John Henry: The People’s Champion

John Henry: The People’s Champion

0 0
Read Time:8 Minute, 45 Second

Within the lengthy and colourful historical past of Thoroughbred racing there’s a wealth of heartwarming tales, however few can match the exhilarating rags-to-riches saga of John Henry.

In a profession that spanned 1977 to 1984, the gallant gelding raced 83 occasions and developed from a claimer into an immensely well-liked two-time Horse of the Yr. He received 17 Grade 1 stakes throughout eight years of racing that noticed him rise from a $1,100 yearling buy to a horse that received 39 races and set the game’s all-time earnings report (since surpassed) of $6,597,947 – each penny of it earlier than the introduction of the Breeders’ Cup and its million-dollar purses.

He raced at 19 completely different tracks – together with one in Japan – and have become essentially the most beloved horse of his period in a profession that was nothing in need of legendary.

For a future champion and Corridor of Famer, John Henry rose from extremely humble roots.

He was a son of Ole Bob Bowers, an obscure sire who as soon as bought for $900. His son out of the Double Jay mare As soon as Double appeared equally pedestrian.

Apart from his discount basement pedigree, John Henry had conformation points and was undersized. There was little to love about him when he got here into the gross sales ring as a yearling on the 1976 Keeneland January combined sale, particularly since he had blood on his brow after banging his head in his stall.

John Callaway wound up paying a mere $1,100 for a horse that, within the phrases he later informed Sports activities Illustrated, “regarded like a drowned rat with blood operating off his brow.”

Callaway had the colt for a brief time frame, however noticed sufficient of the rambunctiousness in him to call the horse John Henry in honor of the fabled “steel-driving man.” Tales had been informed that younger John Henry, the horse, would rip metal feed and water buckets off the wall of his stall and stomp them flat.

Callaway finally entered the unraced John Henry in one other sale the place he was bought by Harold Snowden Jr. for $2,200. Neither vendor nor purchaser had the slightest clue of the greatness destined for the horse.

“After I bought him, it was 10 levels beneath zero and there was no one there,” Callaway stated in an interview with the Lexington Herald-Chief throughout the Nineteen Eighties. “Nobody dreamed he’d have means. I chortle. However I need to cry.”

John Henry was finally gelded in a bid to mood his cantankerous habits and he made his racing debut on Might 20, 1977, when he received a four-furlong maiden race at Jefferson Downs.

He misplaced his subsequent three begins, however then received an allowance race at Evangeline Downs and two races later he captured the Lafayette Futurity. That stakes win, although, could be adopted by a chronic dropping streak that reached 10 straight begins.

Every little thing modified, nevertheless, when he was bought sight unseen in Might 1978 for $25,000 to Sam Rubin, who operated underneath the desk title of Dotsam Steady, which comprised the primary names of Rubin and his spouse, Dorothy.

John Henry was turned over to coach Robert Donato. He made his first begin for Rubin on Might 21, 1978, and paid a fast dividend when he took a $25,000 claiming race at Aqueduct.

Shortly after that, Donato made one of the crucial astute selections in racing historical past. Donato believed John Henry had a future on turf and entered him a $35,000 claimer on grass at Belmont Park.

There had been no takers that day, fortunately for Rubin and Donato, as John Henry romped to a 14-length victory.

He would by no means be seen in a claiming race once more.

He received an allowance race in subsequent begin and shortly was racing in grass stakes. In his fourth strive at a stakes occasion on turf, he demolished eight rivals by 12 lengths within the Grade 3 Spherical Desk Handicap at Arlington Park.

The legend was beginning to develop.

In 1979, John Henry was transferred to coach V.J. “Lefty” Nickerson and later that 12 months he was shipped out to California and turned over to coach Ron McAnally. Underneath McAnally’s care, a great horse blossomed into an ideal one. John Henry had two seconds and a win in his first three begins for McAnally after which reeled off six straight wins, all of them in graded stakes and three of them in Grade 1s.

He returned to New York within the fall of 1980 and received the Grade 3 Brighton Seaside Handicap for Nickerson. In a testomony to his versatility, John Henry returned to filth within the Grade 1 Jockey Membership Gold Cup at Belmont Park and completed second to 1980 Belmont Stakes winner Temperence Hill as a 3-5 favourite.

In recognition of his accomplishments, John Henry was named the champion turf male of 1980 and obtained the primary of seven Eclipse Awards (together with two Horse of the Yr titles).

The following 12 months, 1981, was arguably John Henry’s finest. On the age of 6, he began 10 occasions, received eight races, together with six occasions in Grade 1 stakes. Foremost among the many Grade 1 efforts was a victory within the Jockey Membership Gold Cup when he prevailed by a head over one other ex-claimer, Peat Moss, in traditional duel to the end line. Stress-free, the champion older feminine of 1981, was third that day.

But it was John Henry’s one ungraded victory in 1981 that cemented his status as a folks hero even larger than his fictional namesake.

The inaugural Arlington Million was a nationwide televised showcase for John Henry in opposition to worldwide competitors. It was america versus the world, and John Henry proved to be the All-American hero as he engaged in a livid stretch duel with The Bart and prevailed by a nostril.

At 12 months’s finish, John Henry was rewarded with Horse of the Yr laurels, turning into the primary unanimous recipient of the award.

As time handed, John Henry continued to construct his fame and fan base. Every of his races was a blockbuster occasion.

His 7-year-old marketing campaign featured a second triumph within the Santa Anita Handicap and the second of his three victories within the Oak Tree Invitational.

At 8, he raced solely 5 occasions and received the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup.

As John Henry turned 9 in 1984, racing entered a pivotal 12 months. The Breeders’ Cup was scheduled to debut in November at Hollywood Park and the business was hopeful that its greatest star would make the brand new collection a smashing success.

The impediment was that due to his obscure breeding John Henry was not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup and it will value Rubin $400,000 to complement him to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf.

John Henry did his half to place racing within the nationwide headlines that 12 months because the veteran runner put collectively a sensational marketing campaign.

After losses within the Santa Anita Handicap and San Luis Rey, John Henry received three of his subsequent 4 races after which received his second Arlington Million, beating a subject that included Royal Heroine, who would later win the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Mile, and 1982 Kentucky Derby winner Gato del Sol.

John Henry received the Grade 1 Turf Basic at Belmont, and was then pointed to the $400,000 Ballantine’s Scotch Basic on the Meadowlands in what loomed because the race that might propel him to the Breeders’ Cup.

John Henry received the Ballantine’s by 2 ¾ lengths, pocketing an additional $500,000 in bonus cash for successful the Turf Basic and Ballantine’s, and afterwards Rubin reluctantly agreed to make an preliminary cost of $133,000 to run John Henry within the Breeders’ Cup.

But it surely by no means occurred.

John Henry suffered strained ligament in his left foreleg and his season was over.

In an indication of the deep respect for him, even after the spectacle of the Breeders’ Cup, 1984 Horse of the Yr honors went to the gelding, who was not at Hollywood Park for the seven-race collection.

Rubin hoped to return John Henry to the races at 10 however the grand gelding suffered a tendon harm in a exercise. Rubin additionally eyed a comeback in 1986, and stated he would donate all the horse’s earnings to charity. However as soon as once more John Henry was unable to deal with the bodily toll of racing and was retired earlier than trying one other race.

Rubin despatched John Henry to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, and the gelding spent the remainder of his life there.

In retirement, the gelding was handled like royalty, and every year hundreds of tourists would come to see him.

The closing chapter in his illustrious life got here in 2007. Kidney issues and dehydration left him in failing well being and on Oct. 8 he was euthanized on the age of 32.

“All over the place he raced, his presence doubled the dimensions of a standard race observe crowd. He did a lot for racing, even after he retired, that he can be inconceivable to switch. He can be sorely missed however without end in our hearts,” stated jockey Chris McCarron, who rode John Henry within the gelding’s closing 14 races, on the time of the nice champion’s dying.

Now, greater than 35 years after his closing race, the reminiscences of John Henry nonetheless burn brightly within the minds of longtime racing followers, who will always remember the nice thrills he supplied 12 months after 12 months after 12 months.

To them, the gelding who rose from rags to riches will all the time be the folks’s champion.

Observe: This story was initially revealed in 2013 and has been up to date.

Enjoyable Information

  • In 1990, each John Henry and his coach, Ron McAnally, entered the Racing Corridor of Fame.
  • John Henry is the one two-time winner of the Arlington Million.
  • Within the Blood-Horse’s rating of the most effective horses within the twentieth Century, John Henry positioned twenty third.
  • There are statues honoring John Henry at Arlington Park, Santa Anita Park, and the Kentucky Horse Park.

0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.