05/13/2010 11:00PM

Skip Away, '98 Horse of Year, dies at 17

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Skip Away won 10 Grade 1 races in his career.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Hall of Famer and 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away died of an apparent heart attack in his paddock Friday morning at Hopewell Farm in Midway, Ky., according to farm owner Rick Trontz.

The three-time champion was 17 and had a significant heart murmur, Trontz said.

"He'd had this heart condition for a while, and the vets said they were amazed, because he looked like he didn't have a heart condition," he said.

The gray son of Skip Trial had a long career with Skip Trial's trainer, the late Sonny Hine, who purchased the $30,000 colt as a birthday present for his wife, Carolyn. Skip Away won 18 of his 38 lifetime starts and earned more than $9.6 million before retiring to Hopewell in 1998. He earned championship titles as 3-year-old male in 1996 and as champion older male in 1997 and 1998. Along the way, he won 10 Grade 1 races, including the 1997 Breeders' Cup Classic and back-to-back editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1996-97. He also won the 1996 Woodbine Million and Haskell Invitational and the 1998 Hollywood Gold Cup, Pimlico Special, Gulfstream Park Handicap, Woodward, and Donn.

Sonny Hine, who died in 2000 at age 69, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003, a year before Skip Away joined him there.

An emotional Carolyn Hine said Friday that she was devastated by the loss of the horse she always called Skippy and considered a member of her family.

"Sonny used to tell me, 'Honey, you're not supposed to love a horse that much,' and I would say, 'Who says? Show me in the condition book where it says that,' " she said. "I know when my husband died 10 years ago my heart was cracked. Now, it's broken. It's just too much."

Hine said she had planned to visit her horse again after the breeding season.

As a sire, Skip Away's best runners include graded winners Skipaslew, Sister Swank, and Skip Code; stakes winners Secret Getaway and Muir Beach; and Panamanian champion Sanky Panky.

Skip Away had stood this season for $10,000. At his death, he had more than $19.4 million in progeny earnings from nine crops to race.

"He was just a super horse and he seemed to get pretty nice racehorses," Trontz said. "He was a sound, sound horse. I'm sure he hardly got any medication. You just don't see those kind of horses anymore. It's all about speed these days. His horses did well on all surfaces: they were great on the turf, all-weather, and dirt, they ran short and they ran long."

Anna Marie Barnhart bred Skip Away in Florida from her stakes-winning Diplomat Way mare Ingot Way.

Trontz said Skip Away likely would be buried at Hopewell.

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