Remembering John Henry - By Jon White

(Originally published in the August 21, 2010 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

Can it really be 25 years since John Henry was retired from racing?

At 6 o’clock in the morning on Aug. 26, 1985, I looked on as Lewis Cenicola led 10-year-old John Henry out of his stall at trainer Ron McAnally’s Del Mar barn.

“Well, Pappy, I guess this might be your final trip,” Cenicola said softly.

As John Henry’s regular exercise rider, Cenicola had been aboard the Kentucky-bred son of Ole Bob Bowers for miles and miles of gallops and workouts. This time, however, Cenicola led the four-legged legend to a large horse van parked next to the McAnally barn. On that van, John Henry, whose retirement due to a tendon issue had been announced earlier in the summer, would begin the journey to his new Kentucky home.

As the van slowly pulled away, John Henry, who once sold for just $1,100 as a yearling at Keeneland, departed Del Mar as the world’s richest Thoroughbred with career earnings of $6,591,860. The destination of John Henry’s long trip was his retirement residence, the Kentucky Horse Park, located not all that far from his birthplace, Golden Chance Farm.

With the exception of an unsuccessful attempt to return John Henry to the races in 1986, he would spend a very long retirement in comfort at the Kentucky Horse Park until his death at age 32 on Oct. 8, 2007.

John Henry Slideshow
John Henry Remembering a legend.
Many are of the opinion racing has been hurt by the lack of a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. But the absence of a gelding with the magnetism and longevity of a Kelso, a Forego, or a John Henry also has been a setback of sorts for the sport in the last couple of decades.

John Henry had such star appeal that his appearance always meant a spike in attendance. His retirement was the lead story on the front page of USA Today. People magazine chose him one of the 25 most intriguing people of 1984, along with such other celebrities as Michael Jackson, Mary Lou Retton, and Lee Iacocca.

John Henry was voted Horse of the Year in 1981 and 1984. Remarkably, his second Horse of the Year title came at age 9. He won 39 of 83 lifetime starts, with 30 of his victories coming in stakes races. His sustained excellence was such that he was a stakes winner every year from ages 2 through 9.

The majority of John Henry’s victories came for owners Dorothy and Sam Rubin, who raced as Dotsam Stable. After John Henry’s retirement I asked Sam Rubin which of John Henry’s races was his favorite. Unable to limit it to just one, Rubin said there were three he cherished the most.

One race Rubin said he enjoyed immensely was John Henry’s win in the 1978 Chocolatetown Handicap at Penn National.

“They gave us a big cup filled with Hershey Kisses,” Rubin said.

Rubin also thought John Henry’s 1981 win by a nose over The Bart in the inaugural Arlington Million, the first $1 million Thoroughbred race in history, was special. And Rubin termed John Henry’s come-from-behind victory in his final race, the 1984 Ballantine’s Scotch Classic Handicap at the Meadowlands, as “absolutely unbelievable.”

The morning John Henry left Del Mar in 1985, I asked McAnally what he thought was John Henry’s greatest performance. Again, McAnally could not limit it to one. He considered five of John Henry’s races to be his most outstanding.

McAnally, like Rubin, selected John Henry’s 1981 Arlington Million and 1984 career finale at the Meadowlands. McAnally’s other choices were John Henry’s triumphs in the 1980 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at about 1 3/4 miles (“because he led all the way in such a long race under 126 pounds”), the 1981 Santa Anita Handicap through the disqualification of Perrault (“because he won off works and became the first horse to win the Big ’Cap twice”), and the 1984 Arlington Million in his final year of racing (“because, as a 9-year-old, he beat a filly in Royal Heroine who would go on to be named grass filly of the year”).

For personal reasons, I treasured one of John Henry’s victories not mentioned by either Rubin or McAnally—the Hollywood Invitational Handicap May 17, 1981. It was the first time I had the pleasure of seeing John Henry race. But of even more significance to me, I met my future wife, Tracy Gantz, that day at Hollywood Park. It certainly was a day I will never forget. 

Jon White is an HRTV/Santa Anita TV commentator, a Fairpelx Park steward, and former Daily Racing Form writer.

57 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Fran Loszynski

No one could ever mistake those wirey long front legs that could contort to the finish line.  It's the horses that sometimes don't look very much at birth or at sale, they seem to know when oooh's and ahhh's are for other great-looking foals.  They keep it in mind  and I have always felt they reward the people that love them with winning or just plain trying their hardest to give back.  John Henry had a long life to give back and alot love from his fans. Great article. Left a tear in my eye.

17 Aug 2010 2:47 PM
Rachel

I remember him...that's so sweet you met your wife like that! You made me choke up thinking of him.

I still am in appreciation of his '81 year...Arlington, Santa Anita, and JCGC, Oak Tree, Hollywood and his 9 year old year...didn't he win like 4 grade 1's that last year?

Could he be a beloved king today? I wonder...I mean he "only" won 39 out of 83...wait...didn't he lose 9 in a row? ;-)

17 Aug 2010 3:10 PM
Dona

Thank you for a wonderful look back at one of our greatest warriors. He was one of the best ever: long, short, dirt or grass, John Henry could do it all. Such a lovable onery cuss!  

17 Aug 2010 4:04 PM
Aluminaut

John Henry was a great horse, and because he was always the favorite and always winning, I didn't appreciate him until 1983 after the American Handicap, his comeback race as an 8 year old.  Shoe gave up the mount to ride The Wonder for C. Witt and Chris M inherited the ride.  The rest is history.  

My favorite John Henry racing moments are:

Watching the Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 11th 1983, where John came out of the fog and mist in the growing darkness to beat Zalataia by a head. He walked back to the barn with steam rising off his back.  He had that cocky walk. I was right down on the rail for his win.

John's first winning race back as a 9 year old.  I flew to San Francisco to see him win at Golden Gate setting a course record, for his first win as a 9 year old.  John was back!  Got to see Swale win the Derby on TV the day prior, then flew home and went on a opal mining trip to Australia.  What a time.  I was in still Down Under when John came second to Desert Wine on the dirt in the Hollywood Gold Cup, but was back to see him win twice at Hollywood Park, the final race I saw was the Sunset Handicap.  What a horse.  A horse got a neck in front in the stretch, but John took back the lead and eyeballed his foe to the wire.

I was at the Pomona Fair when they announced the results of the Ballentine Scotch Classic over the loudspeaker at the bullring (Pomona dirt track).  It turned out to be his final race and his come from behind win was in contrast to going neck and neck with Win in his last out.  

It's great to be able to go on Youtube and see it all again.  There's not a really good record of the Dec. 11th HP Turf Cup, but it's as fresh in my mind as it was back in '83.  I was 28 years old and living in Los Angeles for 6 years.  The tracks were packed all the time and you had to turn sideways to duck through a crowd whenever John ran.

He was the best.

17 Aug 2010 4:25 PM
DawnStorm

I will never forget the very first Arlington Million!  I've seen many close finishes since then, but that race was won because one of John Henry's whiskers was just a bit longer than The Bart's.

I also remember the sign flashed up on the tote board: NOW THAT WAS A PHOTO FINISH!

17 Aug 2010 5:18 PM
Jodie

Thank you so much Jon.  A great piece of writing about a very great horse. John Henry will live forever in our hearts.

17 Aug 2010 5:20 PM
Ange

I never got to see the most awesome John Henry, but a friend did, lucky guy! I too would love to see a few super horses like John that would hang around for a long long time. Horse racing needs horses like John & Seabiscuit who will run forever and travel the continent. Zenyatta appears to be a bit of an iron horse but yet pretty much doesn't leave California. She could do even more for horse racing if she'd go on a tour. But alas, we get horses who make fewer then 10 starts and retire at 3. Ho hum.

17 Aug 2010 5:29 PM
Kathy Kimber

He was absolutely the best and he had the best mechanical motion of any horse ever.  He beats out Citation and Man O War on that one.

17 Aug 2010 5:39 PM
cgc

It was my great pleasure to see John Henry in person at the KY horse park.  He was being a bit uncooperative for photos and a really nice staffer went in and persuaded him to pose for the dumb tourist, LOL!  I took a bunch of pictures....I was crushed to get back to the hotel that night and discover that there was no film in the camera (did I say dumb??) So he lives on in my memory...

17 Aug 2010 6:13 PM
John P

I remember John Henry at the old Jefferson Downs In Kenner ,La. He couldn't break his maiden until he did that summer at Evangeline Downs. As his career progressed and he became a good one I often thought what would have happened if I would have taken Phil Marino up on his offer to buy that crazy SOB as he put it. Thanks for the memories John Henry

17 Aug 2010 6:30 PM
Eric Rickard

I was 12 the first time my dad took me to see John Henry. I have been to Los Alamitos a lot and Santa Anita a few times. He was awesome. The crowds the excitement. You could say Henry hooked me for life.

17 Aug 2010 7:06 PM
Judy G ~ California

Hi Jon, if I could give you a kiss I would! Thank you for doing this piece.

You might remember me. I spoke to you for sometime at Santa Anita. You were up in the HRTV booth. You graciously came down the stairs to speak with me. I went on and on about John Henry!

One of my favorite JH wins is an obvious choice, the Inaugural Arlington Million ~ that should now include HIS NAME since he put it on the map by winning it twice and placing 2nd another! :-)

I also picked one of Mr. Rubin's; John's last race, the 1984 Ballantine’s Scotch Classic Handicap, because of the WAY he won! The Old Warrior still had it!

And, one of Ronnie's: The 1981 Santa Anita Handicap because JH was forced wide, but he wouldn't give up the fight with Perrault!!

I don't want to take up too much space. I never thought I'd love another horse... then ZENYATTA came along.

It is my belief, that if JH could have a sibling, he would gladly chose Zenyatta as his "baby sister", notice I didn't use "little" sister lol. They are smart, charismatic, love the crowd, and love the camera! ;-) And they both know where the wire is!!!

There isn't a day go by, that I don't think of my Beloved John Henry. He left hoof prints on my heart. Now I have room for Queen Zenyatta.

Jon, see you at the track!

17 Aug 2010 7:32 PM
Judy G ~ California

p.s. I also wanted to acknowledge the friendships I've made because of John Henry. We met outside John's paddock...

I'm also thankful for having the opportunity of meeting ALL of John Henry's connections, with exception of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Rubin.

17 Aug 2010 7:37 PM
Robin from Maryland

Went to KY Horse Park several months after his death and spent some time at his grave - remembering all of his races and what he brought to our sport.  RIP ole Buddy you deserve it!

17 Aug 2010 9:47 PM
adcook

My dad canceled my first ever trip to Disneyland to see John run at Hollywood Park in 1981.  He beat Caterman and Galaxy Libra that day.  I was 12 years old and after the race Disneyland didn't seem to matter.  I was hooked and dad and I followed John from coast to coast.  We watched him beat Zalataya and All Along.  We saw him beat Perrault and Prince Florimund, Win and Peat Moss.  John's heart is what separated  him from every other race horse I have seen before or since.  Thank you John Henry......you made me a horse racing fan for life....and thank you dad for taking me to see John instead of Mickey Mouse!

17 Aug 2010 10:30 PM
Jackie S - Ohio

Jon

Thanks for a great piece about a wonderful horse. He was truly the Iron Horse. I saw him three times at the Horse Park.  On the day after attending Sunday Silence's Derby in 1989, I found John standing in his stall with his butt to the door which had a vet list hanging on it. I felt bad for the "old boy" and didn't know if I'd ever see him again.  But tough as he was, I did in 2001, sneaking a few fingers thru the stall grate to pat him on the shoulder.  Then on a warm 104 degree day in August, 2007, I saw him for the last time.  He was walked thru the arena during the Parade of Breeds demo and stopped for a moment to acknowledge the standing ovation as his accomplishments were recited. Sadly, my last visit was to his grave.  They don't make horses like John any more!

17 Aug 2010 10:47 PM
lynnhurst

I was not lucky enough to see John Henry race in person and became a fan by an article I read in Reader's Digest.  I was sent to Fort Knox to do a job and went to the Kentucky Horse Park. I walked by his stall and saw his name on the door.  I could not believe I was seeing the horse that got me interested in horse racing by reading an article.  I must have see John, Cigar and the other stars at the Horse Park with my two different jobs at Fort Knox approximately 20 times.  Two weeks before he left us I got to feed him a chocolate donut.  He loved chocolate donuts and weeks later at his funeral (a large crowd in attendance) I noticed a chocolate donut on his grave.  There will never be another - God truly smiled on that little horse because he touched so many people.  I too can see Zenyatta touching people like that. The special ones have something that sets them apart.  Seattle Slew had this - he knew he was special.  I got to see him three times.  I was lucky enough to be around when John and Unbridled at Clairborne was being groomed and got there mane hair. It is nice to spend time in Kentucky!  

18 Aug 2010 1:12 AM
Race On

John Henry was truly a great one! He had charisma and knew that he was good.  He might not have had a fashionable pedigree, but man was he made to run.  A great warrior on and off the track. The memories that you brought back.  Thank you so much.  

18 Aug 2010 1:43 AM
MGM

WHO COULD EVER FORGET JOHN HENRY !!!  a true legend on 4 hooves.

18 Aug 2010 8:36 AM
Don in Massachusetts

A great article, Jon, on an Extraordinary Horse!  I also had the privilege and honor of visiting with John several times at the Kentucky Horse Park over the years.  My last was in April of 2007, when we had our final visit together, and John bid me farewell.

John was special and he lives on in the memories and hearts of the people.  Thanks for keeping John Henry alive, Jon!

RIP, Ole Friend!

18 Aug 2010 10:09 AM
Bill Daly

I don't know how many definitions of the word "heart" are in the dictionary, but John Henry's picture ought to be included along with a brief description of the heart he demonstrated during his career.  I've never seen anything like him. The word "great" is vastly overused when describing a lot of thoroughbreds, but not in this case. We will probably never see another like him.

18 Aug 2010 10:47 AM
Curt

I'd nominate another race as one of his most visualy impressive, & that's the 1981 Oak Tree Invitational when he was headed in deep stretch by Spence Bay & came back for the win.

The 1982 Big Cap- after the Stewards DQ'd Perrault, the lady standing next to me said " He's quite a horse. " And I replied, " Yes, he's named after a legend."

John Henry

He was named after a legend, & then he also became one.

18 Aug 2010 11:07 AM
Love 'em all!

Thank you, Mr. White. There's no better way to start the day than with a John Henry story.  

Honestly, of all the many horse stories I've read these past few years, John Henry's are by far the best.  They make you laugh; they make you cry; they make you beg for more.  He stole my heart early on thanks to the internet ... his wonderful stories and YouTube videos.

Needless to say, JH strove to do his very best at all times, in all situations, "Against All Odds".

Please, keep the JH stories coming.  And, thanks again.

18 Aug 2010 11:38 AM
ruffianruns

Oh my.  After reading this beautiful tribute and reading the comments, I'm a mess.  What an outpouring of adoration, respect, and love.  Thanks Jon for the remembrance.

I love horses.  I think I'm PART horse.  I've convinced (and startled) everyone I've ever told that by neighing and tossing my head!  My dad was so worried about my love of horses - he'd read too much Freud - that he considered consulting a psychologist.  Thankfully his sister told him to put the books away and chill out.

I love people that love horses.  Thank you all.

Robin from Maryland and adcook - your posts tipped the leaning domino and sent me over the edge.  I thank you for that.  Thank you all.

Horse stories and dad/kid stories get to me.  My dad died when I was nine - he killed himself.  We were two peas in a pod.  That was many, many years ago, but you wouldn't know that to see me now.  Thanks adcook for appreciating your deserving dad.

I never saw John Henry race.  I just know about him from what I've read.  I regret that I missed many great horses, because I didn't follow racing as I do now.

How blessed are we to share a planet with such brave and beautiful creatures.

18 Aug 2010 12:19 PM
Convene

Who could remember John Henry without misting up in the eyes? He was the ultimate success story, the living proof that what makes greatness isn't ancestry; it's innate class. Against all odds, he stood for the triumph of courage and determination for all us ordinary folks and became a star. Rest in peace, John. Thanks for the memories.

18 Aug 2010 12:20 PM
Linda Parker-Fedak

Wonderful story on this great horse! I loved him so much!! When his races were on tv, I never missed them. I loved the stories of him while he was at Kentucky Horse Park!

He always loved the attention he got, and responded to it as if he was still at the track. I bought a few pictures of him  taken at The Park, about 2 months before he died. He will always be with me...

18 Aug 2010 1:00 PM
Judy Goffus

Very well written, Jon. You may remember me  from years ago at Longacres Race Track. Judy Goffus and my WA-bred sprinter Ambessa.I still have your articles from the WA. racing form! The recent John Henry article is my particular favorite

18 Aug 2010 1:29 PM
Judy G Loves John Henry (California)

I'm not sure people know that The Legend has his own blog.

johnhenryhorse.blogspot.com

I wish people would visit more often and share their stories. There are some beautiful pictures; wonderful memories.

I can hardly watch his videos without getting misty eyed!! XO

18 Aug 2010 2:15 PM
MonicaV

I loved that horse.  He provided so many thrills and so many memorable moments.  I was fortunate enough to see him race live and lucky enough to visit him at the KHP. I remember that it was reported he was failing and then they started walking him around the Park and he improved with the exercise and he always made his way over to the Hall of Champions and posed for the tourists because he belonged there and he was a ham!

When he died, I cried for a long time.  I always mourn for the horses that pass but he was so special that I still cry for him as I am at this moment.

18 Aug 2010 3:00 PM
Patrick the Fan

I fell in love with John Henry in the late '70s.  I followed his career and visited him often at the KHP.  I was there for his 30th birthday, I was there for his 32nd birthday,  I was there a few days prior to his death.  I was there for his funeral service.  I was there for the dedication of his memorial.  I loved John Henry.

18 Aug 2010 3:12 PM
Bruce Greene

When John Henry came to the Bay Area to win the Golden Gate Handicap in 1984 in course record time, e may not have left his heart, but he sure left town with the hearts of many.  Like his charge, Ron McAnally was pretty special too.  As a young turf writer, I was thrilled to be able to cover that race for the Bloodhorse.  I was struck how McAnally referred to his champion as "John." They seemed to have a horse/trainer relationship like no other.  The day before the race, I spent a quiet moment with John Henry at his stall on the backside.  He was always so alert.  Constantly taking in his environment.  Hard to believe it's been 25 years.  Guess moments that large are timeless.

18 Aug 2010 3:15 PM
Scott H

I saw John Henry four times at Santa Anita and once at KHP. He was the best I ever saw run. I was a 20 year old Marine L/Cpl. with $100 to win on John when they took Perrault's number down. Screamed my fool head off! God rest you, John Henry!

18 Aug 2010 3:15 PM
Cindy Rullman

All of us who work at the Kentucky Horse Park still miss John very deeply, but it is touching and comforting to see the number of  people each week since his death, who stop at his grave to pay their respects.

18 Aug 2010 4:06 PM
joe c.

I saw John Henry three times at the KY Horse Park.  The last time, the day after the 06 Breeders' Cup, was a beautiful autumn morning-gold leaves against a blue sky, the air crisp.  That morning John would not take a starlight peppermint offered by his handler-even left on a fence post.  It was really funny.  

18 Aug 2010 6:34 PM
Ida Lee

I never saw John Henry but everything I've read about him confirms that this was one special animal. One of the funniest stories I read about him was that as he got older, he got really cranky to the point that he bit or tried to bite the hand that fed him for 22 years. I'm still hysterical over that one. The last few photos I saw of him, he was I believe 32 years old and died shortly after the photos were taken. He looked so feable, it was so sad to see such a champion looking so old. So I really loved the photos above showing him as a young boy racing his heart out. What a Champion he was!!!! Thanks for the memories.

18 Aug 2010 8:21 PM
Jane

I was so delighted that I had a chance to meet John Henry at the Kentucky Horse Park.  He was a genuine work horse and celebrity.  By our second trip to KHP both John and Alysheba had passed.  Am so glad that they are permanently across from each other.  Two great horses who gave so much to the sport and their fans.  Thank you.

18 Aug 2010 8:37 PM
timmyparkerson

simply one of the best we will ever see. such a grand old race horse  rip

18 Aug 2010 8:38 PM
Linda K

I remember John from Arlington Park.  He created so much excitement.  Everyone just loved him and especially me.  I have several newspaper articles on him

and they are my great treasures.

He was so special none could compare.  I love horse racing and

John has the first stall in horse

heaven.  PS  my sons name is John.

RIP my friend.

18 Aug 2010 8:56 PM
Wayne L

I sure was glad that someone cared enough to remember John Henry ! I had the chance to see him race and also had the chance to buy him at One time for 40,000 ! I met his owner and he had kicked him that morning going to Hot Springs and he stopped in Fort Smith,Arkansas I had ask him if he would sell him and he said after he ran him that sat ! I didnt get to make it to the track that weekend and I actually had intended on buying him so he was one of a kind and will always be remembered for his stamia and being such a great horse that he was! I always kept up with him no matter where he was and thanks to all who had a part in his life and being so kind in all his shortcomings ! Hers to John Henry may his legancy live forever! Wayne L

18 Aug 2010 11:25 PM
KURT

1ST time i ever went to the horse races was march 7,1981. i was 12 years old and i went to watch FLYING PASTER win the big cap...didnt turn out that way. paster bowed a tendon, finished 4th. john henry beat king go go for his 1st big cap. i saw john so many times after that i cant count em all.i did get to see him at the KHP in his later years but havent been to his grave yet. hopeing to make the breeders cup this year and maybe see johns grave while im there. THANKS JH for hooking this 12 yr old(now 42) on the ponies

19 Aug 2010 1:40 AM
Freetex

A wonderful tribute to John Henry, Mr. White.

I truly felt I was looking at GREATNESS when I saw him at the KHP, even when he was very ill one winter.  I will see his grave soon and visit my old friend Cigar too.

Another great gelding resides at the KHP; don't forget the Funny Cide.

19 Aug 2010 2:49 AM
MonmouthMutt

Here's a race that John Henry actually lost -- the '78 Lamplighter at Monmouth Park:

www.youtube.com/watch

Note that the great sire Horatius finished second in this race.

And, here's the final race of his career, the '84 Ballantine's Scotch Classic at the Meadowlands. The stretch run is classic:

www.youtube.com/watch

19 Aug 2010 12:02 PM
Linda M

what a champion.  I had seen him race, but what a thrill, at the age of 9, to see him in the Jockey Cup Gold Cup at Belmont, also in that race the fabulous mare All Along.  I was at the fence in the paddock waiting for him to come out.  And finally, there was this little guy bringing up the rear.  I was astonished at how small he was, and had a heart the size of Texas.  As he approached me, I applauded and said "here comes the champ."  He stopped right in front of me, and it took probably a full 5 minutes for his groom to get him moving.  And of course he won.  It was like a 63 year old man winning the NY Marathon.

My greatest thrill was seeing him at the Horse Park.  OMG.  It was love at first sight, he wouldn't let me leave his stall, kept grabbing my shirt, and probably am one of the privileged few to have a photo taken WITH HIM, when they took JohnJohn out of his stall for the guests to see him.  The entire time, he had his head on my shoulder.  And this from a horse with a nasty and mean personality.  Haha, not with me.  What a love, I have the pix on my wall of the 2 of us together.

JohnJohn, you will never be forgotten by me.

19 Aug 2010 12:33 PM
MTBFan(still)

If my brother's wedding had been about two years and a month or two earlier, I could have seen John Henry before he died. I was in Kentucky last year b/c my brother's wedding was in Ohio, and got to pay tribute to him at his grave and talked to one of his handlers (apparently he was the cantankerous, lovable gelding all the stories tell of him to be). My brother always joked that I was more excited about KY than going to his wedding. Well...I think John Henry's appeal to me was because he wasn't flashy, didn't set smashing records or have wonderful, storybook-type stories. He was just a great horse that kept plugging along, a lot like we're trying to do today.

19 Aug 2010 1:08 PM
Tales Untold

As a non-horse racing person,it was impossible to miss John Henry's  achievements & performance, his efforts were blasted throughout the land.

A rather handsome horse too...

19 Aug 2010 3:51 PM
Connie

The years may go by but I never forget my loves.  Ruffian, John Henry, Buckpasser, Desert Vixen, Cigar, Spectacular Bid, Foolish Pleasure, Dr. Fager Seattle Slew, Forego and a host of others all hang above my head as I write this. In Reality, my first love, was the one who introduced me to the wonders of horseracing and oh so many love affairs.  And, even at this late stage of my life I’m in love – Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra not only bring me back to a better time and place but keep me looking forward to their next races.  I’ve always loved beauty and nothing stirs me more than watching these two magnificent ladies run.  Pure joy is hard to find but all my past and current loves have given me no less.      

19 Aug 2010 4:37 PM
Sandra

My father was a racing official and so I've seen many horses races in many states, but nothing ever held the awe and excitement of a John Henry horse race. I was lucky enough to visit John in the summer of 2004 at the KHP where I was pleased to see that he was being well cared for. As he paraded next to us, I called to him and his head turned to look at me. I felt honored. It was pure joy to see the same spirited glint in his eye. Age did not rob him of his pride, nor his stature. Love you John! RIP great one.

20 Aug 2010 11:32 AM
Bev

I saw John Henry at the KY Horse Park and cried. Standing amidst all the memories of the great ones, that plucky little gelding still stood out. He was and is-unforgetable.

20 Aug 2010 3:18 PM
aleesa4

John Henry won the Turf Classic at Belmont Park in 1984 in 2:25:1 on the lead carrying 126 lbs.

Secretariat won the Man-o-War on the lead eleven years earlier on the same turf course in 2:24:4  carrying 121 lbs.

The great champions are the ones that win at the highest level at a 1 1/4 and beyond.    

20 Aug 2010 8:55 PM
Fred

There is no Thoroughbred racing in Quebec. So when I told some friends that I drove down to Kentucky for a horse's memorial service, they were shocked and asked me how things were going.

I told them that I made the drive to Kentucky twice a year for the past five years to see this horse while he was alive. I felt compelled to say that these visits were added onto the visits I made to my remarkably hale ninety-four year-old mother who lives near Michigan.

But this rationalization never did work with my mother who justly suspected that the timing of my visits to her were largely determined by what's going on with John Henry.

On my visit with her while on route to John's memorial, she asked, "Now that that horse is dead, am I going to see you again?"

I'm not sure mom.

22 Aug 2010 1:08 PM
The Track Philosopher

You can view John Henry's complete PP's.... it's amazing!

www.thetrackphilosopher.com/.../johnhenry_lifetimepps1.pdf

He was amazing!

23 Aug 2010 6:50 PM
Caren

I never got to see John in person but I have all of his great races on video. I've watched them all at least 50 times. My favorite is the Ballentine Scotch Classic; 'And Here Comes The Old Man-John Henry'

never looses it's thrill. What makes him my all-time favorite is the stories of his personality. His holding up many post parades to watch the crowds taking pictures of him. He knew they wouldn't start without him.

His antics of trying to step on his groom's feet while being led back to his barn. And my most favorite is the one where he'd come in second after winning something like 5 or 6 in a row and went to the winner's circle anyway.

It took his owners, jockey, and trainer to push him out so the winner could collect his trophy. I want to say is was The Bart but not sure. Anyone who knows anything

about horse racing knows who John Henry was. He's one that will be remembered as long as the sport is around.

24 Aug 2010 1:42 AM
Love 'em all!

Have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the comments, but especially the ones  by the lucky folks who actually knew JH through the years.

Fred, your post on 8/22 at 1:08pm takes the prize.  Thanks so much for sharing, and I do hope you continue to make those trips to MI to visit your dear mother.  JH would be so proud.

More stories, anybody?

24 Aug 2010 1:22 PM
Chris

John Henry was the monster on the track when I first started working in the industry as a groom. His iron horse magnetism...he grit.. his heart and his soul were all on display each and every race. In the 26 years since starting in the business Ive come to realize that there are 3 types of horses. Those that will strive to win because they understand what it is to win. They are all heart and soul regardless of conformation, breeding or price tag. Those that will try if conditions are right and they are sound. And those who just run. John Henry was of the first type. Back in 1989 I got to go to the Kentucky Horse Park to meet him while retired. I was in Lexington for the Red Mile meet. At the time both John and Ramblin Willie were in the retirement barn. Both gelded iron warrior horses. It was a privledge to meet them both.

25 Aug 2010 12:16 PM
coach'swife01

I think this article is great.  My oldest son which is named John Henry is always saying he wants to famous and he will eat this up.  Also, my husband is named John White and the author is Jon White.  Pretty neat !!

26 Aug 2010 4:59 PM
Darlene R.

I enjoyed reading the column on the most memorable races of John Henry.  However, the most memorable race of John Henry's career for me was when he broke his maiden at Jefferson Downs race track.  I was the placing judge that called John Henry the winner in the photo finish that night.  Bernie Flint owned and trained the second place finisher in that race.  To this day Bernie still chides me about that call!

31 Aug 2010 5:26 PM
Scott

What a marvellous article; it shook me up to realise how many years have passed since I avidly watched every race of Forego and John Henry. Thank God today we have Zenyatta who continues so brilliantly to keep the flag flying for the older horse in training.

08 Sep 2010 1:38 PM

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