' I'm active in the American Assn. of Equine Practitioners, and they've spent a lot of time on this particular topic, without being able to come up with a definition that satisfies everybody."
Ray Baran is a veterinarian representing Santa Anita at the current meeting.
"These horses (A.P. Indy and Gray Slewpy) are neither geldings nor ridglings," he said. "For lack of a better word, they're half-colts. A gelding can't reproduce. Ridglings can become sires, and so can these two horses, but they are still not the same. Racing needs a new category for horses like this. Perhaps the Jockey Club (in New York) can come up with something. Racing moves so slow on things like this. One of these days, there'll be a lawsuit, and then something will be done."
War, who won the 1987 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland after the disqualification of Alysheba, and then ran 13th in the Kentucky Derby, was a ridgling. Other notable ridglings have been Dahar, winner of the 1986 San Juan Capistrano Handicap, and Slew O' Gold, one of the best horses from the 1980s with earnings of $3.5 million. Slew O' Gold's status was not widely known and he was listed as a colt.
Ridglings are thought to sire ridglings, and although such horses' breeding capacities are not known to be limited, ridglings will sometimes give investors and breeders pause when they are considering stallions. Both Slew O' Gold and A.P. Indy are sons of Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown champion, and Gray Slewpy is one of his grandsons.
Parrot mouths, horses with overbites, are also believed to pass on that characteristic, although if horses have solid enough racing credentials, such as two-time Eclipse Award winner Bayakoa, such defects are overlooked. At horse sales, auctioneers usually announce lots with physical defects, and sales companies tape-record these caveats, for legal protection.
On Friday, Jim Williams, a Keeneland official, replayed the tape from the July day in 1990 when A.P. Indy went through the sales ring in Lexington, Ky.
"He was announced as a colt," Williams said.
Tomonori Tsurumaki, the Japanese real estate developer, bought A.P. Indy for $2.9 million, the highest price for any yearling sold in 1990. No one in Tsurumaki's camp is suggesting that A.P. Indy be sent back for a refund because he might have been a ridgling. Lane's End Farm, which consigned A.P. Indy to the sale, would probably return the $2.9 million willingly, for the chance to get him back.
"Ridglings can be difficult to handle," Arthur said. "They have a tendency to be more aggressive horses."
Arthur said that only 1 or 2% of all male horses turn out to be ridglings, and the kind of surgery that was performed on A.P. Indy is even rarer, according to Ferraro.
"I might do one or two of those jobs in a year," said Ferraro, who estimated that A.P. Indy's surgery took about 40 minutes. "I hadn't done one like that in a long time and then--boom, boom, I had two of them, A.P. Indy and Gray Slewpy."
Ferraro remembers a similar operation that he performed on Providential, a Charlie Whittingham-trained Irish-bred who was a major winner on grass in 1981. Providential won the Washington D.C. International and the Hollywood Turf Cup.
"That horse didn't get good until after he had the surgery," Ferraro said.
Records show that the Kentucky Derby has been won by 107 colts, seven geldings and three fillies. If A.P. Indy comes home with the roses this year, Churchill Downs might list him as a colt or a ridgling, but the purists will know that he is the first hemi-castrate to make the grade.
Horse Racing Notes