The great Alysheba returns home (US)

Alysheba could have slipped through the cracks after being exported to Saudi Arabia in 2000. But Saudi King Abdullah returned the 24-year-old horse to Kentucky last week as a gift, stipulating only that he be well cared for and that fans have ready access to him.

AlyshebaAlysheba’s recent arrival at the Kentucky Horse Park, where he will live out his life pampered and surrounded by an adoring fandom, is welcome news.

It was a huge deal when the 4-year-old Ferdinand and 3-year-old Alysheba faced off in the 1987 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Hollywood Park, the first meeting of Kentucky Derby winners in eight years. Ferdinand won by a scant nose, but the horses’ ultimate fates couldn’t be farther apart.

Ferdinand reportedly ended up slaughtered for meat in Japan in 2002 after he outlived his usefulness as a stallion. His death, as well as Exceller’s earlier slaughter in Sweden, jolted Americans into recognition of the need to protect racetrack heroes from being so ingloriously discarded.

Alysheba could have slipped through the cracks after being exported to Saudi Arabia in 2000. But Saudi King Abdullah returned the 24-year-old horse to Kentucky last week as a gift, stipulating only that he be well cared for and that fans have ready access to him.

Alysheba received an appropriate welcome back to his birth state, with his Hall of Fame trainer (Jack Van Berg) and jockey (Chris McCarron) in attendance at his arrival at the Horse Park.

It was fitting that he went into the stall that long housed John Henry, who died last year. Alysheba broke John Henry’s earnings record when he won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs to finish with $6,679,242, a total since surpassed. >> Louisville Courier-Journal

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