07/21/2003 11:00PM

Ferdinand dead in Japan

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Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner and the 1987 Horse of the Year, died in Japan last year at age 19, according to an Associated Press report.

Yoskhikazu Watanabe, Ferdinand's former owner, told a Tokyo-based AP reporter that the horse was "disposed of during the last year." Watanabe did not provide further details about the death.

According to the AP report, the Japan Race Horse Registry had removed Ferdinand from its list of stallions in September 2002 after Goshima Farm in northern Japan reported that Ferdinand would be leaving the farm. Watanabe said he gave the horse to a friend, whom he declined to identify, when the horse showed signs of failing health.

Ferdinand, a son Nijinsky II, began his stud career in 1989 at his birthplace, Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky. He failed to match the success he had on the track in the breeding shed and was sold to Japanese interests in 1994.

Reacting to the reports of Ferdinand's death, Diana Pikulski, the executive director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, released a statement on Tuesday, that read in part, "The fact that even such important horses fall through the cracks like this demonstrates that the racing industry needs to get together and make the retirement solution a universal one, rather than leaving it to individual tracks and individuals to do the right thing by their own horses."

Ferdinand was trained by Charlie Whittingham and owned by his breeder, Howard Keck. In one of the most exciting finishes in Breeders' Cup history, Ferdinand defeated the 1987 Kentucky Derby winner, Alysheba, by a nose in the Classic at Hollywood Park.

Ferdinand retired with a record of 8-9-6 from 29 starts and earnings of $3,777,978.

According to Bloodstock Research Information Services statistics, Ferdinand has eight stakes winners from 10 crops. His progeny have earned $9,032,487 and made a total of 3,559 starts and won 406 races.