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John Henry

Recent headlines

John Henry's race (8/15)
Remembering John Henry (8/17)
John Henry documentary DVD released (5/19)
John Henry documentary to debut May 2 (4/22)


One of Thoroughbred Racing’s Greatest Stars, John Henry, Will be Sorely Missed

Memorial service 10/19
Floral tribute
Guest book

Kentucky Horse Park profile
John Henry wins first Arlington Million
John Henry's blog (1)
John Henry's blog (2)
Lifetime PPs from DRF

John Henry
Click to enlarge


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 7:00 pm.

John Nicholson, executive director of the park expressed, “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.” He continued, “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.”

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-and-a-half years, and went peacefully to sleep 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.

John Henry overcame numerous well-known obstacles throughout his career, and 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 pilgrimages 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 whisper their personal, final farewells to the horse who inspired great respect and ardent devotion.

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 ½ 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.

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, Kentucky.

After having passed through several owners and trainers, John Henry finally blossomed under the careful tutelage of trainer Ron McAnally, and with his owner, Sam Rubin. McAnally, who brought out the best in the horse with “carrots, apples and love,” visited John Henry many times during the horse’s retirement and had just seen him again as recently as September, and brought John’s favorite cookies and carrots to his aging protégé. Lewis Cenicola, John Henry’s exercise rider for six years, also visited the horse in September.

Tom Levinson, stepson of the late 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 the 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.”

Chris McCarron rode John Henry in 14 of his last races and has spent many hours with the horse during his 22 years at the park. Regarding the great horse’s passing, he observed, “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.”

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, 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.

Recent photos and video of John Henry can be seen on The Horse website at by searching for “Hoofing it With John Henry.” A new documentary, John Henry: An American Hero, produced by Open Sky Entertainment (Producer: Rebecca Gebhard, Directors: Chris Koby and Cameron Duddy) is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with the release date to be announced.

One of his legions of admirers, Howard McClurkin from Weatherford, Texas, summarized his and many fans’ devotion this way, “John Henry is an anchor in one’s life. When things are not going well and one needs inspiration or perhaps one just wants a moment of happiness by thinking of extraordinary accomplishments arising from such a painfully humble beginning, the thought and image of John Henry are readily at hand. He started in a hole. He started with zero and went on to lasso the stars.”

John Nicholson concluded, “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 living at the Kentucky Horse Park for the past 22 years.”

John Henry
Sire: Ole Bob Bowers
Dam: Once Double
Breeder: Golden Chance Farm
Owner: Samuel and Dorothy Rubin (Dotsam Stables)
Trainer: Ron McAnally

Life 83 39 15 9 $6,591,860
Lifetime PPs from DRF
John_Henry_early_Aug,_07_by_Steve_Faust John_Henry_by_Steve_Faust_July_07 John_Henry_early_Aug_07_by_Steve_Faust2
Click to enlarge. Photos by Steve Faust, courtesy Kentucky Horse Park

   Santa Anita to unveil statue of John Henry (12/4)

  John Henry gets lasting tribute (10/8)

   John Henry memorial statue to be unveiled (10/7)

  Not just another comeback (7/4)

   Work begins on John Henry memorial statue (3/21)

  Kentucky's newsmakers of 2007 - 4 legs, 2 legs: It's about inspiration (12/28)

  John Henry 'Moneigh' on eBay (11/27)

  HorseRacing TV produces special John Henry DVD (11/15)

  Racing great John Henry honored at memorial (10/19)

   John Henry remembered at Horse Park (10/19)

  John Henry memorial attracts 200 (10/19)

  Feeling runs high as John Henry remembered (10/19)

  Blood-Horse to publish special John Henry magazine (10/19)

  John Henry remembered at memorial service (10/19)

  HRTV to broadcast John Henry memorial service live (10/18)

  HorseRacing TV to salute John Henry Oct. 17 (10/16)

  Commentary: Old friend (10/16)

  Old Friends to help spearhead memorial for the great John Henry (10/15)

   John Henry was a very special horse (10/13)

  Caring for John Henry was a big challenge (10/12)

  Riders fondly remember John Henry (10/11)

   What made John Henry run? (10/11)

   John Henry's legacy: Anything is possible (10/10)

  Memorial service scheduled for the late Champion John Henry (10/10)

   Remembering John Henry (10/9)

  John Henry dies at age 32 (10/9)

  Honoring the life of a legend (10/9)

   John Henry, racing's ambassador (10/9)

  Steve Haskin remembers John Henry (10/9)

   Race legend John Henry dies at 32 (10/9)

  Iconic champion John Henry euthanized at Horse Park (10/8)

  Legend John Henry euthanized (10/8)

  Champion John Henry euthanized at 32 (10/8)

   Two-time Horse of the Year John Henry euthanized (10/8)



  From YouTube:

  1981 Arlington Million

  1981 Jockey Club Gold Cup

  1980 San Luis Rey Stakes

  1980 Oak Tree Invitational

  1982 Oak Tree Invitational




  John Henry fights for his life (9/28)

  Commentary: Spending time with the old man (9/24)

  John Henry sparkles in twilight (9/23)

  John Henry's health monitored after scare (9/18)

  John Henry improving from dehydration (9/18)

   John Henry undergoing dehydration treatments (9/14)

  Hoofing it with John Henry (8/15)

  At 32, John Henry's still grumpy (3/8)

   Chasing the legacy of John Henry (3/2)

  History still shines on John Henry (3/2)

  HRTV to re-air John Henry special (2/28)

  He has made it to 32! (2/22)

  John Henry has plenty left at 31 (2/28)

  John Henry party in works (2/22) - DRF

  Birthday bash for John Henry (2/21/05)

  John Henry proves that one life of substance can touch thousands (3/10)

  Fans celebrate John Henry's 30th birthday (3/10) - BH

  Happy 30th, John Henry (3/9) - DRF

   John Henry's toughness and heart recalled as gelding turns 30 (3/9) - TTimes

   John Henry turns 30 (3/9) - Chicago Tribune





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