In contrast, too, are the comparative values of, say, a Forego and a Secretariat, who are the same age. Secretariat was syndicated as a stallion for $6,080,000. If Forego were sold now, even assuming continued soundness as a racer for several years, he most likely would not comma?d one-tenth Secretariat's price—since he has no value at stud.
Male thoroughbreds are gelded primarily because they have not raced or trained well. Some have nasty dispositions; some are so studdish that they can think of nothing but the pretty filly down the shed row; some have soundness problems because they are growing too fast; some, like Kelso, have testicles so large that they interfere with the animal's way of going. Alfred G. Vanderbilt says, "You might say you geld out of despair. It doesn't always improve a horse, but neither will it do his racing ability any harm. Social Outcast won a stakes at two as a colt and was still a colt in 1953 when he ran in both the Wood Memorial and the Derby. But that summer my trainer, Bill Winfrey, thought the horse was cheating a bit—you know, not paying attention, not trying his best—and we gelded him. It obviously worked."
About 85% of today's geldings are altered when they are two years old, although the operation can be performed at any age. MacKenzie Miller, who has been training the 8-year-old Red Reality, says, "This horse was big and he had a soundness problem, so we had him gelded in the fall of his 2-year-old year. We thought it would lighten him up. It did the trick perfectly. He has won more than $550,000." Fort Marcy, who won 21 of 75 races and $1,109,791, was gelded before his first race at the age of two. "We thought he was too feisty," recalls Elliott Burch. "That may have come from his sire, Amerigo, who was a bit on the wild side. The fact is, we don't geld enough horses in this country. If we gelded more, we'd have less unsoundness and far fewer bad sires. Just because a horse is well bred doesn't mean you have to send him to stud."
Forego, who is by the Argentinian champion Forli, is stunningly big and impressive to look at. At 16 hands, 3� inches (5'7�" tall at the withers), he is the largest top horse in training. Dr. Manuel Gilman, the examining veterinarian at New York tracks, says, "They don't come any bigger and run any better. The thing about Forego is that he is perfectly proportioned. He doesn't look so big when you stand off a bit. The size is only apparent when you come up close."
As a 2-year-old Forego was already so big that his ankles kept flaring up. He also had splint trouble. "And he was inclined to be a bit mean," says Sherrill Ward, who trains Forego for Mrs. Martha Gerry, "so I decided to alter him. I never saw an animal respond as well as he did. He is well composed now, but he has retained a lot of fire and fight. You certainly don't want to cross him."
Forego has a lot of company around the racetrack. It is estimated that 60% of the male horses at U.S. tracks are gelded. A recent two-day survey of entries at four tracks showed 272 geldings to 185 entire horses. The figures varied from track to track. At Belmont Park, where many of the leading owner-breeders race, geldings were outnumbered 30 to 67, but at Ohio's River Downs during the same two-day period there were 91 geldings racing and only 20 entire horses.
There are constant arguments about the logic of gelding, which, after all, deprives an outstanding runner like Forego of the chance to make a name for himself at stud. You often hear people say, "Isn't it a pity that horses such as Kelso and Armed and Exterminator were gelded?" Most horsemen, remembering the difficulties such horses had before they were altered, reply, "If they hadn't been gelded, probably nobody would have ever heard of them."