New Zealand's greatest racehorse Lazarus has been sold to a North American syndicate in a record deal and will not race here again.
The $3.8 million earner will leave for the US on May 24 where he will be aimed at a possible four-race mini career in an attempt to secure a major win there to help his dual hemisphere stallion credentials.
While the exact price is confidential, the Herald estimates it must be close to $4m when the other public offer for the five-year-old stallion is taken into account.
Lazarus has been purchase by US thoroughbred breeding giant Taylor Made Stallions, a Kentucky-based operation run by the Taylor brothers, who started their racing lives in harness racing but have concentrated on thoroughbred breeding and yearling preparation for the last three decades.
It is believed they have recently reignited their interest in standardbred breeding by purchasing at least part of champion US trotter What The Hill but the Lazarus deal, put together by South Auckland agent John Curtin, breaks new ground.
While North America's best horses shuttling here to stand at stud in their off-season is common, trying to turn an Australasian standardbred into a dual hemisphere stallion is extremely rare.
Christian Cullen stood one season at stud in the US but without having raced there was never going to be hugely commercial.
Lazarus will be given his chance with two races at the famous Red Mile track in October targeted as well as the Breeders Crown at Pocono, a series his new connections would need to pay a supplementary payment to make him eligible for.
But he will head to the US without his champion trainer Mark Purdon, with two of North America's leading trainers apparently in the frame to take over his training.
If, and it is a big if, Lazarus could win a serious race in the US and pace a super fast mile he has the attributes to become that rare dual hemisphere stallion.
In his 45-start career he has proven to be one of the greatest stayers bred in this part of the world, with some remarkable wins in two New Zealand Cups, an Inter Dominion, Hunter and Victoria Cups.
But just as importantly from a stallion appeal point of view, he was a sensational 2 and 3-year-old, suggesting his stock will have the natural speed to run early.
And he is bred on Australasia's golden cross, being by breed-defining stallion Bettors Delight out of a Christian Cullen mare.
The one down side to that is he obviously can't serve Bettors Delight mares, who could be the dominant broodmare bunch in Australasia over the next decade.
Details on where he will stand and for which studs in either hemisphere are yet to be decided.
His departure will sadden many local harness racing fans as it means Lazarus will not get the chance to attempt a third New Zealand Cup win at Addington in November.
And with several other high profile retirements or exports in the last year — Smolda, Heaven Rocks, Vincent being the biggest — next season's open class pacing ranks looks the most open in a decade.
Breeding: 5h Bettors Delight-Bethany
Trainers: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen.
Record: 45 starts, 35 wins, nine placings.
Highlights: New Zealand Cup (twice), Inter Dominion, Hunter Cup, Victoria Cup, Chariots Of Fire, Messenger, Taylor Mile, New Zealand, Northern and Victoria Derbys, Harness Jewels 2-yo, Sires' Stakes Final 3-y-o.