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Racehorse John Henry Dead at 32

John Henry, the 32-year-old racehorse who was twice Horse of the Year, was euthanized today at the Kentucky Horse Park.

October 10, 2007, Update: A public memorial service will be held October 19 at 2 p.m. at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Photo by Steve Faust
John Henry in early August 2007
Photo by Steve Faust

Lexington, Ky., October 8, 2007 -- John Henry, the legendary Thoroughbred racehorse who was twice Horse of the Year, was humanely euthanized at the Kentucky Horse Park today at 7 p.m.

The sad but unanimous decision was reached by a team of people who knew him best. The park's equine director, Kathy Hopkins stated, "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."

He lived 32 1/2 years, and went peacefully surrounded by a small circle of friends who were closest to him, including Cathy Roby, who has been his friend and caretaker for 16 years and his breeder, Verna Lehmann.

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Sired by Ole Bob Bowers out of Once Double, by Double Jay, John Henry was foaled on March 9, 1975, at Golden Chance Farm in Paris, Ky.

John Henry overcame numerous obstacles throughout his career including colic surgery in 2002. His talent, determination, tenacity and toughness inspired thousands of people who didn't even see him race, but became aware of him many years after his retirement. Some of his fans visited him at least once a month from Toledo, Indianapolis, and other cities in the Midwest, while others made annual trips to his barn from California, Texas and around the world. When it recently became public knowledge that his health was in a state of decline, many of his fans immediately came to the park to thank their beloved champion for the memories and to offer their personal, final farewells.

John Henry's race record included more than $6.5 million in earnings, 39 wins including 30 stakes wins (16 Grade 1 stakes wins) and seven Eclipse Awards, including two Horse of the Year titles. He equaled a world track record for 1 1/2 miles in 2:23 at Santa Anita and was the only horse to win Horse of the Year more than once in nonconsecutive years, and the oldest horse ever to win that title--at age nine. John Henry was voted Racehorse of the Decade for the 1980s and was inducted into Racing's Hall of Fame in 1990.

"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," said John Nicholson, executive director of the park. "It was our unparalleled privilege to have John Henry living at the Kentucky Horse Park for the past 22 years."

A public memorial service will be held and will be announced by the park upon completion of the arrangements. Plans will be posted on the park's website, www.kyhorsepark.com under News & Media and the Calendar of Events. John Henry will be buried near his paddock at the Hall of Champions. Other Thoroughbred champions buried at the park include Man o' War, War Admiral, Forego, Bold Forbes, Allez France, Peteski and Jay Trump.

To read more, go to The Jurga Report where you can also share your John Henry memories in the "Comments" section.

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