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THE BARGAIN OF A LIFETIME
William Nack
March 19, 1979
Nelson Bunker Hunt purchased Exceller for $25,000. Now the 6-year-old has won more than $1.5 million
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March 19, 1979

The Bargain Of A Lifetime

Nelson Bunker Hunt purchased Exceller for $25,000. Now the 6-year-old has won more than $1.5 million

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"Ah, we won't have her. Not our type."

"Well, who's the colt?"

"By Vaguely Noble."

Hunt laughed. Six years before, he had purchased a half interest in Vaguely Noble. A champion in France, he was turning out to be a whirlwind at stud. Hunt had Vaguely Nobles everywhere; they were coming out his stalls.

"That's all I want and need," Hunt said, "another Vaguely Noble. What's his number?"

"It's 294," said Curtin. "He's out of Too Bald."

Hunt lit up. Too Bald was a good race mare, and Hunt likes nothing more than racing class in the dam. "He'll bring 75,100 thousand," Hunt said.

He wasn't close. The colt had the pastern problem, as the prospective bidders at the sale were well aware. Set properly, at the preferred 45 degrees, the spring-like pasterns absorb shock optimally, minimizing concussion as the hooves strike the ground. American surfaces, hard and unyielding, tend to accentuate the flaw; European surfaces, softer and more yielding grass, tend to forgive it. And Ted Curtin was working for Hunt, who was sending his yearlings to Europe to be trained.

The bidding opened at $24,000, Hunt would recall, and stalled immediately. Hunt waited. Still silence. Finally, afraid Hunt would lose the colt, Curtin nudged him. Then again. Hunt nodded. "$25,000." The colt was his.

"There must be something wrong with the horse," said Hunt. "He must be lame."

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