Everything the Thoroughbred commercial marketplace needed to know about A.P. Indy was revealed when the dark bay swaggered into the Keeneland sales pavilion and held court inside the ring 22 years ago.
With regal bloodlines shaping his near-flawless physical structure, the son of Seattle Slew commanded the highest price of any yearling that season, selling to agent Noel O'Callaghan on behalf of Tomonori Tsurumaki at the now-defunct July yearling sale for $2.9 million.
Blockbuster though he may have been in a depressed market, hindsight would deem that gaudy figure one of the auction arena's great pound-for-pound bargains. Few times in the Thoroughbred industry has one horse been such a remarkable individual at every stage of his life.
The living legend resides in his stall at William S. Farish's Lane's End Farm, retired from stud duty since April 2011 but still building on one of the sport's great legacies.
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In his 23 years, A.P. Indy has worn practically every grand label possible, morphing from sale-topping yearling to champion racehorse, to leading commercial stallion and, finally, breed-shaping sire of sires.
Though his influence continues to radiate in both the commercial and racing ranks, the upcoming Keeneland September Yearling Sale will represent the end of an era as 15 yearlings from his final crop will be among the first week's offerings.
"Sentimentally, it is very sad not to have any more of (his offspring) but the great thing is we still have him and he will be in the same paddock for the rest of his life," said Farish, who bred A.P. Indy in partnership with William Kilroy and stood the 1992 Horse of the Year his entire stud career. "He's covered all the bases, no question about it. He came up to the sales as a very top individual and went on to, needless to say, live up that."
At the Keeneland September sale alone, A.P. Indy has been the leading sire by average three times — including the last two seasons — and his offspring have topped the sale in three of the last four years. Overall, he has had 365 yearlings sell for more than $195.2 million at public auction thus far for an average of more than $535,000.
Many top racehorses have been unable to pass on their ability in the breeding shed. Soon after A.P. Indy entered stud — where he would stand for as high as $300,000 — following his championship season, it became clear he would be a success off-track as well, with 13 stakes winners emerging from his first crop.
"A lot of (his offspring) look a lot like him and he was a very well-made horse, a very sound-made horse," Farish said. "A lot of stallions nowadays, they get you a lot of brilliance but they don't get you the versatility and the soundness he was able to pass on. I think that's why he had such a larger percentage of good horses."
Perhaps the offspring that best embodies both the commercial appeal of A.P. Indy and his raw talent is his champion daughter Rags to Riches. A $1.9 million purchase at the 2005 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Rags to Riches became the first filly in more than a century to win the Belmont Stakes, defeating eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2007 edition of the classic.
What ultimately separates a good stallion from a game-changer is the success his sons and daughters have in the shed as well. To that end, A.P. Indy's influence remains stalwart as among others, his sons Bernardini, who stands at Darley, Malibu Moon who stands at Spendthrift, Pulpit who stands at Claiborne and Congrats who stands at Vinery, are all carving out careers producing top runners.
"Definitely the most telling thing about any sire is how good a sire of sires he is and how good a sire of sires they are," Farish's son Bill said. "It's phenomenal. There are Grade I races rather regularly now where 50 percent of the runners are either by him, by one of his sons or his grandsons, or there is a broodmare in there. Even though he is in his last crop of yearlings, his influence has actually grown."
With fellow top sires Storm Cat and Kingmambo also retired from stud duty and the venerable Dynaformer passing away this year, there is an opening for some stallion to try and fill the void at the top.
While every breeder hopes they have the next A.P. Indy, the standard he set across the board makes that aspiration borderline fantasy.
"There are very few horses that really tick every box, that have the conformation to be the top yearling of their year, to be a top racehorse and then to have the pedigree he has behind that," Bill Farish said. "It's very rare you get them all to that degree."