04/05/2014 5:41PM

Bull Inthe Heather, Florida Derby winner, dies at Old Friends

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Grade 1 winner Bull Inthe Heather was euthanized Friday at Old Friends Equine Retirement in Georgetown, Ky., due to the infirmities of old age.

The 24-year-old son of Ferdinand had resided at Old Friends since 2006 after being pensioned from stallion duty.

“He was the toughest horse we ever had there, and probably Ferdinand’s greatest son,” said Michael Blowen, founder of Old Friends. “It’s tough to lose him. It’s tough to lose that legacy.”

Bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm and John Franks, Bull Inthe Heather won three of 33 starts during his racing career for earnings of $508,338. He was trained throughout his career by Howard Tesher for a variety of owners.

Bull Inthe Heather’s most notable victory came in the 1993 Florida Derby, which came between runner-up finishes in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah Park. His Florida campaign helped Bull Inthe Heather settle as the betting public’s second choice in that year’s Kentucky Derby, in which he finished 11th.

After the Derby, Bull Inthe Heather finished off the board in the Belmont Stakes, and then settled into allowance company for the bulk of his remaining on-track career.

Bull Inthe Heather was retired to stud in 1997, beginning at Leckbee Thoroughbred Farm near Onalaska, Wash. He later stood at Running Horse Farm near Albuquerque, N.M., before being pensioned to Old Friends.

Bull Inthe Heather sired nine crops, comprised of 96 foals and 37 winners. His progeny was led by stakes winners Ogygian’s Rose and Bullishdemands, as well as stakes-placers Miz Heather and Glowbulette.

The horse was one of the most recognizable residents at Old Friends, having a Breyer model made in his likeness to benefit the farm in 2012.

“On Thursday night, we’re doing a fundraiser at West Sixth Brewery that was all dedicated to Bull Inthe Heather,” Blowen said. “We’ve got him on the glasses, we’ve got him on everything. So now it’ll be like an Irish wake.

“The tougher these horses have it later in life, the closer you get to them, because you’re working with them all the time, the vets are coming all the time,” Blowen continued. “There must have been five or six in the barn when we had to [euthanize him], so it was a tribute to his longevity, his class, and his quality. He was an unbelievable horse. You’d like them all to last forever.”