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"Oh," said MacPhail, "I don't think I was an absolute amateur. I had always been interested in horses. I had studied a lot and had some ideas of my own about how horses could be raised. I had some good friends among the top breeders, like Colonel Harry Knight in Kentucky and Alfred Vanderbilt here in Maryland. But, of course, the problem was to get brood mares. Alfred Vanderbilt sold me the first three but, practically speaking, you can't buy a top brood mare unless the mare is very old or somebody just doesn't know it's a top brood mare. At least you can't buy one except at a price that is usually far more than the mare is worth.
"So the only way you can obtain brood mares on a basis you can afford is to buy two or three yearling fillies every year and race them. The good ones, the ones that show potentialities, you keep, and the others you get rid of. In that way you have a chance to build up a good brood mare band. Right now here at Glenangus, we have 36 brood mares and they've been culled, you might say, from a total of about 150 that I've owned.
"The danger in a brood mare band is that your mares become antiquated, and you wake up some day and realize that the average age of your band is 15 or 16 and that in another year they won't be producing offspring. I think the ideal average age for a brood mare band is about 10. You can have some old mares, but you've got to have some 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, too, to keep the average. Every successful stud has to begin to sell mares when they begin to reach maturity in order to keep the average age at a reasonable level. Now I sold one of my mares, Bellesoeur, last summer to Mr. George Humphrey, the former Secretary of the Treasury, because she was just too expensive for me to maintain. I'm not selling at Saratoga any more, and so a mare that was worth the money Bellesoeur was worth should be owned by a man breeding for racing purposes, like Mr. Humphrey or Mr. A. B. Hancock. I paid $57,000 for Bellesoeur but had three foals from her. I sold one for $37,500 and have another colt I think is worth as much and an option on a second foal that is now at Mr. Hancock's farm in Kentucky. Mr. Humphrey paid me about what I had paid for Bellesoeur, so she was a very profitable mare."
"You turned a nice profit on Demobilize," I said.
MacPhail nodded, "I paid $4,000 for Demobilize and sold him for $100,000 to Travis M. Kerr, who has gotten back $64,145 in purses so far."
We had finished our carrots. MacPhail gave General Staff a final petting and closed the stall door. "Wouldn't it be something," I said, "if after winning pennants in both major leagues, you should turn up with a Kentucky Derby winner some day?"
MacPhail jerked a thumb in the direction of General Staff.
"We had a Derby winner in this fellow," he said, "if the trainer and I hadn't made some mistakes. In 1950 General Staff had some trouble with his ankles, and if we had stopped racing him after the Pimlico Futurity that year and rested the horse, I'm convinced he would have won the Kentucky Derby in 1951. But instead of resting him, we took him to Florida and raced him in the winter stakes and he broke down before the Derby. I'm convinced he would have won at Churchill Downs because he had already beaten Count Turf, the Derby winner. But when he broke down, we had to fire him and then he didn't race again until he was 4. Then he won those eight races and wound up winning $157,800 all told, a lot of money in those days."
MacPhail shook his head.
"It could happen again. Nobody in the horse business ever commits suicide. You always think you'll find another Man o' War."