Bertrando, the probable winner of the Eclipse Award for best older horse on dirt this year, will double as a stallion and a racehorse next year, in an ambitious plan designed to give him another shot at winning the Breeders' Cup Classic in November.
Bertrando will begin 1994 at stud, then resume training in June for a series of stakes that are expected to prepare him for the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old is currently recuperating from surgery that removed a bone chip from his left knee, after his second-place finish in the $3-million Breeders' Cup race at Santa Anita last month.
"The timing of all this was the big factor in our decision," said Eddie Nahem, who bred Bertrando and races him in partnership with his Del Mar neighbor, Marshall Naify. "Because of the surgery, we weren't going to do much with him the first part of the year, anyway. There's an economic consideration, too. Now we can breed him to many of the mares that we've bought recently, which ought to save us about a half-million dollars in stud fees."
Nahem estimates that in two years, he and Naify have spent $3 million in buying more than 20 broodmares in the United States and France. One of their European purchases, a daughter of Triple Crown champion Seattle Slew, cost $675,000. Naify, 73, is a retired movie-theater and cable-television tycoon whose wealth was recently estimated at $470 million by Forbes magazine.
If Bertrando leaves the breeding shed and makes a comeback as a racehorse, his name will be added to a short list of prominent double-duty thoroughbreds that includes Boston (a Hall of Famer who raced in the 19th Century), Seabiscuit (horse of the year in 1938) and Carry Back (winner of the 1961 Kentucky Derby). Candy Spots, winner of the Santa Anita Derby in 1963, got 28 mares in foal in 1964 and then added to his stakes total.
More recently, Silveyville and Variety Road ran successfully after productive stints as stallions. Silveyville retired with $1.2 million and Variety Road earned almost $950,000. Bertrando's sire, Skywalker, won the Breeders' Cup Classic in 1986, became a stallion during the 1987 breeding season and finished the year with one victory in four starts and earnings of $84,650.
Silveyville and Variety Road stood at Old English Rancho, where Bud Johnston and his family have been selectively breeding and running horses for decades.
"What they're doing with Bertrando sounds like a good plan," Johnston said. "You can do this with horses that are sound and intelligent. We keep our stallions semi-fit all the time, anyway. And if they're smart horses, they get to know what's expected of them. If you put the tack on them, they know that it's time to exercise, but if you come around with the (lead) shank, they also know that they'll be heading for the breeding shed. The only drawback is that a horse might get injured while breeding and might not be able to run again. But that's a minor risk."
Nahem said that Bertrando, a California-bred, will stand somewhere in the state. One nursery under consideration is Marty Wygod's River Edge Farm in Buellton, and Nahem also said that he and Naify are exploring the possibility of buying a farm near Del Mar that belonged to the late Gene Klein.
Bertrando's stud fee has been set at $20,000. "I don't know how many mares we'll breed to him," Nahem said. "We'll just have to see how many people are interested at that price."
Nahem said Bertrando should be approved for stud duty on Feb. 1, about two weeks before the start of the breeding season. Bertrando will be mated with his last mare in mid-May, about a month before the breeding season usually ends. He is expected to be back at the track, with trainer Bobby Frankel, on June 15.
Bertrando could have clinched horse-of-the-year honors with a victory last month at Santa Anita, but Arcangues, a 133-1 longshot who had never run on dirt, outran him in the stretch for a shocking two-length victory.
The Breeders' Cup purse lifted Bertrando's earnings to more than $3 million. Overall, he has won seven of 16 starts, and this year he earned $2.2 million with three victories and four seconds in nine races. The wins were the San Fernando at Santa Anita, the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and the Woodward at Belmont Park.
Nahem would like to see Bertrando's 1994 campaign begin in California and continue in New York. He mentioned Belmont's Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup as possible races before the Breeders' Cup.
Seabiscuit would be a good example for Bertrando to follow. Early in 1940, Seabiscuit was bred to seven mares, got them all in foal and then won the Santa Anita Handicap, a race he had never won.
Horse Racing Notes
Slew Of Damascus, a 5-year-old gelding who has emerged from the $16,000 claiming ranks to earn more than $300,000, is high weight at 118 pounds for Saturday's $100,000 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park. The Native Diver is a 1 1/8-mile dirt race and Slew Of Damascus' last three victories have come on grass, where he is four for seven overall. On the main track, he is six for 18. . . . The eight-horse field will be: Casual Lies, Have Fun, Ravenwood, L'Express, Slew Of Damascus, Bossanova, Juliannus and Lottery Winner. . . . Chris McCarron, who has won the stake four consecutive times, will be away this weekend, competing in a jockeys' competition in Tokyo. . . . Enchanted Beauty, who broke down after winning a maiden race Wednesday, has been destroyed.