Two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T) winner and Hall of Famer Lure—whose brilliant turf career was inspired by an afterthought—died the morning of Nov. 15 due to the infirmities of old age. The son of Danzig was 28.
Bred by Claiborne Farm in partnership with The Gamely Corp. and campaigned by the farm along with Nicole Gorman, Lure captured the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 1992 and 1993, highlighting a career that saw him win 14 of 25 career starts. He was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2013, but were it not for a brief rough patch during his 3-year-old season, his great turf career might have never materialized.
Out of the Alydar mare Endear, Lure began his career on the main track with promise, most notably finishing in a dead-heat with Devil His Due for the victory in the 1992 Gotham Stakes (G2). Following a sixth-place finish in the Riva Ridge Stakes (G3) two starts later, his Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey took the bay colt to Saratoga Race Course to train him on the grass in hopes of injecting new life into form that was going stagnant.
“I remember telling Seth (Hancock of Claiborne), ‘Let me take him up to Saratoga where I could train him on the grass … and see if that changes him around,’ ” McGaughey recalled of Lure. “I remember Seth was up there that first weekend and he came around the barn and said ‘All your horses look good Shug, except for Lure.’ I said ‘I know it, but let’s see what happens when I get to training him on the turf all the time.’ ”
The result was one of North America’s leading turf milers.
After winning an allowance race by 10 1/4 lengths in his grass debut at Belmont Park in September of 1992, Lure ran second in the Kelso Handicap (G3T) prior to shipping to Gulfstream Park for a gate-to-wire, three-length triumph in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile over a field that included Paradise Creek and Fourstars Allstar.
Of the 63 Breeders’ Cup starters McGaughey has saddled in a storied career—which includes such all-timers as Personal Ensign and Inside Information—he is hard-pressed to recall one that touted what they were about to do in the manner Lure did that afternoon.
“We took him to Florida and everything changed,” McGaughey said. “He went down there, I think 10 days, two weeks in advance, and I think with the warm weather and training him on the turf, whatever kinks might have been bothering him went away. When I got him down there, he couldn’t have done any better.
“To this day, I don’t think when he ran in the (1992) Breeders’ Cup that I had ever, or have ever, presented a horse as good as that horse looked in the paddock. He had an inside post and … it was history from there.”
Lure’s 4-year-old season was an exceptional continuation of that budding ability. He won six of eight starts—with each of those victories coming at different tracks—and headed to the 1993 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park as the overwhelming pick to join fellow future Hall of Famer Miesque as the only two-time winners of the Mile. Even an outside post couldn’t deter that fate, with jockey Mike Smith getting Lure forwardly placed once more en route to a 2 1/4-length triumph.
“In the second Breeders’ Cup Mile, when he drew outside, there were a lot of naysayers who said he couldn’t do it from there, but everything fell into place for him,” Claiborne’s Dell Hancock told BloodHorse. “He was just brilliant when he was right and he was certainly a wonderful end to a wonderful chapter in Claiborne history. Now he’ll be remembered as being in the Hall of Fame. The Breeders’ Cup wins helped get him there, and now he has his place in history.”
Lure won three more graded stakes in his 5-year-old season, including the 1994 Caesars International Handicap (G1T), but was hindered by a lingering quarter crack heading into that year’s Mile, where he finished ninth.
“He ended up getting a quarter crack that we fought the whole time… but we were just hoping against hope in the Breeders’ Cup,” McGaughey said. “He was a very, very good horse. He liked firm turf and he was just fast. He meant a lot to me at that time and he still does.”
Lure retired with $2,515,289 in earnings.
Retired to stud at Claiborne Farm, Lure sired 119 foals, including three graded or group winners among his six stakes winners before being pensioned in 2004 because of fertility issues. His most successful offspring were Irish champion and French group 1 winner Orpen from his first crop and grade 1 winner England’s Legend from his second.
Lure will be buried at his birthplace, Claiborne Farm, near Paris, Ky.
“Obviously Claiborne will give him a good spot for all eternity, and well deserved of it,” McGaughey said.