NEW YORK - Every move Big Brown makes tomorrow will be analyzed as the colt races for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes. But in Big Brown's next career, other moves will be followed even more closely.
Here's the evidence: War Emblem, the 2002 winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, now a stallion in Japan, is "responding well to therapy for a breeding behavior dysfunction," according to a specialist at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center who has been consulting on his case.
War Emblem's big problem? He's been too choosy.
War Emblem "has had fertile sperm, but for several years has remained selective about which mares he would cover," explained New Bolton's Sue McDonnell, stallion behavior and breeding management specialist, considered the leading expert in her field.
"He hadn't mounted a single mare in the last two years."
McDonnell's best theory: "He's waiting for the perfect moment, when the mare is close to ovulation. He's a very smart stallion. Stallions who breed out in the wild, they're very good to wait for when the mare is really, really ready."
However, War Emblem's owners would like a few more colts, since the first few have raced well. War Emblem lives at the Shadai Stallion Station in Hokkaido, Japan.
Despite being 9 years old, War Emblem had become "clearly intimidated by all the stallions over there," McDonnell said. Part of the solution was to get him away from the other stallions. "They had to set up a place where he could have mares all around him, where he could have his own little breeding farm," she said.
Another part of the solution was "carefully managed hormone supplementation, as needed, to boost libido to reduce his mare choosiness while his confidence builds."
War Emblem hasn't completely lost his choosiness, but over the last two weeks, he has mated with one or two mares a day, McDonnell said. "In the last few days, he's been consistently two a day. ... I sure don't know how horses think about these matters, but observations of his behavior indicate that War Emblem appears to be quite enthused about his new direction."