War Emblem, the champion 3-year-old male of 2002 and pensioner at Old Friends Equine Thoroughbred retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky., was gelded to comply with national and state import regulations.
The 17-year-old son of Our Emblem was retired to Old Friends after standing his entire career at stud in Japan. Import regulations require incoming stallions to test-breed two mares to determine if they carry contagious equine metritis (CEM), a bacteria mainly spread through semen that has been largely eradicated in the U.S., but can be hard to detect and control if an outbreak occurs. Primarily seen in equines, the disease can have a negative impact on fertility for both stallions and mares.
War Emblem was famously reluctant to breed mares during his time at stud in Japan, and after a month in the quarantine barn at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., the stallion had failed to cover a single mare.
"While it is clear that War Emblem, as a retired resident of Old Friends, would never be called upon to breed, the [United States Department of Agriculture] is still obligated to consider that an intact stallion carrying CEM could get loose and inadvertently breed a mare or dispel the disease via human interaction with infected semen," Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends, said in a statement. "If the disease should again became widespread in the United States, the horse industry could suffer considerable economic losses.
"After much deliberation with the USDA, consultation with several veterinarians, and with all other options exhausted, it was decided that the stallion War Emblem be castrated to comply with Kentucky and USDA import regulations," he continued.
The procedure was performed at Old Friends by Rood & Riddle's Dr. Brad Tanner, with assistance from Dr. Colt Daugherty. Blowen said the farm's resident veterinarian, Dr. Bryan Waldridge, called upon his mentor, prominent equine anesthesiologist Dr. Hui-Chu Lin of Auburn University, to administer the anesthesia, along with associate Glen Sellers.
"War Emblem has responded like the champion he is," Blowen said. "He is fully recovered, and we are hopeful that gelding him will allow him lead a more relaxed and peaceful life in retirement, one that he so richly deserves. Old Friends wishes to thank all the veterinarians whose combined expertise resulted in a safe, successful procedure and subsequent recovery."
War Emblem, the winner of the 2002 Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Haskell Invitational, stood his entire career in Japan for the Yoshida family's Shadai Stallion Station, debuting at stud in 2003.
Great lengths were taken to boost War Emblem's libido during his 13 seasons at stud, including therapy led by stallion behavior specialists, allowing War Emblem to choose his own mates, and moving him from Shadai's main stallion complex to the smaller and quieter Northern Farm.
Those efforts were largely unfruitful, with just four foals produced from his first crop and 119 foals in total, averaging out to about nine per breeding season. Shadai Farm staff said the stallion refused to cover any mares in his final years at stud, with his last registered offspring being born in 2012.
Frustratingly, the relative handful of foals War Emblem did sire turned out to be successful runners, with 80 winners from 111 starters and combined progeny earnings of $35,300,307.
War Emblem's top runner was Robe Tissage, Japan's champion 2-year-old filly of 2012. Other successful offspring include Japanese Group 3 winners King's Emblem and War Tactics, and stakes winners Civil War, Black Emblem, Danon Programmer, Clan Emblem, Shonan Alba, and Air Pascale.