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Indeed, when Markey died, the heirs, as she had feared, ceded administrative control of Calumet to Lundy. In only a few months he got rid of the veteran management team that had been loyal to Markey, among them Glass, Veitch, farm manager Melvin Cinnamon and yearling manager Ewell Rice. Robey, who had previously represented the Wrights, became the farm's general counsel. Lundy brought in Frank Whiteley, trainer of such champions as Damascus and Ruffian, to be the farm's head trainer. Whiteley's son, David, was hired to replace Veitch as trainer, an awkward situation because Veitch and David Whiteley were best friends. Lundy hired Tony Foyt to train a string of Calumet horses in the Midwest, and Calumet became an associate sponsor of the race car driven by Tony's father, the legendary A.J. Foyt. In addition, Lundy changed the name of a colt that had been called John the Bald, in honor of the clean-pated Veitch, to Foyt.
A private airplane was acquired, and a massive renovation and capital construction program was instituted at Calumet. Soon the farm had a new guardhouse, an equine swimming pool, a veterinary clinic, a commissary, a tennis court and a swimming pool at the mansion—now occupied by Bertha Wright. While Glass and Veitch insist that a lot of the renovations were unnecessary and extravagant, Robey maintains that the farm was badly in need of an overhaul. "They had just been painting over deteriorating barns," he says. "That made them look good, but that's about all. J.T., following family orders, tried to put it in first-class shape."
The cordial relationship between Lundy and the Whiteleys lasted only a couple of years. After they parted ways, Lundy spread the Calumet racing stable among a number of trainers, but he didn't really hit the jackpot until 1988, when he turned over a string to D. Wayne Lukas, the country's leading trainer. Soon Calumet was again competing in major races and winning its share.
On the business side, Lundy took over a farm in 1982 that not only was debt-free but also drew earnings from racing as well as from various Texas oil and gas holdings, all part of the Warren Wright Sr. trust. Despite this, and despite the fact that Alydar had become a money-making machine at stud, Calumet became plunged into debt for the first time in its history. The farm was mortgaged heavily twice, most recently in October 1990, the latter backed with a $44.75 million loan from the First City, Texas bank.
A lot of the money, perhaps as much as $30 million, was used to buy half-ownerships in the stallions Secreto and Mogambo, both of whom have so far been disappointing as sires. Lundy was also investing in broodmares at a time when changes in the federal tax laws had eliminated the incentives buyers had traditionally enjoyed, thereby knocking the bottom out of the thoroughbred market. As Robey sees it, Lundy was an aggressive businessman who was a victim of timing.
Lundy's detractors claim that he was a loose cannon. "He operated it more as a personal thing instead of as a corporate head," says John T. Ward Jr., who was installed as Calumet's chief operating officer on April 3 of this year. Some loans Lundy had guaranteed personally; others he guaranteed in the name of the farm. Lundy was also secretive, generally avoiding the media and rarely giving interviews. One horseman, citing the guardhouse and the wrought-iron gate that Lundy had installed at Calumet, said, "I felt like I was looking at the wall cutting oil" East Germany."
Lundy's defenders say that he was only doing what the Wright family wanted him to do, and they point out that at no time during his tenure did Lexington's Commerce National Bank, the trustee for about two thirds of the Wright trust, overrule or even question his decisions. Others say the family rejected the bank's involvement. "The family wanted Calumet to be returned to a first-class farm, and he did that," Robey says. "But these things are not cheap. They don't come free."
Calumet's finances didn't collapse until Alydar had to be destroyed last Nov. 15 after breaking his leg in a stall accident. Alydar's offspring include not only Strike the Gold but also Alysheba, Easy Goer, Criminal Type and Turkoman, four of the greatest runners of recent years. The stallion was the farm's meal ticket: In the '80s, he had brought as much as $300,000 a breeding session. Says Ward, "Alydar was the steam engine that was able to generate the massive amounts of cash that we needed to service the [Calumet] debt."
Of all the controversial things that Lundy did, the one that most displeased racing purists was the way he managed Alydar. He sometimes bred the stallion to more than 90 mares a year, about twice the norm, and he further dismayed Alydar's fans by breeding him to a few quarter-horse mares.
"I was offended, yes," says Veitch. "They had a great stallion, and instead of breeding him to a select group of high-quality mares, they were jeopardizing his life by breeding him so much. I guess nobody realized how badly they needed the cash. Everything was a house of cards based on Alydar, and when he died, it all collapsed."