Go for Gin, the oldest living winner of the Kentucky Derby, died at age 31 Tuesday from heart failure at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, the Horse Park announced Wednesday.
Go for Gin won the 120th Kentucky Derby in 1994, a memorable victory over a sloppy track over heavily favored Holy Bull.
“We’re honored that Go for Gin was an ambassador of the park for nearly 12 years,” Kentucky Horse Park Executive Director Lee Carter said in a news release. “As a visitor favorite, Go for Gin brought visitors from around the world to the Bluegrass and introduced new fans to the sport of Thoroughbred racing. He will be greatly missed by all of us at the Kentucky Horse Park.”
Go for Gin was retired from racing after running three races as a 4-year-old in 1995. He was retired from stud duty in 2011 and spent his remaining days at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Go for Gin was bred in Kentucky by Pamela Darmstadt duPont, owned by William J. Condren and Joseph Cornacchia, and trained by Nick Zito.
After his surprising victory with jockey Chris McCarron as a 9-1 shot in the Kentucky Derby, Go for Gin went on to finish second to Tabasco Cat in both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Go for Gin went on to race nine times after the Derby but never won again.
That day, May 7, 1994, Go for Gin was brilliant.
The son of Cormorant, purchased at auction at Saratoga for $150,000, had lifetime earnings of $399,540 going into the Derby, but Cornacchia thought Go for Gin was overlooked by the media and handicappers.
“I knew the horse was doing well. I thought he was peaking (at the right time),” Cornacchia said after the race. “I thought he would do better (than the predictions). I wanted to be competitive. I hoped he would run his race.”
Go for Gin got away from the gate quicker than 2-1 favorite Holy Bull, and that pretty much was the story of the race.
Leaving from the No. 8 post position, McCarron maneuvered Go for Gin to the front by the half-mile point of the 1 ¼-mile race, and he remained there throughout, winning by 2 lengths over Strodes Creek. Blumin Affair wound up third. Holy Bull finished 12th in a field of 14.
Go for Gin completed his career with five first-place finishes, seven seconds and two thirds from 19 starts and finished with earnings of $1,380,866.
Go for Gin took up stud duty at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky and was later sold to Bonita Farm in Maryland. His progeny have earned more than $16.5 million and include Albert the Great, winner of more than $3 million.
“It saddens me to learn about Go for Gin,” McCarron said in the news release. “My memories of him giving me a second Kentucky Derby victory will remain indelible in my heart for as long as I live. Rest in peace, my old pal.”
Go for Gin shared the Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of Champions with other champion horses including Thoroughbreds Funny Cide and Point Given; Standardbred pacers, Western Dreamer and Won the West; and Standardbred trotter, Mr. Muscleman.
Like other Hall of Champions horses at the Kentucky Horse Park, Go for Gin will be buried at the Memorial Walk of Champions alongside past Thoroughbred residents Forego, Bold Forbes, John Henry, Alysheba, and Da Hoss.
A public memorial service will be held for Go for Gin at a future date.
The oldest living Kentucky Derby winner now is 1996 champion Grindstone. The 29-year-old resides at Oakhurst Equine Veterinary Services in Newberg, Ore.