Fourteen years after winning the Preakness Stakes, Red Bullet is enjoying retired life at Adena Springs (Photo by Melissa Bauer-Herzog).
Known mostly as the horse who beat Fusaichi Pegasus, Red Bullet was much more than that for Adena Springs, both on and off the track.
The winner of his first three starts, including a victory in the Gotham Stakes, Red Bullet had a score to settle after losing to Fusaichi Pegasus in the Wood Memorial Stakes. But that rematch wouldn’t come in the Kentucky Derby as owner-breeder Frank Stronach decided it was in the best interest of the horse to skip the Derby.
“The commitment to the horse was shown because he could have very easily been entered in the Derby, but Mr. Stronach always wanted to put the horse first,” said Eric Hamelback, the current general manager of Adena Springs. “He chose to give him the break and give him the rest and bring him back in the Preakness and not come back too quickly just because it’s ‘the Derby.’ He’s always thinking about the horse first.”
Fusaichi Pegasus won the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in March by 1 ½ lengths while Red Bullet waited for the May 20 rematch in the Preakness Stakes.
Although bettors made Fusaichi Pegasus the overwhelming favorite in the Preakness, they didn’t completely forget about Red Bullet as he went off as the second choice at 6.20-to-1 odds. What happened in the 1:56.04 after the starting gate opened was the perfrmance that defined Red Bullet’s career.
2000 PREAKNESS STAKES
Red Bullet settled in second to last and wasn’t seen closer to the leader than sixth during the first three calls in the race. But near the top of the stretch, he seized the lead and wasn’t going to let it go, pulling away to win by 3 ¾ lengths.
Fusaichi Pegasus held on to second by a head. It was the last time the rivals would meet on the track.
Hamelback credits that victory for the fan popularity that Red Bullet still sees today.
“He’s been always a popular horse because the horse that he beat was considered to be, at the time, the horse that was going to return to the Triple Crown circle. He beat Fusaichi Pegasus in the Preakness and that, much like Alphabet Soup beating Cigar [in the Breeder’s Cup Classic], was his signature moment,” he said.
Red Bullet skipped the Belmont Stakes as his connections thought it would be in the best interest of his development since he had only been racing for five months. His final start of the year came in the Dwyer Stakes, where he ran an uncharacteristically bad third as the heavy favorite, which was the start of a summer of bad luck. The colt ran into illnesses as he tried to continue his 3-year-old campaign but after finding the indication of a possible fracture in his front leg that August, Red Bullet was forced to the sidelines until the following summer.
PAT DAY CELEBRATES AFTER WINNING THE PREAKNESS STAKES ON RED BULLET
Photo by HorsePhotos
Red Bullet won his return at Saratoga impressively in late July 2001 but didn’t find the winner’s circle again that year, finishing third and fifth in the Cigar Mile and Woodward Stakes, respectively.
Red Bullet raced three times as a 4-year-old and it was somewhat of a surprise to see the classic winner come back at five.
Red Bullet started his 5-year-old season in the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap, in which he was in front for part of the race before just getting beat by Sir Bear. He followed that up with another second in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, but after a rough run he was disqualified to fourth. It was only the second time the horse finished out of the top three in his career. After another off the board finish in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, Red Bullet was sent to the sidelines again until that November.
Just like his previous return, Red Bullet came back a winner in the Foggy Road Stakes. His final start was in the 2002 Cigar Mile, a race in which he had finished third the year before, but Red Bullet did not fire and finished seventh.
In a 14-start career that spanned three seasons, Red Bullet won six of his starts and placed in four others, only finishing off the board four times and winning a race every year he ran. The Preakness winner retired with $1,161,920 in earnings and was sent to Adena Springs to stand at stud.
RED BULLET WINNING AT SARATOGA IN JULY 2001
Photo by Horsephotos.com
Red Bullet entered stud for a fee of $30,000 and it was quickly found that the stallion had fertility issues. He only had 58 foals in his first crop but his foals came out running with 24 of his 39 foals to hit the track winning at least one race and three going on to win stakes races. In addition, Forty Zip became a three-time champion internationally.
With only seven crops on the ground, Red Bullet was pensioned in 2011 due to declining fertility. He sired 197 foals with 145 of them making it to the track and 106 winning for a 73-percent winners-to-starters ratio. There’s no denying that Red Bullet’s stud career showed promise as he produced 12 stakes winners and two champions, including 2008 Canadian Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet.
“Although his fertility was very poor from the beginning, he had some amazing statistics when you compare numbers and runners to winners,” Hamelback said. “Having a $2 million 2-year-old back in  was huge. But he has maintained his place with the fans and we’re glad to still keep him here, still have his stall plate up, bring him out when we have stallion shows and remind people of what a great racehorse he was.”
While Hamelback admits it will be hard for Red Bullet’s legacy to stand out among the other Unbridled sons standing at stud due to his low numbers, his daughters are doing their best carrying on where their sire left off.
As of March 25, from 29 horses to race, 19 foals out of Red Bullet’s daughters have won races with three of them winning stakes races. Two of those winners are recognizable names for newer fans. Regalo Mia was a graded stakes winner last year on the turf and Poker Player, who spent time on the Kentucky Derby trail this year, won last year’s Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland Race Course.
Red Bullet’s success as a broodmare sire so far is even more impressive when one realizes that his first crop of foals is only 10 years old.
Red Bullet is still enjoying the good life at Adena Springs in Paris, Ky., even three years after retirement and has the good temperament to match his idyllic suroundings.
RED BULLET AT ADENA SPRINGS
“His paddock is down toward the road … and he’s not one that feels the need to come up. He likes to be outside and when they do come to get him, he’s a little methodical coming in like ‘You know, I’m pretty happy out here in the paddock,’ ” Hamelback said. “He’s actually very much a loving individual. He’s one that if you start rubbing his forehead, he will come down and if you stop, he will keep rubbing it himself. You’ll have white hair all over you because he’ll stand there for quite a while if you’ll keep rubbing his forehead. But even as a stallion when he was actively breeding, he was very evenly keeled and a very good tempered horse.”
Red Bullet has a found special place in Hamelback’s heart, so he is very pleased to see what the stallion achieved both on the track and in the breeding shed.
“Many people always ask me in tours, ‘who is your favorite horse?’ or ‘do you have a favorite horse?’ and without question for me, it’s Red Bullet because when I was first hired as a yearling manager in 1997, he was in that crop,” he said. “He was the first horse short of some horses I raised at Prestonwood [Farm, now known as WinStar] that was a really big-named individual, and to have him at a young age then to see him grow into that racehorse, it’s a pretty special feeling. And my son was born in 2000, so it was a good year all the way around.”
Red Bullet played a huge part in a year that saw Frank Stronach have racing success that many only dream of. After Red Bullet’s Preakness win, Macho Uno won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Perfect Sting won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, giving Adena Springs three of the biggest race wins in the nation.
Hamelback credits the thought Stronach puts into each potential mating for the success of all three of those elite racehorses, all homebreds.
“[Red Bullet] is one of the high points in Mr. Stronach’s long list of breeding successes,” he said. “It’s a testament to how Mr. Stronach thinks about breeding and the thought process he puts into it, then ultimately what we think is giving them the best care and management to be the best racehorse they can. So he along with Ghostzapper and many others, certainly exemplify that.”
To learn more about Adena Springs and its stallions, you can visit Adenastallions.com