The thieves almost certainly were professional horsemen who took advantage of a Keeneland tradition. Lexington is the home grounds of America's horse-breeding Establishment, and the Keeneland Association keeps the track open to the public. By stealing from Stilz the thieves were picking on bloodstock owned by the vice-chairman of the Kentucky State Racing Commission and president of the Bank of Commerce in Lexington. The Association has put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves.
"Frankly," says Ted Bassett, Keene-land's president, "we have been surprised that we haven't received some sort of inquiry from the thieves about attempting to ransom these horses. We've had a number of leads—letters, telephone calls, that sort of thing—sparked by the reward notice."
"All our continental offices have the theft information," says FBI agent John F. McCauley. "We're involved under interstate transportation of stolen property. The value has to be $5,000 minimum. These two horses are worth about $50,000, I'm told."
The Personality yearling might have attracted a bid of $60,000 to $70,000 at Keeneland's select summer sale had he not been kicked in the knee last year, the kick leaving an unsightly blemish. "I still have the X rays of the knee, if anybody wants them," says Boone. "They can identify him that way, after they've found him." There are more conventional ways.
"I took the markings on this colt for his foal registration application," Boone adds. "He's a chestnut with an irregular star on his forehead, a stripe starting in the center of his face that narrows and becomes flesh-colored, ending between his nostrils. There are two diagonal cowlicks in the star. The left hind pastern has white on the inside, lower in front. There's white on the inside of the heel, chestnut spots on the coronet, in white. The right hind coronet has white, on the inside, ending on the pastern. There's a chestnut spot in the white. There's also a cowlick at the crest of the neck right side, and a cowlick on the left side behind the poll. That's unusual. Usually they're matching."
A Leonardo would be needed to transform such a horse. Freeze-branding makes it possible to permanently change bay, chestnut, black or brown hairs into white, but natural white markings are virtually impossible to alter.
"That's why I don't know why they'd take him," Boone says. "I even heard one far-fetched idea that they could keep the horse and register him as a foal of this year, duplicating the exact markings. They'd pretend he was not a yearling now, but a weanling. Then they'd keep him and run him as a 3-year-old against 2-year-olds in 1976. They could do that if somebody didn't check his teeth, which I doubt if any horse identifier would do. It would be mighty unusual if they did, believe me."
Indeed, at most tracks identifying is a grossly underrated job often delegated to the lowliest of officials. Lip tattoos continue to be the prime means of identifying a horse even though not all tracks require them, they wear off, and they can be changed.
Further research is needed before blood typing can be developed into the most certain means of precise horse identification. Night eyes, or chestnuts—the irregularly shaped rough patches on the inside of each leg—provide a good check, but only in New York has such a system been highly developed. The cost of a suitable camera and attachments, plus the team of professionals necessary to obtain uniform photographs, is considered prohibitive in other areas.
Finally, there are the whorls, or cowlicks. They are natural markings, not artificial, and can be classified into three main types: 1) emerging clockwise or counterclockwise, 2) upward or downward, and 3) with or without a tuft.