07/11/2012 3:55PM

Key Contender dies at 24


Key Contender, a two-time track record setter and winner of the 1995 Suburban Handicap, died in late June after a bout of colic at the Old Friends Cabin Creek facility in Greenfield Center, N.Y. He was 24.

The family of the late Carl Lizza pensioned Key Contender from Highcliff Farm in Delanson, N.Y., in February, and the horse moved to Old Friends, where he “spent his days sleeping in the sun, begging for treats [which everyone gave him], and racing the four-wheeler down the hill of his paddock at feeding time,” according to a June 30 Facebook post by Old Friends.

Bred by Paul Mellon, Key Contender raced first for Mellon’s Rokeby Stables and then for Lizza’s Flying Zee Stables. He won the Suburban at 7 and placed in five other graded stakes, including consecutive second-place finishes in the 1992 and 1993 Stuyvesant Handicap. He set two track records, going a mile in 1:34.72 at Saratoga in 1992 and going 1 1/16 miles in 1:39.92 at Belmont in 1994.

Key Contender won 15 of 56 lifetime starts, finished second 17 times, and ran third 6 times, collecting total earnings of $839,261. He was out of the graded-placed Key to the Mint mare Key Witness, who also produced Grade 1 winner You’d Be Surprised.