Champion Forty Niner Dies In Japan At Age 35

Forty Niner, the champion 2-year-old of 1987 whose precocity passed on through his runners in the U.S. and Japan, died on May 18 at age 35.

Out of the stakes-winning Tom Rolfe mare File, the son of Mr. Prospector raced as a homebred for Claiborne Farm, and made an immediate impact, winning on debut, then spending the rest of his 2-year-old season taking down the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes, G1 Futurity Stakes, G1 Champagne Stakes, and G2 Breeders’ Futurity. He earned the Eclipse Award for champion juvenile of 1987, and positioned himself as a major threat to the following year’s classics under trainer Woody Stephens.

Forty Niner continued to run at a high level during the first half of his 3-year-old season, entering that year’s Kentucky Derby with wins in the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes and non-graded Lafayette Stakes, and runner-up efforts in the G1 Florida Derby, and G2 Hutcheson Stakes and Lexington Stakes.

He left the gate the Derby as the field’s third choice, going off at odds of 4.90-to-one, and the stretch drive set up as a battle between himself and the favorite – the filly Winning Colors, who had led at every point of call. Forty Niner made up nearly all of the ground in the long Churchill Downs straightaway, save for a neck, finishing second to the powerful filly.

The colt came back for the Preakness Stakes, but got a bit of time off after finishing seventh, owing to a speed duel with Derby winner Winning Colors that cost them both the race. He came back in the summer to reel off wins in the G1 Haskell Invitational Stakes, and Travers Stakes, as well as the non-graded NYRA Handicap. He finished his career running a troubled fourth in the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. He finished behind Preakness and Belmont winner Risen Star for champion 3-year-old male honors that year.

With 11 wins in 19 starts for earnings of $2,726,000, he retired to Claiborne Farm for the 1989 breeding season. He topped North America’s freshman sire list by earnings in 1992, and he’d go on to bear another leading freshman sire 1998 titleholder End Sweep.

Forty Niner’s most important contribution to the U.S. breed was twofold. On the racetrack, it was arguably Editor’s Note, who won the 1996 Belmont Stakes. In the breeding shed, it was unquestionably Distorted Humor, who has become one of the most influential sires of his generation, with runners including classic winners Funny Cide and Drosselmeyer.

Beyond Distorted Humor, Forty Niner proved himself adept at getting sons to stud, with a roster also including Coronado’s Quest, Ecton Park, Twining, Ide, Banker’s Gold, Announce, and Roar, the broodmare sire of the great Rachel Alexandra.

However, Forty Niner’s popularity was waining as the mid-1990s came along, and the stallion was sold to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association for a reported $10 million. He entered stud at Shizunai Stallion Station for the 1995 breeding season, and he stood there until his pensioning in 2007.

Forty Niner was unable to capture the same spark in Japan that he hit on early in his U.S. stud career, but he did sire a handful of group stakes winners, and he sent some sons to stud in Japan and South Korea.

One of his most successful runners after his move to Japan was Utopia, a multiple Group 1 winner in his native country, who was sold to Godolphin during his on-track career with designs of standing him at stud. He won a Group 2 race in Dubai, and took the G3 Westchester Handicap in his U.S. debut. He entered stud in New York, and resided there until he was sold to stand in Turkey in 2014.

The post Champion Forty Niner Dies In Japan At Age 35 appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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