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The fastest thoroughbred horse in the world today is a 3-year-old colt known as Shimmy. He eats carrots, apples, chocolate and Life Savers and he hates to go into his stall. So much for his idiosyncrasies. Until he won the $55,000 Bay Shore at Aqueduct on March 21, his owner, Dr. Rif' At Hussain, hadn't seen him run. Hussain, a 38-year-old native of Pakistan, lives in Sioux Falls, S. Dak., and it's difficult for him to get away. Hussain, you see, is a busy plastic surgeon. He's the only plastic surgeon in Sioux Falls. In fact, he's the only plastic surgeon in the entire state.
"I call my horse Shimmy," Hussain said last week in New York, "but his name is Shimatoree. He is named after a Cheyenne Indian chief who was so brave that he was known as Ironhearted. The chiefs name was actually Chimatoree, but I changed the C to an S because it sounded better. I felt that I should see my colt run in the Bay Shore to realize my dream of him. Should I be remembered for nothing else in life, I will be remembered for Shimmy."
In the seven-furlong Bay Shore, Shimmy was considered such a cinch that of the $311,522 bet to show, $291,469 went on Shimmy. The bettors were perceptive, if circumspect. Shimmy, an even-money favorite, broke quickly and held a six-length lead by the top of the stretch. "I wanted him to get tired," said Trainer Dick Dutrow, "and he did." Shimatoree won by 4� lengths over Big Brave Rock, a horse that, unlike Shimmy, isn't nominated to the Kentucky Derby.
Shimatoree, of course, is only one of 388 horses nominated to the Derby. At this point he looks to be little more than a speedball, a horse that can run short distances swiftly. His victory in the Bay Shore was his third in only four starts, but his bloodlines and running style indicate that he might not be capable of running 1� miles, the Derby distance.
Six years ago, however, there was another Bay Shore winner that experts thought would be incapable of carrying his speed over a distance. His name was Bold Forbes, and he was trained not only to run quickly but also to run "long," as racetrackers say. Bold Forbes won the Derby by a length, and later took the 1�-mile Belmont Stakes by a neck. The jockey on Shimatoree last week was Angel Cordero Jr., who also rode Bold Forbes in his Triple Crown races.
For Hussain, Shimatoree is a running profit center. In effect, the colt cost Hussain $5,900. He already has turned down $1.5 million for a half interest in Shimmy, and the Bay Shore victory probably added another half-million to his value. "I am an easy person to reach by phone," Hussain says, "and people keep calling me about selling my horse. Presently I am not interested, but I am not a deaf man."
Hussain is, in fact, a very bright man who cares deeply for his horse. "I got Shimmy in what some horsemen might think is a strange way," he says, "though to me it was not all that strange. In the winter of 1978 I went to Kentucky. The weather was fierce. I woke up one morning and there were eight inches of snow on the ground. The reason I was in Kentucky was that I had followed horses for a while and I wanted to learn about auctions. I had no intention of buying a horse, so I was carrying very little money. Then I saw the horse I wanted in the sales catalogue at Keeneland. It was a mare named Tudor Twist that, according to the catalogue, was in foal to Crewman. But when I got to the sale they announced that Tudor Twist was barren."
That wouldn't have come as much of a surprise to a more experienced horseman. Of the first seven times that Tudor Twist had been bred, she turned out barren four times. Furthermore, her three living foals could best be described as circles with the rims removed. One never got to the races, another ran three times without winning and the third ran through six years and 78 starts while earning a grand total of $17,429—not enough to pay feed bills.
Hussain bought the barren Tudor Twist for $900 on Jan. 10, 1978. That same day 127 broodmares were sold at Keeneland, at an average price of $12,259.
"I liked Tudor Twist," Hussain says, "because if you examined her bloodlines you could find Tudor Minstrel, a winner of classic races in Europe. But when I got Tudor Twist, there were two things I didn't have: a stallion to breed her to, and money. I looked at several stallions as possible mates, but I couldn't afford them. One of the ones I liked was Marshua's Dancer, and his stud fee was $5,000, which I didn't have."