Cindy's Horse Racing Website Index
Latest Articles

 Valedictory Stakes
 Seabiscuit Handicap
 Bob Hope Stakes
 Getty Grable Stakes
 Breeders Cup Wrapup

John Henry 1975-2007

Date: 10/08/2007

John Henry at the Kentucky Horse Park in January 2006

Photos of his grave and memorials left at his stall and paddock

The horse racing community lost one of its greatest ambassadors, as 32-year-old gelding John Henry was euthanized at 7PM ET on Monday, October 8, at the Kentucky Horse Park which he called home for 22 years. Kathy Hopkins, equine director at the park, said, "After continued successful efforts to maintain the quality of John Henry's life, in the past 48 hours he did not respond to our medical intervention. Due to the loss of kidney function and muscle mass, his veterinarian, Dr. Mike Beyer, found it impossible to keep him properly hydrated and comfortable. Over the years, our goal has always been to maintain the highest quality of care and life for him, and it became evident over the weekend that this was no longer possible. Our hearts go out to all of those who so deeply cared for John during his long and charismatic life."

Bred in Kentucky by Golden Chance Farm, John Henry was foaled March 9, 1975, and was a son of Old Bob Bowers out of the Double Jay mare Once Double. For most of racing career, he was owned by Sam and Dorothy Rubin's Dotsam Stable, trained by Ron McAnally, and ridden by Chris McCarron.

In his career he won 39 of 83 races, 16 of those wins in Grade 1 competition, earning almost $6.6 million in purse money. He is best remembered as the winner of the inaugural Arlington Million in 1981 in a thrilling photo finish over The Bart, and then came back to win it again as a 9-year-old in 1984, and he is still the only 2-time winner of the world's first million dollar horse race. His seven Eclipse Awards include Horse of the year in 1981 and 1984, turf male in 1980, 1981, 1983, and 1984, and older male in 1981. After winning his last four races, closing out his career in the Ballantine Handicap at the Meadowlands, he was retired and sent to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Many fans came from around the world to see him at the Hall of Champions, and he was regularly visited by McAnally, McCarron, and exercise rider Lewis Cenicola. He was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in 1990.

John Henry at the Kentucky Horse Park in January 2006
Tom Levinson, stepson of the late owner Sam Rubin said, "John always had fire in his eyes as he circled his opponents in the paddock while they pranced, his eyes glazed with determination to win. Certainly, he was the people's hero. Sam and Dorothy loved sharing John's victories with his adoring fans, and we appreciate their devotion even to this sad day. We are sure that if Sam Rubin were here today, he and my mother, Dorothy, would agree that their wish would be for John Henry to be remembered as the mighty, cantankerous champion we all loved."

Jockey Chris McCarron said, "What can I say about the legendary John Henry that has not already been said? John meant the world to my family and me. Everywhere he raced, his presence doubled the size of a normal race track crowd. He did so much for racing, even after he retired, that he will be impossible to replace. He will be sorely missed but forever in our hearts."

John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park, said, "The mighty heart of the great John Henry has, at long last, yielded to time. The racing industry has lost a legend, but more significantly, many people have lost a personal hero. John Henry's true legacy was written in people's hearts far more indelibly than his superlative racing career could ever reflect. John Henry was a testament to the fact that a horse's value is far greater than the sum of his pedigree, conformation, sales price, and race record. Winston Churchill said that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man, but I would add that horses like John Henry prove that the inside of a horse is even better for the inside of a man. The next few days will be terribly difficult for his fans, but especially for the people here at the park who have worked with him and loved him for so long. It was our unparalleled privilege to have John Henry here living at the Kentucky Horse Park for the past 22 years."

"Against All Odds", the statue of John Henry beating The Bart in the first Arlington Million.

John Henry will be buried among the other legends, near his paddock at the Hall of Champions. The Kentucky Horse Park will hold a public memorial service on Friday, October 19.

More about John Henry:

If any of his fans have a favorite photo of him that they would like to have added to this, please email it to me and I will be glad to include it. It must be your own photo though so there are no copyright violations. Thanks!

John Henry taunts Pleasant Colony in 2000

John Henry (right) and Pleasant Colony at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2000

Eugene Viti - Everyone knows the legend of how mean John Henry was. Well in 2000, Pleasant Colony was sent to the Kentucky Horse Park due to some maladies in the hopes he would get strong and come back to the breeding shed. In short, he was there to rest and relax. Well, John Henry, who usually kept to himself in his stall, would hear people talking to and about Pleasant Colony, and come charging to the window and would nicker. Loudly!!! And Pleasant Colony would retreat to the back of his paddock. It was like he knew his place. I guess that was John Henry's way of saying, "you chickened out of the 1981 Gold Cup!!!"

Flowers and memorials left around John Henry's stall door at the Kentucky Horse Park.

John Henry's grave next to his paddock at the Horse Park and the banner on the fence for his fans to sign and leave their remembrances.

The plaque with his race record and accomplishments beside his paddock with flower memorials and a close-up of some of the signatures on the memorial banner.

Back to Horse-Races.Net main page

Want to keep up with what's new on this site?
Sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

On the Forum:

Search Horse-Races.Net:

©1994-2022,  Cindy Pierson Dulay   Privacy Policy   About Us   Search   Site Map   Add a Link   Advertisee   Suggest to a friend   RSS Feed   Follow on Twitter