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Unbeaten favorites for anything are rare, and good horses who make it to the Kentucky Derby without defeat are certainly in that category.

Private Terms was the unbeaten favorite for the 1988 Kentucky Derby, “who had a fan club you wouldn’t believe,” according to Bernie Sams from Claiborne Farm. Private Terms, who sired 23 stakes winners, was put down at Claiborne due to the infirmities of old age earlier this year. The 25-year-old son of Private Account had been pensioned from breeding after the 2006 breeding season.

But Sams noted that “there are still people who call up wanting a season to the horse. There is a really loyal fan base for Private Terms as a stallion, all coming from the Midlantic region, and it was strictly people breeding to race” because the commercial market had long ago turned its back on the solid racehorse sire.

Private Terms had a solid pedigree too, as he was by a really good stallion in Private Account (the best son of Damascus at stud) and was out of the Bold Ruler mare Laughter, a daughter of the Native Dancer mare Shenanigans, also the dam of sires Icecapade and Buckfinder, as well as the great racehorse Ruffian.

Bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Janney Jr. and raced in the name of their Locust Hill Farm, Private Terms came to the Derby 22 years ago with a perfect record of seven victories, including his two most important classic preps: the Gotham Stakes and Wood Memorial.

It was probably a saltier than average version of the Churchill Downs classic, as Private Terms finished ninth in the Derby (as the very slight 7-2 favorite over the victorious Winning Colors, who narrowly held off Claiborne’s own Forty Niner, with fast-closing Risen Star in third). In the Preakness two weeks later, Private Terms finished fourth behind Risen Star, Brian’s Time, and Winning Colors. In all, Private Terms won 12 of 17 starts and earned $1.2 million.

Private Terms entered stud in 1990, and from 17 crops he sired 667 foals and the earners of more than $27 million. As a sire, he was responsible for major winners Soul of the Matter and Afternoon Deelites . Soul of the Matter won the 1994 Super Derby and earned more than $2.3 million. Afternoon Deelites won the 1994 Hollywood Futurity and 1995 Malibu Stakes, both G1, and earned more than $1 million.

Those were the stars of his sire career, but Private Terms got a lot of good, solid racers who inspired breeders to keep coming back. Sams said that the booking staff at Claiborne “always knew Private Terms was going to have a book of 34 to 40 mares because he had the most loyal followers you’d ever imagine.”

Not a bad tribute.

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