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During a recent conversation with the renowned surgeon RS Hussain (who specializes primarily in oral reconstructive surgery for problems such as cleft palate), he expressed some rather firm opinions about breeding horses and racing them. In addition to his expertise in anatomy and surgical reconstruction, Dr Hussain is also a successful breeder. His best-known racer is the Marshua’s Dancer horse Shimatoree, who won the True North Handicap and Bay Shore Stakes, as well as running very good seconds in the Wood Memorial and Gotham.

The Doc also has what we might call a surgical sense of humor. Watch out or you might get cut!

With regard to selection of racehorses, Dr Hussain tends to go against the tide of fashion and to follow what he sees as the most rational path to success.

In regard to selecting horses on their conformation, Dr Hussain said, “I have visited the great stud farms both here and England. Many of the great stallions would not pass the conformation test of the sales! And yet these stallions were the very top horses in their racing careers. There are too many stories of horses who were less than perfect, with conformational alignment or construction that the experts would not accept, but these horses still did great on the race track.

“Oh, let me tell you a story about a great horse: John Henry. He was not only small but also back at the knee. A top bloodstock agent named Akiko McVarish bought him twice and sold him both times because her vet said he would never stand training. Well, the second time, she sold the horse to Bubba Snowden, who in turn sold the horse to a neophyte named [Sam] Rubin from New York, whose expertise was in bicycles. Well as we all know, John Henry ran quite a few times and retired sound.”

John Henry (b g 1975, by Ole Bob Bowers x Once Double, by Double Jay) raced eight seasons, made 82 starts, won 39 races, won stakes from age 2 through 9, including 16 G1 races (plus the inaugural Arlington Million that didn’t get a grade its first year), and earned $6,591,860.