"Cock of the Walk"
Although he won purses totaling just under a cool million as a racehorse, it was after he was retired from racing that Alydar's value was fully realized. In the decade after being put out to pasture, Alydar earned tens of millions of dollars for his owners in stud fees, siring several champion thoroughbreds and far outpacing Affirmed in the studbooks. Alydar bred an average of 100 mares a year. Around the stables, he was known as the "cock of the walk."
Then on November 13, 1990, a security guard found the former champion lying on his side inside his richly appointed stall at Calumet Farm, the lower part of his right hind leg twisted and mangled, bone ripped through skin.
A top veterinary surgeon was called to the scene to repair the prize stud's leg. The operation appeared to be successful, but a day later, Alydar again broke the same leg. The new break was higher up, in the femur. This time the world's most valuable horse couldn't be saved, and his veterinarian put him down for good.
Within weeks, J.T. Lundy, the head of the storied Calumet horse farm married into the Kentucky blueblood family that owned it, filed claims to collect on the two life insurance policies he had taken out on Alydar. The payouts totaled $36.5 million, the largest death benefit ever for a horse.
That may have been the end of the story, but not everything at Calumet Farm was as it appeared to be. The legendary horse farm was deep in debt; its creditors were threatening foreclosure; and the windfall from the insurance policies was exactly what J.T. Lundy had needed to stave them off for the moment. As a result, not everyone believed Alydar's life-ending injuries were an accident.
"Suspicions started almost from day one that it was not as reported, that [Alydar] had been killed for the insurance money," said Tom Dixon, an adjuster hired by one of the companies that insured Alydar's life.
"Rumors about Calumet's troubles and Lundy's desperation started swirling through the Kentucky hills," said Dominick Dunne.