Somewhat overshadowing Circular Quay’s nice victory in the Louisiana Derby (at least in Europe) was the rather unexpected news that George Washington is (apparently) infertile and so three-year-old Holy Roman Emperor has been abruptly retired to deputize for him.
It seems there was more than a little dismay from trainer Aidan OBrien:
Holy Roman Emperor was our best horse,” O’Brien said yesterday evening. “He was the horse we were looking forward to for the Guineas and the St James’s Palace. Paul Shanahan [a Coolmore manager] was here at 11.30am to tell me and the box came and picked him up at 11.50am. I spoke to the boss in between and the more I tried to persuade him not to retire him, the more he was convinced he had to retire him.”
While the entire episode is bizarre, some reports seem even more peculiar than others — Sporting Life indicates that fertility specialists from the US have flown in to consult and that George Washington’s status is still uncertain (insofar is it’s theoretically possible he could return to stud duties), while other reports more or less suggest that the further testing is essentially academic at this point — indeed, the BBC suggests that he could return to the track.
Pulling Holy Roman Emperor from training was apparently explained thusly to Aidan O’Brien:
The boss has his clients there and has to take care of them and obviously they are trying to replace like with like. It’s a big shock to everyone here. We are a racing stable and everyone here does their best every day to make it happen.
As far as the ‘like with like’ argument goes, it seems particularly strange since Coolmore has other sons of Danehill in their roster already — Danehill Dancer, Oratorio and Aussie Rules to name just a few (all at different price points) — surely some sort of arrangement could have been worked out to cover the mares already booked to George Washington with one of the other (mostly proven) studs. As an owner, I would have preferred a choice of one of the other stallions over an untried three-year-old straight from the track.
One wonders why George Washington’s fertility issues were not uncovered earlier — it seems unbelievable that his fee would have been set without running a battery of tests first. Granted, we’re talking about a famously highly-strung young horse and it’s possible there’s an injury or related situation we have not heard about, but to the outside observer, it certainly reads as a very murky situation.