01/07/2014 1:35PM

Sunshine Forever, champion turf horse, dies at Old Friends

Mary Simon
Sunshine Forever at Old Friends with Michael Blowen.

Sunshine Forever, the champion turf male of 1988, died Tuesday at Old Friends Equine Retirement in Georgetown, Ky. He was 29.

The son of Roberto had been at Old Friends since November 2004, when he was retired from stallion duty at Nitta Farm in Japan and returned to the U.S.

“He was my favorite horse,” said Michael Blowen, founder of Old Friends. “He was the first horse we ever brought home from Japan after his breeding career was over, so he set the standard. He wasn’t the friendliest horse, he wasn’t a big pet or anything, but I had such a great deal of respect for him.”

While the cause of death is pending a necropsy, Blowen said that Sunshine Forever appeared to suffer a heart attack, and showed no signs of problems the previous evening.

Sunshine Forever won eight of 23 starts during his racing career for earnings of $2,084,800, running for breeder John Galbreath’s Darby Dan Farm and trainer John Veitch.

His Eclipse Award-winning campaign included wins in the Grade 1 Budweiser International, the Turf Classic, and the Man O’ War Stakes, as well as the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes and the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes.  He also finished second in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.

Sunshine Forever was retired to stud at Darby Dan in Lexington, Ky., and was sent to Japan in 1995. In 14 crops, he sired  250 winners and the earners of $21,903,390. His leading runners included Grade 1 winner Sunshine Street and Grade 3 winner Gastronomical.

“We’d never done anything like bring horses home from Japan ten years ago, so when they told me that Sunshine Forever was available, I freaked out,” Blowen said. “It was like telling me you could have Larry Bird move in or something. From the moment that he arrived, I had a great deal of love and respect for him.”