The story of a champion horse who just wasn't interested

Lest y'all think this publication is turning into the Daily Racing Form, with horse-related articles every week, I promise this will be my last column on the topic for a long, long time (unless Barack Obama, having decided against naming a black, Hispanic, woman, Asian, Native American or generic white dude as a running mate, decides to think outside the box and go after the equine vote).

First off, I have to fix something. A couple of weeks back, I wrote about the tragedy surrounding the breakdown of Eight Belles after the Kentucky Derby. In the column, this phrase appeared: "but the Triple Crown is built around 2-year-olds." That's obviously wrong; 3-year-olds run in the Triple Crown races.

The mistake happened when, while editing, I combined two sentences, the latter discussing how the Triple Crown contestants all start out racing as 2-year-olds. I hate making mistakes. Sorry.

As I was doing research about the Kentucky Derby, I came across a fascinating article in The New York Times. It involved War Emblem, which was trained by UA grad Bob Baffert and won the 2002 Kentucky Derby. As Catherine O'Sullivan pointed out last week, losing horses might end up in Mexican meat-packing plants. But winning horses, ahh, there's the life.

Top horses often quickly get put out to stud, where a lot more money can be made than from racing. At the ripe old age of 3 or 4, they retire to some majestic farm, where they are free to gambol through the meadows by day and get busy with the ladies at night. Or whenever; I'm not really sure about their social schedule.

Anyway, War Emblem was sold to the Japanese company Shadai for a cool $17 million. He lives a life of luxury and is surrounded by top-quality mares, from which he can have his pick, or he can have all of them, if feels up to it. (It's like paradise.) There's only one small problem: He doesn't appear to be interested. He's no smooth operator, this one.

A stallion that's even moderately proficient in the boudoir can make his owner(s) millions of dollars in stud fees every year. War Emblem was bought to replace the fading Sunday Silence, another Kentucky Derby winner which had been Japan's top sire for several years. But despite the best efforts of the experts at Shadai Stallion Station on the island of Hokkaido, War Emblem wants almost nothing to do with the womenses.

In the horse's first 5 1/2 years in Japan, War Emblem has been around hundreds of mares, but he has only mated with only around 70 of them. (Don't say it.) The owners estimate that his lack of interest might have cost them upward of $55 million in potential stud fees. The director of the farm is Dr. Nobuo Tsunoda. (Hey, that sounds like the desert in which we live! Japanese is a cool language; everything sounds like something.) He's quoted as saying, "We know he is fertile, but he has no interest in mares."

Having recently sat through the video I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, in which a precocious little kid (is there any other kind on TV or in the movies?) rattles off a list of mammals that would march in the gay pride parade if only they weren't denied entry by species-ists (or, in the case of the manatee, because they can't really march), I thought there could only be a couple of possible explanations. One involves this really gross joke that I won't tell here, but the punch line is, "Yeah, but you got an ugly one!" The other is horse gayness. I mean, there are gay caballeros; why not gay caballos?

I asked this young lady named Auriel, who recently graduated from high school and has been around horses her entire life. She says that she has never, ever, heard of gay horses, although mares that are in season will get animated and frisky with other mares.

So what can it be then? War Emblem has not produced a live foal since 2005, and observers confirm that the last time he ejaculated in the presence of a mare was in 2006. (How'd you like that job, ejaculation observer?) And, oh yeah, he ejaculated exactly once then. Perhaps it's never as good as the first time.

War Emblem has been cloistered in his own barn and kept away from all of the other stallions, for fear that he is suffering from some sort of performance anxiety. The first year in Japan, War Emblem covered only seven of the 350 mares offered him. The farm offered him a wide variety of mares, but no go. The second year, they actually employed elaborate bait-and-switch tactics on him, with pretty good success. He covered 53 mares and produced 34 foals. He has produced only five since then.

His owners are perplexed. Maybe they should show him horse porn. Or perhaps a schedule that shows when the next boat leaves Japan for Mexico.

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