01/07/2014 2:35PM

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.”

Lucinda Smith More than 1 year ago
I met Sunshine Forever on a tour in October 2013 and he came over to the fence twice and let me pet him and feed him carrots. The guide said he wasn't usually that friendly and that just made my day, like he understood how much I'd always loved animals, especially horses. I just learned today of his passing and it makes my meeting him even more special. God bless Old Friends.
denali1 More than 1 year ago
Sunshine Forever enjoyed a long happy life thanks to people like Mr. Blowen. My prayers go out to you people at Old Friends. R.I.P Sunshine Forever!
tommy tutone More than 1 year ago
Heartfelt thanks to Mr. Blowen for all you do.
Bob More than 1 year ago
I remember watching the old guy race...he was one of the good ones! And he raced in an ear when winning $2 million was a big deal!
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Thanks to the horses, all and thanks to Mr. Blowen and all like him... I'm sure any contribution would be well put to use.
Jerseyjoe B More than 1 year ago
Champion son of Roberto, the latter named by John Galbreath for Roberto Clemente. Mr. Galbreath had owned the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Roberto, (the man) was a champion and he was truly, "The Natural".
Hail No More than 1 year ago
I always thought the name "Sunshine Forever" was one of the best names for a horse, and it was befitting of this Champion, RIP beautiful boy, and thanks to Old Friends for all the care and love that they give to "our" old and retired horses..
Mauricio Samuel Farias Gomez More than 1 year ago
A truly champion, I was in New York thru his racing career, bred by a classic man, son another champion Roberto, and was ridden by Jorge Velazquez who also was an all time champion jockey.Am glad to read he have a good finish as I always wonder about him
seattle More than 1 year ago
RIP champ
Mary Adkins-Matthews More than 1 year ago
My heart breaks and there will never be another one like him