Monday, April 26, 2010

Tough loss in Texas: Worldly Manner dead at 14

I'll take a minute this evening to offer my sincere condolences to an avid race fan, breeder and owner from one of my two Kansas "hometowns," Coffeyville.

Jim Percival, whose White Cat Farm partnered in standing Worldly Manner at David Bailey's Two B Rockin Ranch, near Bridgeport, Texas, lost that stallion today from an apparent heart attack while covering a mare. The good fella was just 14 years old.

I recall a couple of years ago when Jim lost his last stallion, Timetobewild, in the same fashion. That stakes-winning son of Flamingo Stakes-G1 winning Time for a Change was just 13 when he succumbed after covering a mare on Jim's own farm in Kansas. And Jim had not all that long before acquired Timetobewild to replace the late Arab Speaker, who had sired a stakes horse for Jim in Bonnie J before he passed along.

I scouted the field for stallion prospects -- on sales Web sites, in upcoming auctions and in claiming races, where so many pretty good (and intact) horses end up running out their long and successful careers when they aren't from powerhouse sirelines or the hottest-producing damlines. I made a few recommendations (including G2-placed Vinemeister, who could've been claimed on the cheap in the Mid-Atlantic at the time), but Jim opted to go into partnership on Worldly Manner.

I can't say that I blame him.

Worldly Manner was a heck of a 2-year-old. Under the guidance of Bob Baffert, he won the Del Mar Futurity-G2 and the Pest Pal S.-G3 during a stellar juvenile campaign.

Then he was bought by Godolphin and, honestly, wrecked, almost as surely as a drunk driver steering his Mustang into the ditch.

The Riverman colt (who I think might have been a better turf horse; his dam was a full sister to the dam of G1-winning grass horse River Flyer, also by Riverman) was the first of Sheikh Mohammed's big-dollar purchases (a reported $5 million) in an effort to win the Kentucky Derby after wintering in Dubai. Worldly Manner was shipped to the Middle East and inexplicably -- not to mention ill-advisedly, unwisely, insanely and just about every other negative term I can muster -- entered in the 1999 Kentucky Derby after exactly zero legit prep races at age 3. ... Nary a one. ... Other than a trial race in Dubai, Worldly Manner hadn't faced competition since winning the Del Mar Futurity in Southern California on Sept. 9 the year prior.

Yet he had talent, and guts, and as the field turned for home, Worldly Manner, ridden by Jerry Bailey, was on the lead at the top of the stretch at Churchill Downs, in America's biggest race.

Quite to be expected, he came up short, finishing seventh behind Charismatic. But he was only beaten a handful of lengths when it was said and done. Given a reasonable prep schedule coming up to the Derby, Worldly Manner might well have been a fit enough horse to finish the job.

Compounding the error, Godolphin entered him in the Preakness, and watched him finish 12th.

Sent back overseas, the horse failed to win again, making starts in Dubai and in England. His career ended with those three 2-year-old victories from 12 starts and earnings a little over a quarter-million.

After his racing career, Worldly Manner stood in Florida, California and Oklahoma prior to his acquisition by the partners who owned him at his time of death. He's sired a couple of nice horses, too, including $336K-earner Spot the Diplomat and stakes-winning hurdler Kilbride Rd.

And now Worldly Manner is gone before Jim and his partners can fully exploit his services to breed a few of their own (and for clients) to do battle among Texas-breds.

RIP, Worldly Manner. I have a hunch you were a much better horse than some of the handling you got along the way, and the reputation you were left with.

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