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"I just dropped out of Claiborne," he said.
"Oh, my god!" said Sullivan. "You gotta be joking."
True to form, Arthur got into his cups that night, drinking until the wee hours with Sullivan. Sometime past midnight, Arthur began plotting his return. He was living alone at the time, a few miles down the road from Claiborne, on a little 100-acre spread that Bull had leased him to run on his own. It was called Stone Farm. Arthur vowed he would build it into a showplace and one day would show Phipps and all the rest that he was his father's son.
"Someday I'm gonna win the Kentucky Derby," he told Sullivan, "and someday I'll be bigger then Claiborne."
Sullivan said, "Bring this fool another Budweiser!"
Almost 17 years after washing down his promises with yet another beer, Arthur Hancock III steers his black Mercedes between two wide fields of grass. It is a fine autumn day in the countryside northeast of Paris. He pulls over to the side of the road and points: "That field over there, where that big tree is growing, is where I raised Sunday Silence as a yearling on Stone Farm. Back over yonder"—he gestures to another field a quarter mile away, in the direction of Claiborne—"is where Easy Goer grew up as yearling at the same time. Ain't life strange? When they were yearlings, they could have looked over their fences and seen one another. Probably did. Now they're running for Horse of the Year."
On Nov. 4, Hancock will be sitting in an owner's box at Gulfstream Park in Florida, nervously awaiting the start of the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic and the season's final performance by his fast and gutsy 3-year-old, Sunday Silence. In a nearby box will sit Ogden Phipps, now 80 and the owner of Easy Goer, the dazzling chestnut who has already had three memorable Triple Crown duels with Sunday Silence. And somewhere nearby will be Seth Hancock, who watched Easy Goer grow at Claiborne.
In what is now as much a clash of owners and farms as a rivalry of horses, these two colts will meet one last time to determine who is the best horse in the U.S. In the contests of owner versus owner and brother versus brother, it will be impossible to measure the pride at stake. And it seems fitting that on Breeders' Cup day the spotlight will fall on two horses who were born and raised on neighboring pastures once walked by America's most important breeder of thoroughbreds. Somewhere, Bull Hancock will be smiling.
Bull was born in 1910, the same year his father founded Claiborne Farm on 1,300 acres of land in Bourbon County, 16 miles northeast of Lexington. Claiborne flourished as a stud farm through the 1920s, and by the 1930s, Arthur Hancock was widely acknowledged to be one of the finest horsemen of his day.
Bull Hancock was his father's creation, the son raised to run the empire after he was gone. "I started with my dad, riding out with him to open gates," Bull once said. "He paid me a nickel a day. After that I went to sweeping sheds and shaking empty stalls. It was tough work, but it was for me. I never wanted to be anything but a horseman."