Tag Archives: obituary

Farewell to an All-Time Favorite: SKIP AWAY

The late, great SKIP AWAY winning the 1997 Breeders' Cup Classic

The day came Friday that I always knew would happen many years in the future:  SKIP AWAY passed away at the age of 17.

SKIP AWAY won the 1996 Blue Grass Stakes and then went into that year’s Kentucky Derby as one of the favorites.  That is when I first heard of the big grey colt with the red and yellow blinkers that made him stand out like a knight’s horse among the other bays and chestnuts.  His running style was unique — an animated, high-stepping gait not unlike a carousel horse.  As a 14-year-old girl fond of both knights and carousels, I was in love with Skip Away. Even though Skippy didn’t win the Derby that year, he had an even more profound impact on me than the Genesis Derby Pick, Thunder Gulch.

Where Thunder Gulch made his TV debut in the Triple Crown races, he dropped off of my six-channel radar shortly after.  He didn’t run in that year’s Breeders’ Cup.  He didn’t race as a 4yo.  SKIP AWAY was that increasingly rare horse who raced at the top level and remained there for many years.  Each time there was a race on TV, Skip Away was usually in it.  And he almost always won.

My exposure to racing was confined to whatever was broadcast on network TV in those days, since Memphis is basically the Death Valley of the sport.  Even though it is only 2hrs from Oaklawn, it might as well be on the moon for how much interest there is in thoroughbreds (I do believe reruns of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air beat the KY Derby in ratings).  I got to know the races beyond the Triple Crown because of Skip Away.  It was only when Skippy beat him that I first heard of Cigar.

The 1997 Breeders’ Cup Classic was my favorite up until 2009.  Skip Away simply outclassed and out ran the rest of the field, and he was FAST, too – his time of 1:59 for the 1 1/4 miles was the Classic record until 2004.  I loved Skippy, his owners Sonny and Caroline Hine, and his BC jockey Mike Smith.  This was also the year of Silver Charm, but even that grey Derby winner just didn’t capture me like Skip Away did.  I had a Skip Away birthday cake and even named my bike after him.  Breyer probably has a file of letters from me begging them to create Skippy in plastic.

Shortly after the ’97 Breeders’ Cup, I got the internet.  When asked to choose a screen name for an early racing bulletin board, I went with my favorite race horse, Skip Away (+ my year of high school graduation — this has made me feel old since 2004). That bulletin board was home of many a heated argument over the 1997 Horse of the Year, which makes RA vs Z seem like a friendly disagreement.

Unlike so many top handicap horses, Skip Away remained in training after his Classic win, and his owners actually pointed him for a repeat in ’98.  With my new access to racing information, I was able to find out when Skip Away was racing next, who he was facing, and by how many lengths his victory was within moments of the race!  Within a day I could usually find the race replay itself (though it took ages to load on pre-YouTube dial-up sites!).  It was amazingly awesome for a 14 year old, horse-crazy girl.

I also grew to love the horses Skippy left in his wake: Gentleman, Running Stag, Will’s Way, Formal Gold.  I couldn’t hate Formal Gold, who beat Skippy 4 times, because I knew how hard he had to run to accomplish that feat.

When Skip Away retired at the end of 1998, I vowed to visit him some day.  He stood at Hopewell Farm, not far from Three Chimneys.  As many times as I visited Silver Charm, Point Given and others, I never got to Hopewell.  It was the farm at the top of my list for future trips to the bluegrass.  It reads, “1. Hopewell, to finally see Skip Away” followed by “2. Darley to see Street Cry” and “3. Lane’s End to see Lemon Drop Kid”.

I knew Skip Away would be there no matter when I finally got there, because his owner Caroline wouldn’t have him go anywhere else.  He was only 17, so I could definitely catch him on the next trip.  He had a long life ahead.

Only, it wasn’t so far in the future.  Maybe.  This is 2010, after all, The Future.

(and that screen name seems ancient now)

Skip Away’s complete past performances.

Steve Haskin’s Skip Away memories.

Thanks for the Memories, Skippy, and God bless you & the soul of Luke Krytbosch:

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Filed under favorite races, obituary, recommended blog postings, Skip Away, video clips

Autumn

As the year winds down and the temps turn cooler, I get excited about the Breeders’ Cup and the year-end awards, the opening of Keeneland and Churchill and Oak Tree.  But this is also the time to remember the horses who have thrilled me in the past, the great champions in the autumn of their lives.  Two of those legends left this life on Tuesday, PRINCESS ROONEY and COZZENE.

Back in 1984, when they called it the BC DISTAFF, Princess Rooney won the inaugural filly/mare

Princess Rooney triumphs in the first Breeders Cup Distaff at Hollywood Park in 1984.  Photo by Tony Leonard/The Bloodhorse

Princess Rooney triumphs in the first Breeders' Cup Distaff at Hollywood Park in 1984. Photo by Tony Leonard/The Bloodhorse

championship at Hollywood Park by 7 lengths.  The race was run at the 1.25 mile distance at that time, the same as the Classic.  The grey mare covered the DIstaff distance in 2:02.2/5, a full second faster than the boys ran the Classic the same year.  Princess Rooney was expertly conditioned by trainer Neil Drysdale for owner Paula Tucker.  She was voted Eclispe champion older mare for 1984, over Life’s Magic.

The Eclipse was a well-deserved trophy for the multiple-graded stakes winner, who also won the 1983 Kentucky Oaks.  Though she was a terror on the track, her progeny couldn’t live up to her golden standard.

Princess Rooney was diagnosed with EPM earlier this summer, and though she was given the best care at Rood&Riddle, her condition didn’t improve.  She will be missed.

Cozzene and Gainesway.  Photo from Thoroughbred Times

Cozzene and Gainesway. Photo from Thoroughbred Times

The year after Princess Rooney’s romp in the Distaff, COZZENE won the second Breeders’ Cup MILE.  I always like watching this race because halfway through, the huge flock of birds engulfs the screen, and the camera angle warps your perspective, and it appears as though the horses have taken flight.  It’s awesome.  At his retirement, Cozzene became a prominent sire of stakes winners, including a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.  The grey horse by Caro was owned by the potentate of the turf, John Nerud, and trained by his son, Jan.

Cozzene sired Alphabet Soup, winner of the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic, as well as Tikkanen, ’94 Turf winner, and 81 other stakes winners.  Cozzene stood at Gainesway Farm in KY his entire stud career.   

This weekend, 2 of my watch horses run at Keeneland: LICKETY LEMON in the QEII Cup and COWBOY CAL in the Bryan Station Stakes.  Lemon is a big longshot; they didn’t even mention her in the write-up at BloodHorse.com!  But for loyal readers of The Infield, this filly is a wonder on poly, especially the longer distances.  Storm Mesa will try to recapture her west coast form here.  BH likes Ariege.

Cowboy Cal hasn’t run since the Derby, but after a long break, he’s back!  He’s been working a lot, so I hope he’s ready for this.  There’s a security guard I know who’s rooting for him.

One last thing:  I am always looking for more awesome things to do for this blog (I haven’t forgotten the Infield Experience photos…those will be coming up soon) and I think I have hit the motherlode: BREEDERS’ CUP LIVE BLOG!!  Tell your friends!

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Filed under Blogroll, Breeders' Cup, live blogging, obituary, Underrated Racehorses

GENUINE RISK — Derby’s Grand Dame Dies at 31

Genuine Risk at 30 in 2007, relaxing at Newstead Farm/photo from NewYorkTimes

Genuine Risk at 30 in 2007, relaxing at Newstead Farm/photo from NewYorkTimes

1980 Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk died at her home in Virginia today.  She was 31, and the oldest living Derby winner.  The daughter of Exclusive Native competed in all 3 Triple Crown races that year, finishing 2nd in both the Preakness and Belmont.

She produced only 2 foals, neither of whom raced, but she has left a lasting legacy on the turf.  Her Derby win was the 1st for a filly since Regret in 1915, and no other filly would win again until Winning Colors in ’88.  She ran a hard-fought battle in the Preakness against Codex, where many fans felt rough riding by Codex’s jockey cost Genny the race.  I just rewatched the race, and while Codex swung out wayy wide on the final turn, it didn’t look like he bumped or touched the filly.  The biggest question I have from seeing it is how good would Codex have been if he hadn’t drifted out?  The filly still put in a valiant effort to place.  Her runner-up finish to Temperance Hill was also spectacular, as those two struggled in the slop to pass Rockhill Native.  On a fast track, would Genny have been the 80’s Rags?

At 4, Genuine Risk raced 3 times in allowance company before a knee injury led to her retirement.  Her broodmare career was anticlamatic: she produced only 2 foals after many unsuccessful tries, including a cover by Secretariat.  Genuine Reward, her first foal by Rahy, was born in 1993; he now stands at stud in Wyoming. 

Genuine Risk lived her final years at Bert Firestone’s Newstead Farm in VA.  She was a grand dame of the turf and will be missed. 

The torch has now been passed to Alysheba, who, at 24, is the Oldest Living Kentucky Derby Winner.

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Last Call for Luke Kruytbosch, Churchill Announcer

I’m just floored.  Kruytbosch was a great caller, good voice, always got the crowd excited.  I looked forward to hearing him each time I went to the track, like I looked forward to the genuine mint julips.  He was only 46.  Just yesterday, I was listening to him call the Ellis Park races on TVG, and Mom said, “He sounds familiar!”  I said, yep, he called the races in Kentucky.  Here’s his call of this year’s Humana Distaff, featuring 2favorites, Hystericalady and Intagaroo:

Even worse, this probably mean Mike Battaglia will be calling for Churchill in the fall.  Gahh…

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Filed under Churchill Downs, obituary