When it comes to the fairer sex, 4-year-old stallions are usually not discriminating. Yet for reasons that elude War Emblem's new owners in Hokkaido, Japan, the 2002 Kentucky Derby champ has been a cool customer in the shed. Uninterested in most mares presented to him in his first season at stud, War Emblem has covered only six of them since mid-February. Other high-profile stallions easily cover 60 mares in a month. Says Eisuke Tokutake, a spokesperson for the Yoshida family, which purchased War Emblem last September for more than $17 million, "Clearly, this is not a good situation."
War Emblem's standoffishness isn't unheard of. "We call it 'bird-watching,' because the horse will look away and pretend not to see the mares," says University of Pennsylvania equine behavioral scientist Sue McDonnell, who estimates that 5% of new stallions exhibit similar behavior. "Sometimes the horses prefer a certain color mare or don't trust a handler. Often they are affected by the pressure to perform."
That it happens to other horses is small comfort to the Yoshidas. As they negotiate with Lloyds of London for what compensation they would receive if the sire doesn't pan out, the family has called in two veterinarians to help. With more than 200 broodmares booked to him this year—at a reported fee of between $66,000 and $75,000—this stud will have plenty of chances to prove himself.