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In the last post, I talked about some of the wonderful horses (the “Grand Geldings”) I got to be reacquainted with at “Old Friends – A Kentucky Facility for Retired Thoroughbreds” (www.oldfriendsequine.org ).
I’m grouping these two horses together – the superstars – because they both had amazing records, have legions of fans, and have been together for quite a long time.
Creator and Sunshine Forever. Sunshine Forever and Creator. Either way you say it, they belong together. They were the first two stallions to ever be returned from Japan to the U.S. for retirement.
Creator was foaled on June 1, 1986 in England. He was purchased and raced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, a member of the ruling family in Dubai. One of the final foals by the great Mill Reef, he did not disappoint. Creator raced primarily in Europe – England and France, but his last race was in the United States where he finished third in the Budweiser International.
In Europe, he was a bona fide star at ages 3 and 4. He raced on both dirt and turf, winning seven times and bankrolling over $500,000. His greatest wins were Group 1 and 2 races including, the Prix Ganay (G1) (which his sire also won), the Prix d’Ispahan (G1), the Prix d’Harcourt (G2), and the Ciga Prix Dollar (G2).
While Creator was best known for racing in Europe, his stud career took him to Japan where he and Sunshine Forever stood at Nitta Farm. He has become quite a favorite at Old Friends where his regal presence makes you forget that you are looking at a 25-year-old (now 26) stallion.
As you can see from the photos, he’s a magnificent-looking individual. He is one of those bright, coppery red horses with a white star that seems to “dribble” a little down his nose. Except for the bit of white in his face, he looks like a much younger horse. You’d better believe he “knows” that he’s still a beauty, too. He carries himself in a regal way and has an amazingly intelligent eye. He still has “presence.” He’s still a horse that commands respect.
I absolutely adored Sunshine Forever. As I write this, I still can’t bring myself to believe he is gone. I’m so glad I got to see him in August. He was hale and hearty then. If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you might remember me talking about Sunshine Forever in an earlier post. He was a favorite of my “mentor” and dear friend, Mark Yother. I initially went to see him at Old Friends as a sort of homage to my late friend. I ended up appreciating him for his wonderful personality and great story.
Sunshine Forever was foaled March 14, 1985 at Darby Dan Farm. This dark bay colt with the irregular white blaze was absolutely bred to do great things on the turf. A son John Galbreath’s great Roberto out of the Graustark mare, Outward Sunshine, Sunshine Forever was a prince in-waiting from the day he was born.
The Eclipse Awards got it right when they awarded Sunshine Forever the 1988 Turf Championship. He amassed over $2-million in earnings while winning or placing in eleven graded stakes races. Among those were wins in the Grade 1, Man O’War Stakes, the Grade 1 Turf Classic, and the Grade 1 Budweiser International. My very first Breeders Cup was in 1988 at Churchill Downs. I was screaming and virtually riding Sunshine Forever in the B.C. Turf. He ran well, but was narrowly defeated by Great Communicator. That was the same year that Old Friends’ resident Gulch won the B.C. Sprint and Personal Ensign capped off her undefeated career in one of the most amazing races of all time in the B.C. Distaff.
Sunshine Forever went to stud and, eventually, lived at Nikka Stud in Japan. In 2004, Sunshine returned home to the US. This was a completely unique situation. Not only was Sunshine the very first horse to be returned to the United States for his retirement, but this amazing animal was also to become the very first stallion to a new concept in the bluegrass. The concept was called “Old Friends – A Kentucky Facility for Retired Thoroughbreds.” Little did anyone involved with Old Friends at the time realize that within 10 short years Old Friends would have two locations (the original in Kentucky and Cabin Creek in New York), be home to over 100 retired racehorses, and be a “bucket list” destination for thousands of horse-lovers from around the world.
The first time I met Sunshine “in person,” I marveled at how good he looked and what a supremely pleasant horse he was to be around – especially for a stallion. He showed no aggression at all, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the attention he received from the visitors to Old Friends. It was almost as though he knew he was a champion and all the attention was simply his “due.”
In August (2013), I got to visit him again. This time, he allowed me the supreme pleasure of pulling his tongue. He was in a very mellow mood – even for him. Everyone on the group got to take photos with him and he was perfectly content to stand by the fence and receive carrots and adoration from all of us. Not even once did he pin an ear or appear to be even the slightest bit annoyed by all of us fussing around him.
Ah, Sunshine, you were always a class act.
Up Next: Old Friends at Old Friends – The MOST Anticipated Visit