October 31, 2008 — Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year Alysheba stepped off of a horse van October 31 and into a new life at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
After spending the last eight years in the royal stables of HM King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Alysheba returned to the state where he was foaled, as a generous gesture from the king.
Frank McGovern, general manager of the king’s Janadria Farm, was at the park to turn Alysheba over to the park’s executive director, John Nicholson, who accepted the horse on behalf of the park and the people of America. He stated that the king was very concerned for Alysheba’s welfare, so the process of getting him ready to come back to the United States took more than seven months to complete.
“We are grateful that King Abdullah entrusted one of his favorite horses to the care of the Kentucky Horse Park, as stewards of his gift to the people of the United States,” Nicholson said. “Throughout history, the horse has transcended nations and brought cultures together. Alysheba is a symbol of goodwill between people and nations.”
Present at Alysheba’s welcome home celebration were his breeder, Preston Madden; his trainer, Jack Van Berg; and his jockey, Chris McCarron, along with about 350-400 fans who were on hand to welcome the champion.
Until two-time Horse of the Year Cigar came along, Alysheba was the world’s richest Thoroughbred, with earnings of $6,679,242. Bred by Preston Madden at Hamburg Place in Lexington, Alysheba (Alydar-Bel Sheba, by Lt. Stevens) was sold as a yearling to Dorothy and Pam Scharbauer for $500,000. They campaigned him under the guidance of Hall of Fame trainer, Jack Van Berg.
Alysheba won the 1987 Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Super Derby, and an Eclipse Award as Champion 3-year-old colt. As a 4-year-old, he was even better, winning six Grade 1 stakes: the Strub Stakes, Santa Anita Handicap, Iselin Handicap, Woodward Stakes, Meadowlands Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was ridden in 17 consecutive starts by Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron. His career highlights also included Horse of the Year honors and track records for 1 1/4 miles at Belmont and The Meadowlands. Along the way, he defeated Risen Star, Forty Niner, Bet Twice, Seeking the Gold and another Kentucky Derby-winner, the ill-fated Ferdinand.
The 24-year-old stallion will join other resident Thoroughbred stars Cigar, Kona Gold, and Da Hoss at the park’s Hall of Champions. He will reside in the stall formerly occupied by another Horse of the Year, the late John Henry. Meeting Alysheba is included with park admission.