When a Horse of the Year, pregnant to another Horse of the Year, gets snatched out of her field, it tends to make news.

That was very much the case when 1970 Canadian Horse of the Year Fanfreluche was stolen from Claiborne Farm in 1977. The National Sporting Library and Museum revisited the heist and the ensuing search with photos and clippings from periodicals around the time of the mare’s absence.

Fanfreluche was residing at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., in 1977, in-foal to champion Secretariat. In late June of that year, the mare went missing from her field, and a search found a hole cut in the fence of her pasture.

Authorities ranging from the Kentucky State Police to the Federal Bureau of Investigation were called in to search for the prized mare, but attempts to find her were initially unsuccessful. There was no ransom letter, and a $25,000 reward for information leading to the horse went unclaimed.

In December 1977, investigators were given a tip that a mare matched Fanfreluche’s description on the farm of Larry McPherson in rural Tompkinsville, Ky. The town near the Tennessee border is about 175 miles away from Paris. McPherson had been in possession of the mare for most of her absence from Claiborne Farm, after one of his neighbors found a stray horse near his property and assumed it had escaped.

Knowing the horse wasn’t his, McPherson gave Fanfreluche shelter and contacted local authorities to find the owner. In the meantime, McPherson occasionally used the champion mare for pleasure riding and nicknamed her “Brandy.” Fanfreluche’s identity was confirmed using her upper lip tattoo.

The McPhersons were not implicated in the mare’s theft. William Michael McCandless, who frequently ran afoul with the law, voluntarily turned himself in after an arrest warrant was issued tying him to the theft of the mare, but he initially denied any wrongdoing. McCandless was eventually convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.

Fanfreluche returned to Claiborne Farm, and had a colt in February 1978 named Sain Et Sauf, French for Safe and Sound. The mare lived to age 32, and she had 18 foals.

Read more and see photos at National Sporting Library and Museum.


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