Bull attended Princeton (class of '33), where he played football and baseball and studied eugenics and genetics. But when he returned to Claiborne in 1945 after serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, the farm had a tired look to it. "It had sunk to a very low place," says Waddell. "The mares had all gotten old. The stallions were not fashionable. The farm had fallen into disarray."
Bull gradually took over the running of Claiborne from his ailing father and began to look for that big stallion who would lead Claiborne to a postwar resurgence. He found him in Ireland. Of Hancock's many contributions to breeding and racing in America, none remotely approaches his purchase, in 1949, of the Irish horse Nasrullah, son of the brilliant Nearco.
As a student of genetics at Princeton, Bull had bred fruit flies. Says Arthur, "He used to say that among the fruit flies, the complete outcrosses were the ones that had the energy and vigor. He called that 'hybrid vigor.' " In thoroughbred breeding, a horse is a complete outcross if no name appears more than once in the first four generations of his family tree. With Nasrullah, Bull undertook the application of his hybrid-vigor theory and infused American bloodlines with the Nearco fire, bringing a whole new pedigree to Kentucky mares.
After the war, Bull purchased the stakes-winning Miss Disco, whose pedigree was old American domestic. He was going to add her to his own broodmare band when Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps, Ogden's mother and one of the farm's best clients, expressed an interest in owning her. Reluctantly, Bull sold her. In 1953, Mrs. Phipps bred Nasrullah to Miss Disco, and on the night of April 6, 1954—one of the most historic moments in American horseracing—Miss Disco gave birth to her complete outcross, a bay that Mrs. Phipps named Bold Ruler.
After being voted Horse of the Year in 1957, Bold Ruler became a phenomenon as a stallion at Claiborne. From 1963 to 1969, he was America's leading sire, probably the greatest that this country has ever produced. He crowned his incredible career as a stallion when, in 1969, he was bred to Somethingroyal. The next spring, she foaled Secretariat.
Behind Nasrullah, Bold Ruler and a host of other stallions, Claiborne became a repository of the most vigorous bloodlines in the world, and Bull became the most powerful man in the breeding business. It was into this tradition of success, in the shadow of this imposing man, that Arthur and Seth were born. All Bull ever wanted, of course, was for his boys to grow up as he had grown up, working to one day replace their father. "His dream was for Seth and me to run the farm," says Arthur. "That's what he always talked about. For us to carry on when he died."
But when Arthur came of age, he did not know what he wanted to do. "I always loved the horses and the farm," he says, "but I didn't think I could ever equal anything my daddy or granddaddy had done. I saw myself living a life of raisin' horses and probably never havin' any good ones. I sort of wanted to break away and do something on my own."
Much to Bull's dismay, Arthur began veering off on his own at an early age. He loved music, and his grandmother bought him a ukelele when he was seven. The opening lyrics to the first song he ever learned sound like an omen of his hell-raising future:
I went home the other night
Drunk as I could be
Found a head, in my bed
Where my head ought to be
Bull did not want his son playing music, and the boy first felt the sting of his father's disapproval one night at a family dinner. Arthur was 10, fascinated by the shining trumpets that the kids played in the school band.