During the early 1960s, If you’d uttered the phrase “I gotta piss like a Russian racehorse at the Kentucky Derby with a glue truck behind it” within earshot of the Russian contingent that frequented the Washington DC International, KGB might have had your privates in a vice. Back then, in the quaint days of the USSR, the state not only controlled the Moscow Hippodrome but also the breeding industry—now privatized— and it owned the horses that made forays into foreign lands to compete when the Moscow season from May to mid-August ended. The USSR took horse racing seriously, and particularly during that time frame they made a concerted effort to win the International at Laurel with some of their best, which included the Russian Derby winners Anilin and Zabeg. This coincided with the era of Kelso, so there was plenty of international publicity for the Russians, who were a novelty here during the Cold War and attracted the attention of some society breeders.
Zabeg and Anilin were both bred by the famed Voskhod Stud, and both were proven international-quality runners. Both finished third in the International in various seasons during this time frame, and Anilin won the prestigious Preis Von Europa in Germany three consecutive years against international competition.
If you’d grown up in the 1970s like I did with an interest in pedigrees, Zabeg’s name may ring a faint bell. This Russian-bred son of the Hungarian-bred sire Baltic Baron—who traced to the top British sprinter Sundridge through his 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Sunstar—was purchased by Llangollen Farm’s Liz Tippett in a celebrated horse swap with the USSR, and she stood the horse in Florida—Yes, we’ve had a Russian Derby winner at stud here!—and Ireland. At the time of the deal, Russian horses were not recognized by the Stud Book and whether the horse would be allowed to stand at stud here was an issue. Click here to read the New York Times article that detailed the trade.