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Alysheba to return to Kentucky

He was born at Hamburg Place when it was a horse farm. He went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic. When Hamburg Place became the Hamburg Pavilion shopping center, a cross street was named after him.

Now Alysheba, "America's Horse," will return to the Bluegrass after eight years in the Middle East on Oct. 31 at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The park announced Thursday that the son of Alydar has returned to the United States as a gift to the American people from Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah. Alysheba has been living in King Abdullah's royal stables since leaving Kentucky in 2000.

Alysheba arrived in the United Sates on Oct. 15 after a two-month quarantine in Dubai. He arrived at an undisclosed horse farm in Kentucky on Oct. 17 and will move into the horse park stall of the late John Henry the morning of Oct. 31, just in time for a "Welcome Home Reception" open to fans at 1:15 p.m.

Alysheba's former jockey, Chris McCarron, let news of his return slip late Wednesday night in California at an awards dinner.

But the move has been in the works for months.

It started with a state visit to the Middle East in January. President Bush stayed a night at Janadria Farm, King Abdullah's 2,000-acre horse farm outside Riyadh.

As is customary for VIPs, Bush was given a tour and shown the king's prized Thoroughbred breeding stock.

"Alysheba was one of the great attractions," said Frank McGovern, general manager of the king's stables, by phone on Thursday. It became clear that the Westerners recognized the great racehorse.

"The president knew him very well," McGovern said.

It is protocol to give gifts on such occasions. President Bush presented King Abdullah, a horseman, with an ornate Western saddle. King Abdullah was "very keen" to return the favor with something special, McGovern said.

"The king said, 'This horse should go home,'" he said. "The king realized he had a very special place in the people's heart and he decided to send him in the autumn."

Moving the 24-year-old horse, who had been retired from stallion duty three years ago, has been a major operation, McGovern said. "It has taken four months to plan," he said.

Alysheba spent two months in quarantine at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai, then he flew on an Emirates jet to Amsterdam, where he spent two days. Then, on to New York and two more days of quarantine before finally arriving in Kentucky.

John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park, said they are ecstatic over the gift. He said Alysheba is in good health. "We're going to fatten him up," he said.

Nicholson said Alysheba's groom "can't swear to it" but thought the horse gave a big sigh when he saw the Bluegrass of home.

Alysheba was bred by Lexington horseman Preston Madden, who sold him as a yearling for $500,000.

On his way to a 3-year-old championship, Alysheba won the 1987 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and came a close second to Ferdinand in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Hollywood Park.

As a 4-year-old, he more than made up for that loss, winning six Grade 1 stakes races, capped by the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. He was champion older horse and Horse of the Year in 1988 and set two track records for 1¼ miles — at Belmont and at the Meadowlands.

He finished his career with a then-record $6,679,242 in earnings. He entered his stud career at Lane's End Farm in Versailles, where he stood until he was moved to Saudi Arabia in 2000. His 435 foals, including Canadian champion Alywow and top earner Desert Waves, have won more than $16 million on the track, according to

McGovern said a couple of factors weighed into the decision to send Alysheba to the horse park. The stallion has been living in luxury and King Abdullah wanted to make sure he would be kept well. Years ago, McGovern said, he had visited retired racehorse Cigar, who until recently was the only horse to surpass Alysheba in earnings, and was impressed with the horse park and, later, with the care taken of the late John Henry.

And it was important that fans know the horse is safe and would never end up like his contemporary, Ferdinand, who died in a slaughterhouse after his stud career in Japan was over.

So the horse is a gift to the American people, but King Abdullah will pay for his care for the rest of his days.

Alysheba "is worth an awful lot because of what he means to the king," McGovern said. "He was very fond of Alysheba."