08/08/2007 12:00AM

Gato del Sol, '82 Derby winner, dead at 28


Gato del Sol, the winner of the 1982 Kentucky Derby, was euthanized on Tuesday at Stone Farm outside of Paris, Ky., according to a release from the farm. Gato del Sol, who was "in discomfort due to the infirmities of old age," was 28.

"Most people will remember Gato as a Kentucky Derby winner, but I will remember him as my good friend," said Arthur Hancock, the owner of Stone Farm and a co-breeder of the gray horse, in the release. "I feel blessed to have had him in my life."

Gato del Sol was buried at the farm.

Gato del Sol was retired to stud at the end of his 6-year-old year to Stone Farm, where he was foaled. By Cougar II out of the Jacinto mare Peacefully, the horse was bred by Hancock and Leone J. Peters, and was the first horse bred by a Hancock family member to win the Derby. Arthur Hancock is a member of the fourth generation of Hancocks to breed horses.

Trained by Eddie Gregson in California, Gato del Sol won the 1982 Kentucky Derby at odds of 21-1. In a widely unpopular move in Maryland, Gregson decided to skip the Preakness Stakes, leading Pimlico Race Course's general manager, Chick Lang, to put a goat in the stall reserved for the Kentucky Derby winner. Gato del Sol did run in the Belmont Stakes, but he was beaten in the race by Conquistador Cielo.

When he retired, Gato del Sol had won 7 of 39 starts with earnings of $1,340,107.

Gato del Sol did not have a particularly successful stud career, and in 1993, he was sold to a farm in Germany, though his career as a stallion did not improve in Europe. In 1999, Stone Farm reacquired the horse after Staci Hancock learned that Exceller, a top handicap horse who had been sold to stud in Japan, had been killed in a Swedish slaughterhouse.

The Hancocks paid $5,500 to buy the horse and spent $12,500 to ship him back to Stone Farm.