John Henry

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
— Sir Winston Churchill

On the evening of October 8, 2007, the great race horse, John Henry was euthanized at Kentucky Horse Park, going peacefully to sleep while surrounding by his caretakers. At the ripe old age of 32 and a half, the body of this this legendary racer was failing and it no longer seemed to right to keep him alive.

John Henry was a cantankerous old guy, widely known to be rough on his handlers and others around him.  At times he appeared to enjoy being shown off to his admirers during his “retirement” to Kentucky Horse Park.  On the track, he found his stride late in his career winning his most prestigious races at the ripe old age of 8 and 9.  These included several Grade I stakes, most on the turf with rider Chris McCarron.

John Nicholson, the executive directory of Kentucky Horse Park, where John Henry lived out the last 22 years of his life, stated:

“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 man.”

John Henry was foaled on March 9, 1975 in Kentucky, sired by Ole Bob Bowers out of Once Double. He was a late bloomer but fierce competitor on the race track. His accomplishments included:

  • Lifetime record: 83 starts – 39 wins – 15 place – 9 show
  • His first start was May 20, 1977 where he won a four furlong Maiden Special Weight at Jefferson Downs, Louisiana.
  • His final race was October 13, 1984 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. He won the Ballantine Handicap at a mile and three-eights on the turf with Chris McCarron aboard.
  • Over $6.5 million in earnings at a time when million dollar stakes races were few and far between.
  • 16 Grade I stakes victories.
  • Seven Eclipse Awards, two of them being Horse of the Year titles.
  • Only horse to win Horse of the Year more than once in nonconsecutive years.
  • Oldest horse ever to win Horse of the Year at 9 (very old for a race horse).
  • Inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1990.


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