12/24/2013 2:22PM

Summer Bird, Belmont stakes winner, dies in Japan

Barbara D. Livingston
Summer Bird, winner of the 2009 Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup and that year's champion 3-year-old male, died on Dec. 24 of colic while standing at stud in Japan.

Summer Bird, the champion 3-year-old male of 2009 and winner of that year’s Belmont Stakes, died Dec. 23 of colic in Japan.

The news was initially reported by the Twitter account of Japan-based Paca Paca Farm.

The 7-year-old from the first crop of sire and 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone had been standing at Shizunai Stallion Station, which is operated by the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders' Association on the island of Hokkaido. Summer Bird was about to stand his second season in Japan after being sold to the JBBA for the 2013 breeding season.

Summer Bird made his on-track debut in March of his 3-year-old season and broke his maiden in his second start at Oaklawn Park. A third-place finish in his subsequent start, the Arkansas Derby, gave him enough earnings to qualify for the 2009 Kentucky Derby, where he finished sixth at odds of 43.60-1.

After skipping the Preakness, Summer Bird returned for the Belmont Stakes. In the 1 1/2-mile classic, he overcame a troubled start and charged down the stretch to win by 2 3/4 lengths at 11.90-1.

That win kicked off a powerful summer campaign that included wins in the Travers Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the latter against older competition, as well as a runner-up finish in the Haskell Invitational Stakes and a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was overwhelmingly voted champion 3-year-old male.

After his Breeders’ Cup start, Summer Bird was sent overseas for a start in the Japan Cup Dirt, but a cannon bone fracture while training up to the race ultimately ended his career. Summer Bird retired with four wins in nine career starts for earnings of $2,323,040, racing for Drs. K. K. and Vilasini Jayaraman and trainer Tim Ice.

Summer Bird was retired to Pauls Mill near Versailles, Ky. for the 2011 breeding season, and his first crop of 93 foals will be 2-year-olds in 2014. He was acquired by WinStar Farm in a deal that also included stallions Bellamy Road, Artie Schiller and U S Ranger to stand there in 2012. Summer Bird was then sold to Japan for the following season.

Homebred in Kentucky by the Jayaramans, Summer Bird was out of the placed Summer Squall mare Hong Kong Squall, who produced five winners from eight foals to race.

*** The original article has been corrected to refect Summer Bird's fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic, his final start ***

Mary Hansen More than 1 year ago
I shutter to think about every horse that is shipped off to Japan. i am sure if I'll Have Another does not excell at stud he will be the next one to go to the slaughter house.
RIP Grammar More than 1 year ago
It's shudder, not shutter... And right, Big Red Farm is always posting pics & videos of IHA so they can kill him off. I'm so tired of hearing about how horses die in Japan. They made one very bad mistake and now can't live it down. This horse had colic, my friend has lost 3 horses to colic this year alone, and she is in Canada and takes very good care of her mares and foals. Horses die of colic all the time, it has nothing to do with being in Japan. Give it a rest already. And learn spelling & grammar before posting. It's excel, not excell.
Jane Franklin More than 1 year ago
I was saddened to read of the passing of Summer Bird also but I don't blame Japan. These creatures are deceptively fragile and colic is probably one of the leading causes of death along with paddock accidents to affect thoroughbreds. The Japanese managed to create a racing dynasty from a horse that the US breeders didn't want. You may have heard of him Sunday Silence, he was treated well and kept alive to a ripe old age by his owners in Japan. Steps have been taken to make sure another Ferdinand doesn't happen and from what I've seen I'll Have Another is being treated like a king. I am sure the Japanese owners feel just as bad about this as anyone else.
Frank More than 1 year ago
no excuse. Colic is brought on by stress to the animal. It happens far to often with these thoroughbreds
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
I will always believe that War Emblem might of done better if he stayed here in his Natural Habitat. What do I know
Justin Mato More than 1 year ago
I truly believe he was the best three year old of 2009. I thought he was the best horse in the derby. He and Mine that Bird were making the same move when Summer Bird was forced to go wide while Mine That Bird got the rail. He proved his worth in the Belmont, JCGC, and Travers. Great horse and he will be missed. RIP.
not impressed More than 1 year ago
They didn't even give this guy a chance here at stud before sending him abroad. I hope his offspring provide some excellent thrills on the track in his honor.
liljock More than 1 year ago
Sorry to learn America lost another classic winner too young.
Wesley Wright More than 1 year ago
Really bad news! Colic again responsible for the demise of another good horse.
Gary Camejo More than 1 year ago
What travesty this horse was as good as they come. I look forward to seeing his offspring race as he was a tough customer...RIP Bird Man
Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
What a shame ... We keeP sending our stamina influences abroad and keep Sprint winners. Crazy. Poor Summer Bird - he was a damn fine race horse.
Kirstan Sanders More than 1 year ago
Bye good boy! Was too soon to lose you!