The Skip Trip

First it was Holy Bull’s rampage in 1994 and then the reign of Cigar. No chronicle of the mid-to-late ‘90s would be complete without recognizing Skip Away’s career, which football pundits would call smash-mouth racing.

The story of Skip Away revolves around four basic elements – his remarkable statistics, his toughness, the love of his owner Carolyn Hine, and the inspiring final days of his trainer Sonny Hine.

I will focus first on his stats and toughness before getting to the human side of his story.

To give you an example of just how brilliant and resilient Skip Away was, I surprisingly will start off with his workouts before I even get to his racing record. You can search far and wide and you won’t find anything comparable to what Skip Away accomplished in the morning.

During his career, he turned in an amazing 53 bullet works, along with 21 works that were the second-fastest at the distance. Just think of it: 74 works that were the first or second-fastest times on the tab.

Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find trainers working their horses farther than five furlongs on more than an occasional basis. Skip Away worked six furlongs 30 times. In addition to having six works within the 1:10 and 1:10 3/5 range, he turned in a 1:08 3/5 drill at Belmont Park in 1997. At five furlongs, he worked in under 1:00 29 times, 10 of those under :59, including a :57 1/5 work at Gulfstream. At four furlongs, he had 11 works ranging from :46 1/5 to :46 4/5. From March 21 to April 21, 1998, he turned in six consecutive bullet works, and would have had seven had his 1:23 3/5 seven-furlong drill not been the only work at the distance.

Track conditions never stopped his trainer Sonny Hine, who worked Skip Away 19 times on an off track – 10 in the slop, five in the mud, and four on a good track.

OK, you get the picture. His racing career was no different, as he utilized that same brilliance and ruggedness in the afternoons as well, finishing in the money in 34 of his 38 starts. Of the four times he was out of the money, one was his career debut at five furlongs, in which he broke poorly; one came when he bled badly and was eased early in his 3-year-old campaign; and the other two came at Churchill Downs (in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic). Churchill proved to be the only track he couldn’t handle. Following his Derby fiasco, he finished in the money in 26 consecutive races, 25 of them graded stakes, 20 of which were grade I.

Skip Away was not the type of horse who would beat you in the final eighth of a mile, or even the final quarter of a mile. His strength (he was one of the strongest horses I’ve even been around) was his ability to run his opponents off their feet in the first three-quarters of a mile and keep going. He wasn’t going to dazzle you with his exceptional final quarters. But, having already demoralized his foes by running them into the ground, he didn’t need to close fast. When he had the lead turning for home, he was near-unbeatable. Of the 16 times he led at the head of the stretch, he won 14 of them. In those races, top-class horses Cigar, Gentlemen, Free House, Formal Gold, Will’s Way, Behrens, Deputy Commander, Louis Quatorze, Puerto Madero, and Editor’s Note couldn’t catch him. The only two times he didn’t win were in the Belmont Stakes after breaking from post 13 and the Gulfstream Park Handicap after going head and head every step of the way in demanding fractions, while giving nine pounds to the winner.

With Skip Away, there was no such thing as stealing a race with slow fractions. He didn’t believe in doing anything slow; that wasn’t his style. He ran hard, he ran fast, and he ran far. In his 1 1/4-mile victories, he set fractions of 1:09 3/5 and 1:33 4/5 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (run in a stakes-record 1:59); 1:10 and 1:33 4/5 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (run in 1:58 4/5); 1:09 3/5 and 1:34 in the Hollywood Gold Cup; and :46 3/5 and 1:10 1/5 in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. In his 1 1/8-mile wins, he went in :45 2/5, 1:09 flat, and 1:34 1/5 in the Woodward; 1:09 4/5 and 1:34 2/5 in the Haskell Invitational; 1:10 and 1:34 4/5 in the Philip H. Iselin (carrying 131 pounds); 1:10 1/5 and 1:34 4/5 in the Mass Cap (carrying 130 pounds); 1:10 1/5 and 1:34 4/5 in the Blue Grass Stakes; and in 1:10 3/5 in the Molson Million and 1:10 4/5 and Donn Handicap.

He did on occasion show the ability to win from off the pace in the final quarter, capturing the Suburban, Haskell, and Molson Million with strong stretch runs.

He didn’t even reach his peak until he was 5, putting together a nine-race winning streak, seven of them in grade I stakes, from Oct. ’97 to Sept. ’98.

************

OK, enough of stats. The real story of Skip Away is in actuality a love story. In fact, it is two love stories – Carolyn Hine and her horse and Carolyn and Sonny. It might sound a bit far-fetched to say that Skip Away was the child they never had, but that is the way Carolyn described him. Some may cringe and some may find it endearing, but the most familiar sound at the barn when Carolyn was there was “Skippy, mommy loves you,” which Carolyn would say constantly to the horse, much to Sonny’s amusement.

The relationship between Sonny and Carolyn was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Sonny, despite having a tendency to complain about a ride or other minor things, had the most easy-going disposition, which is why I chose him to work for at Monmouth Park in 1991 for a four-part feature I did for the Daily Racing Form, titled “Life on the Backstretch.” For five days, I mucked stalls, walked hots, held horses as they were being washed, did countless other jobs around barn, attended backstretch card games, night time prayer meetings, vanned down to Atlantic City with one of Sonny’s horses who was running in the United Nations Handicap, and attempted unsuccessfully to sit in on drug counseling meetings, but did speak to some of the participants.

Sonny’s barn was the stopping off point for anyone needing to borrow money or sell a horse, or simply indulge in a bagel and cream cheese or a donut. Some of the more recognizable backstretch characters that resided in Sonny’s barn were their cats Morris, Chi Chi, and Pepi.

Although the Hines’ certainly had enough money, that didn’t stop Carolyn from saving grocery coupons and searching for bargains at Fortunoffs. They preferred a Chinese buffet to a three-star restaurant, and never once in 37 years did they take a honeymoon or a vacation. Their life was the horses and their love for each other, and that was it. According to Carolyn, their entire life together was a honeymoon.

What makes Sonny’s story all the more remarkable, and one that seemed mind-boggling to those who knew him, was that prior to becoming a horse trainer he was an FBI agent and worked for Air Force intelligence and the CIA. On one mission he had to infiltrate enemy lines during the Korean War to monitor Russian and Chinese pilots who had been causing a great deal of damage to American facilities. The mission, coordinated by the Air Force and the CIA, was so important and hush-hush, Marines were sent in to protect them and battleships were positioned off the coast to prevent any further Communist movement in the area.

Sonny, was a good friend of J. Edgar Hoover, spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese, and became adept at breaking Chinese codes for the National Security Agency, for whom he worked, along with the CIA, in Hong Kong, investigating fraud cases. He also spent time in Vienna monitoring the Hungarian refugees who had converged on Austria following Hungary’s revolution. He was ranked one of the top 10 investigators in the world by the State Department, won the Outstanding Service Award, and did investigative work for the House Un-American Activities Committee.

This was such a far cry from the affable, cherubic Sonny Hine everyone knew that it was difficult to picture that aspect of his life. What I found funny was that Sonny would say about his life with Carolyn, “We’re so plain and simple it’s probably boring to most people.”

When Sonny and Carolyn first were married they had $900 to their name and lived in an attic at old Narragansett Racetrack. They had to cook meat on aluminum foil because they didn’t own a pot. When they were at Charles Town it was so cold they had to sit back to back on a bed in the tack room to keep warm. They carried all their possessions from track to track in a U-Haul and couldn’t even afford curtains for their windows.

So, one can understand why, when Skip Away came along over 30 years later, Carolyn would call him their “Gift from God.” Sonny always felt that he was Carolyn’s reward for having to endure so much in those early years.

Because of that, they turned down a $5-million offer for the horse after his devastating victory in the Blue Grass. And when Skip Away became a household name, Sonny and Carolyn didn’t hesitate to put up $480,000 to supplement him to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. When Skip Away retired, he had earned over $9.6 million and won an Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old in 1996, champion older horse in 1997, and Horse of the Year and champion older horse in 1998. But the rewards were far from over, which I’ll get to later on.

Sonny would kid Carolyn, asking her where he ranks in her life compared to Skip Away, and Carolyn would always answer: “Dead-heat.”

Perhaps they were even more appreciative of Skip Away knowing how they came to get him. Sonny had purchased the colt at the Calder 2-year-old sale for $30,000, only to have to return him on the advice of their veterinarian after X-rays revealed a chip in his ankle. Carolyn had already fallen in love with the horse, and she was disheartened as they left the sales pavilion and drove home. Sonny hung a leg on route 441, heading toward Hallandale Beach Boulevard, when he suddenly pulled off to the side of the road.

“Honey, there’s something about that horse,” he said to Carolyn. “I want to buy him anyway if you’re OK with it.”

Carolyn replied, “Well, it’s my birthday in a couple of weeks. That’ll be my birthday present.”

So, Sonny turned around and drove back to the sales pavilion and told the agent consigning the horse he still wanted to buy him, even with the ankle chip. The agent contacted the seller and breeder, who knocked $7,500 off the price in order to pay for any surgery that might be required. Sonny was confident in his ability as a horseman and decided not to have surgery performed. So, Skip Away went through his entire career, one of the most grueling in years, racing with a chip in his ankle, which was a testament to Sonny’s skills as a trainer.

****************

Darkness had fallen on Belmont Park, and Sonny stood alone in Barn 3, which housed what remained of the retiring Woody Stephens’ string of horses. Inside the barn, the 3-year-old Skip Away was cooling out after having defeated the mighty Cigar in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. As he passed Sonny, the colt gave a single cough.

Sonny didn’t hesitate. “Uh-oh, he coughed,” Sonny said. “Must be Cigar smoke.”

If there was any smoke it was from the torch that had just been passed. The racing world had been given a glimpse of the future, and its color was battleship gray.

As Skip Away fought off Cigar’s challenge down the stretch, Carolyn stood in her box, pounding the rail with both fists, shouting, “Come on Skip. Come on Skip.” As soon as they crossed the wire, with Skip Away the winner by a head, one of Carolyn’s guests shouted in disbelief. “You beat Cigar! You beat Cigar!”

Skip Away and Sonny could not have given Carolyn a better anniversary present. In the executive offices following the race, Sonny saw Cigar’s owner Allen Paulson and said to him, “You’re a credit to the game. I really admire you. You’ve gone everywhere and you’ve run everywhere – you’re really a great sport.” The torch had indeed been passed.

At the barn, Sonny handed out hundred-dollar bills to just about everyone in the barn, from Stephens’ stable help to the security guards. He and Carolyn had to catch a helicopter to the airport, but there was one more thing he had to see before they left.

“First he’s got to go in his stall and lay down and roll and then I’ll be happy,” Sonny said. As if on cue, Skip Away was led into the stall once occupied by Forty Niner and rolled over on both sides.

“Look at him,” Sonny said. “He’s still full of himself. He’s not even tired. Isn’t he amazing? He doesn’t get tired; he gets tougher. OK, now we can go home.”

**************

I knew what was coming and wasn’t looking forward to it. For Sonny and Carolyn, the gloom of a gray November morning befitted the occasion. It was time for them to say goodbye to Skip Away. They had followed the horse’s van from Churchill Downs to Hopewell Farm near Midway, and after their goodbyes they would begin their long drive home down to Florida, knowing Skip Away was no longer a part of their daily lives.

Carolyn had already done some heavy duty crying in the car, but she and Sonny knew the worst was yet to come. “The drive went too quickly,” Carolyn said after arriving at the farm. “It’s going to be such a void in our lives. It was like there was magnet drawing me to his stall every day.”

As Skip Away was led into his new home and stared through the Dutch doors in the back of his stall at his new surroundings, Sonny said, “He loves it here. Look at him looking around at everything. Well, you deserved it, buddy. You really earned it.”

Carolyn was in tears, feeling she was deserting Skip Away, and kept telling him she loved him. Even his groom, Jose Luis Sanchez, was crying, as Carolyn went over to console him. “It hurts,” he said.

Finally it was time for Sonny and Carolyn to leave. “Skip, we’ve got to leave you here,” Sonny said. “I’m sorry. I’ll let you go now. Goodbye old buddy. We’ll see you later.”

But Sonny would never see Skip Away again. All through the horse’s 5-year-old campaign he had been battling cancer and was too weak to travel.

Sonny always said it was Carolyn and Skip Away who kept him going when he found it difficult to put one foot in front of the other. When he became ill with the flu early in 2000, Sonny insisted on going to the barn, because, as Carolyn said, “He just loved his horses so much.” He developed pneumonia and in his already weakened state, was unable to fight it. It was the only fight Sonny would ever lose.

After he died, his physician was in tears. He had watched Sonny travel around the country with Skip Away, despite suffering the effects of chemotherapy, and knew it was only his courage and perseverance that enabled him to do it. It was that same perseverance and dedication that drove him to the barn to be with his horses, despite the risk involved.

Following Sonny’s death, Carolyn had to adjust to life without him, but found it increasingly difficult. Her first priority was to sell all the horses, keeping just one or two. She finally was able to visit Skip Away later that year, in Oct. 2000. Being in Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup, I met her at Hopewell Farm and witnessed the emotional reunion.

Carolyn’s main goal in life was to see Sonny and Skip Away inducted into the Hall of Fame. The first became a reality in 2003 when Sonny was voted in, and Carolyn asked me to make the presentation speech, which I was honored to do. The following year, Skip Away joined him.

“It’s a closure, Carolyn said afterward. “This is what I’ve been praying for. I’m grateful to have been blessed with such a wonderful husband and wonderful horse. I’m so proud of Sonny and so proud of Skippy. I don’t ever want that bubble to burst. Now I can go on and live with all my pride. The two most important men in my life are in the Hall of Fame.”

Help support Old Friends by purchasing Skipingo Home, the true story of Skip Away's little brother.


72 Comments

Leave a Comment:

NEVERKICKYOURDOG

GREAT STORY(IES)!

WHAT WAS BEHIND BAILEY (AGENT RON A)TAKING THE CALL ON BEHRENS RATHER THAN SKIP AWAY IN THE BC CLASSIC?

SONNY WAS CLASSY ENOUGH TO TELL MIKE SMITH IT WAS A ONE SHOT DEAL AND THAT BAILEY WOULD BE BACK ON HIM THE NEXT YEAR.

21 Dec 2008 10:20 PM
STEVE STONE

Hello Steve..What can one say..another brilliant..elequent and prolific piece..I certainly hope that Carolyn Hine reads this column as I am very sanguine that she will become as visceral in reading it as I have been..What a story to conclude the year.. A most happy and healthy New Year to you and your entire family Steve as we all look forward to seeing you here again in early 2009...Thank you again for the trip down memory lane and for your kind window and regards always..Steve Stone..East Hanover..New Jersey..

21 Dec 2008 10:25 PM
Slewed'em

Wow! Once again seeing behind the scenes make me love horse racing and people involved like the Hines' even more. This was truly moving!

21 Dec 2008 10:35 PM
Dreamer's Mom

Mr. Haskin-I am not a huge Skip Away fan, but after reading your story, I will reconsider!

Just one question-what was he like to be around?  I only know of him through a daughter of his and that is why I am not a big fan! Can you say "psycho"?

Thanks for your wonderful stories.  You make all of us that love Thoroughbreds very proud!

FYI-"mommy loves you" is heard a lot in our barn!  So happy to know "Skippy" had Carolyn!

21 Dec 2008 10:43 PM
skipaway2000

Thanks, Steve, for an awesome look back at my favorite racehorse.  When Caroline told Skippy she loved him, she was speaking for all of the fans as well.  It's amazing to see all of his fractions listed, too--there will never be another iron horse like him.  

21 Dec 2008 10:51 PM
needler in Virginia

You were blessed to know the three Hines, Steve. You blessed us with the telling of their story, and you make us remember how blessed we were to see   Skip Away run.

Have a lovely holiday season and DON'T STOP TELLING THESE STORIES!

Cheers.........

21 Dec 2008 11:35 PM
lisa

Skippy's achievements seem often overlooked.    He could carry weight, give it away and still win with ease on almost any track and under any condition in other words Skip Away was the last great  handicap horse.

21 Dec 2008 11:36 PM
Suzie

Thanks, Steve, for the wonderful article and bringing back the great memories of Skip Away and Sonny & Caroline Hine's love for him and each other. I adored Skippy and loved to watch him mow down his opponents; he picked his knees up so high when he ran, it looked like he was going to take flight.  He and Holy Bull are my favorite grays - I am delighted that you wrote about both horses in the last few weeks.  Keep up the great work, I never miss reading your stories.

21 Dec 2008 11:39 PM
Daunice

Thanks Steve. A Skippy fan since early in his 3 yr old career, always tought he didn't get the respect he deserved. At Saratoga, my cousin & I were excited to finally get to see Skippy training. The firrt morning a grey with Sonny's colors, wraps etc came out. We thought it was Skippy but we were not that impressed. The next morning we actually did see Skip Away. Then, we could always spot the real Skippy. He had presence. In the stands at Hollywood for the BC, I was sreaming "slow down Skippy, you're going too fast!" - he was amazing that day. I still miss that horse racing. Keeping Skippy racing that long, at that level was great training -but with Sonny battling cancer -unbelevable.

22 Dec 2008 12:22 AM
KP

This is such a beautiful story about, in my opinion, such an underrated racehorse.  

I was 15 when Skip Away beat Cigar.  The day of the Gold Cup, I rode my bike up to the local OTB with the intent of boxing Skip Away, Cigar and Louis Quatorze in a trifecta box.  I buckled at the last minute and put all my money on Cigar on top of Skippy and Louis.  When the photo came in, I vowed never to change my mind at the track again.  

The next year, I was writing on my high school newspaper and got a press pass to see the Woodward.  What an awesome field that was.  Skip Away, Free House, Gentlemen...  And Skippy beat them all.  I was the first person in the winners' circle to greet Mrs. Hine and she was so happy on the verge of tears.  I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Belmont paddock and she signed an 8x10 of Skippy beating Cigar in that great race for me with a huge grin on her face.

Skip Away was the horse that got me into racing.  He was brilliant and still to this day my favorite horse of all time.

22 Dec 2008 1:35 AM
russell maiers

Thanks Steve, what a wonderful racing story. Wish I could of seen just one of his works, much less a race. It amazes and delights me on how much of an impact one horse can have on people on and off the track.

22 Dec 2008 7:48 AM
FunnyCideFanboy

Great story, Steve! Skippy was a horse I was prepared to hate after he beat my Cigar in the JCGC, but I just couldn't! The torch was passed that day, & I fell in love with the grey monster! He became one of my all time faves, & saw him run many times. Skippy forever!

22 Dec 2008 8:13 AM
linda

Would Carolyn ever buy another skippy foal, or more to the point would she consent to another interview.  That is a great love story.  Thanks for helping us to recall one of the greats.

22 Dec 2008 8:34 AM
Bill

Steve, you really brought back some memories of Sonny and Carolyn and "Skippy" as she called him.  I remember Sonny as the trainer for Ben and Nathan Cohen, who owned Pimlico.  He had some good horses with them, but nothing like Skip Away.  His sire, Skip Trial, was a very good horse who upset that year's Derby winner in the Haskell and won other important races as well.  But Skip Away was certainly the horse Sonny had always dreamed about.  The love affair between Sonny and Carolyn was inspiring and her love for Skip Away was undeniable.  Thanks for the memories.

22 Dec 2008 8:40 AM
Dennis

Steve, as always, a wonderful story.  Thanks for revealing the human side of these great thoroughbred tales.  Please write a biography of John Nerud.  Not only will it be a great "read", but it will serve as a "how to" for all aspects of this game.

22 Dec 2008 9:07 AM
Draynay

One of my all time favorites.. I loved to watch that horse run... thanks for bringing him back.

Skip Away beat Cigar... enough said.

22 Dec 2008 11:01 AM
Karen in Texas

Thank you for telling Skippy's story! Separating the really good horses is difficult, but he may be my favorite horse of all time. His track and stakes records should speak for themselves, especially since he carried 130lbs. for at least the Mass Cap; but for some reason many people do not know or understand his accomplishments. Lone Star Park opened in April, 1997, and the Hines brought him to north Texas that month. The crushing crowd around the paddock was similar to the crush at Belmont for Cigar in 1995. Heaven had come to Texas! I hope to see him again while at stud.

22 Dec 2008 11:23 AM
The Deacon

Brilliant article Steve, as always you have captured the human side of this sport. Today, when we watch these races on ESPN or TVG, we never get to see the emotional side of the sport. The pain, the heartache and the love that owners and trainers feel for their equine heroes. Sonny and Carolyn Hines were a class act, and they deserved Skip Away, and Skip Away deserved them. It was a perfect match. So many heart felt stories, maybe that is why so many of us fell in love with this sport.

I agree with Dennis, maybe you could do a story on my all time favorite trainer, the legendary John Nerud.  

22 Dec 2008 11:28 AM
MikeM

Dreamers Mom - "Psyco" minded horses are not exclusive to Skip Away's offspring so don't hold it against him.

22 Dec 2008 11:52 AM
Debbie K

These wonderful stories should be in a book - I can't imagine that it wouldn't be a best-seller!  I look forward to each and every one of them.

22 Dec 2008 12:28 PM
Karen2

Steve...... You Da'man!!!!!! I am still patiently holding out for someone to jump on the idea of publishing all your great memories under one cover. I don't know how you do it. Your memories are so vivid and you don't miss even the smallest of details. All of which make your recollections the best I have ever read. I am going to come to Kentucky from the North pole (it is freezing up here) and not only do I want to meet some of the greatest horses of all time, I want to meet you! The man that brings these memories,this industry and the human connection to life for me and so many others. Hangin with Haskin....my favorite part of the day!!!!!  

22 Dec 2008 12:45 PM
Shoshin.Seishu

Riveting, Mr. Haskins.

I would have never known how rugged & talented a horse Skip Away is/was if you had not written about him (so movingly).  

What heart he has/had!

A  non-sequitur: I cannot help but think of Free House--& his tragic death, whenever I read of Skip Away.  

22 Dec 2008 1:21 PM
Steve Haskin

NKYD, Bailey committed to Behrens before getting the mount on Skip Away for the JC Gold Cup.

Thank you, Steve. Happy Holiday to you, too, and to all the readers. I've appreciated all your comments over the past six months.

Dreamer's Mom, Skip Away was pretty rough. He wasn't crazy by any means, he just didn't like to be fooled with. He was one of the few horses I wouldn't have my daughter pet. Not that he was mean, he was just so tough and full of himself all the time. I dont know if he would have tried to bite my daughter or not (99% of horses I've photographed her with didn't try). We were pretty careful about that (you have to know horses' signs). And horses just seemed to like her and would let her pet them or feed them mints, carrots or hay from the rack. But with Skip Away I didnt take any chances because he always looked aggressive.

KP, that Woodward win was awesome. As you said, what a field. Sonny and Carolyn were two of racing's greatest ambassadors, because they were so unpretentious and appreciated all the adulation for their horse. They were like your aunt and uncle.

Linda, Carolyn has raced several of Skip Away's offspring. She had moderate success, but nothing special.

22 Dec 2008 1:35 PM
Steve Haskin

Dennis, I've had several people suggest a bio of John Nerud, who is a close friend of mine. But as I've stated before I have no aspirations to write any more books, at least not for a while. John is the last reminaing true genius in this sport and he has a heckuva story, which I got into in my book on Dr. Fager.

Karen, Sonny always said Lone Star was one of the few tracks Skip Away didn't handle well. He just didnt show his best stuff that day. The track was extremely deep.

Karen 2, these blogs are all archived if they ever want to publish them in one book. The blogs are a combination of memory and digging up old stories. The more I find the more it helps jog the memory. And at times I take passages right from the old stories, because what you want to say is usually always best said the first time. Most times you just can't improve on it or say things any better than you did originally.

22 Dec 2008 1:45 PM
Cgriff

If that story isn't a movie - I don't know what is.  Fabulous horse, fabulous people.  Thanks, Steve!

22 Dec 2008 1:45 PM
Karen in Texas

Steve, I'll never hold his race at Lone Star against him. He had already shown brilliance and the best was yet to come!

22 Dec 2008 2:04 PM
TheDman

Steve,

That was probably a good idea not to let your daughter near Skippy. I also was there during Carolyn's reunion with him in October 2000, and he did bite me that day! Had blood running down my arm, right in front of Carolyn. I was totally embarrassed, but couldn't have been bitten by a better horse! Now I like to say we're blood brothers!

22 Dec 2008 2:15 PM
Nancy in New York

Steve - Truly Great People and a Great Horse.  It would make a fine book with pictures immortalizing all three of them.  Racing is in a sorry without three more like the Sonny, Carolyn and Skip Away!

Thank you!

Nancy Petrillo

22 Dec 2008 2:58 PM
Steve Haskin

Dman, I dont remember that. Were you working there at the time or just happen to be visiting? Was I there too when you got bit? I was with Carolyn the whole time, so it must have just skipped my mind -- no pun intended.

22 Dec 2008 4:07 PM
TheDman

I was just visiting. I think you were with her the day she arrived at Hopewell, but she stayed the weekend and I was with her the next day. I was tipped off by a friend that she was going to be there, so I made sure to go. It was a Skip Away love-fest.

22 Dec 2008 4:27 PM
DONNA

  Another great story Steve. I never did pay much attention to him in the late 90's but it was great to get info on him that I was never aware of. Is he still alive?

22 Dec 2008 4:44 PM
White Camry

Call HBO!  This is a helluva miniseries waiting to be made!

22 Dec 2008 4:58 PM
Wanda

Was blown away by the number of bullet works you commented on. Did he really work in 108 and change? I would love to have one RUN in 8 and change never mind work that fast. I mean I know he was an iron horse and was fast but put the numbers all together like that and it's kind of mind blowing.

22 Dec 2008 5:03 PM
Samantha S

Steve, another great article.  My family was friends with Sonny & Caroline and it brought back many memories.  They were a super couple who loved each other and loved Skippy.  

When we took Urbane to Saratoga to run in the John A Morris, Skippy was also in the stakes barn.  It made for some nice mornings.

22 Dec 2008 5:23 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, DMan, that explains it.

Donna, he is very much alive and residing at Hopewell Farm, just up the a road a piece from Three Chimneys.

22 Dec 2008 5:50 PM
joe

The (early) morning before the 1998 Breeders' Cup I was eating a great breakfast in the old dining room there.  Skip Away is on the track...Silver Charm is on the track."  Eggs, waffles, hot biscuits and all were forgotten as the whole dining room it seemed rushed out into the cold early morning darkness to see this first class workout.  I have a picture to remember the moment.  

22 Dec 2008 5:58 PM
Sara

Steve, What a wonderful holiday present for Carolyn...please see that she gets a copy.  

22 Dec 2008 6:36 PM
Remember the Fog

Skip Away had an abundance of the racing elements I admire most: speed, stamina, and guts. He was my #1, during his career. The Hine's personal story made it even better.

Steve, your ode to Skippy and family was perfect.  

22 Dec 2008 7:44 PM
Dennis Mills

A  special effort Steve, Carolyn is one of the Great Ladies in the game. We own a Skippy colt out of a relaunch mare together. After reading you story my excitment grew in Skip to Heaven and my admiration for Carolyn's loyalty continues to grow.Let's do the movie!

22 Dec 2008 8:31 PM
SkippyFanClubPresident

As the president of the Skip Away Fan Club when he was racing, I had the privilege of becoming very close to the hines and every words of this article is true. This article tells an amazing story of a true legend.

22 Dec 2008 9:27 PM
Umatilla Joe

Steve, great article about a very tough, great racehorse. Sonny really knew his horse because you wouldn't find many now with work tabs that he showed. A work in 8 3/5 is hard to fanthom. That's fully 18-20 or so lenghts faster than a typical bullet 6f work at most tracks on a busy day. Fears of injury and squeezing the lemon would preclude such works, but Skip Away obviously thrived on it.

Sonny made the Hall for a reason. He knew his horse.

Happy Holidays and keep it coming in 09.  Dr. Joe

22 Dec 2008 10:42 PM
Steve Haskin

I remember writing a feature on Skip Away's fan club, whose president was about 12 at the time named Amanda (I wont mention her last name in case this is you and dont want it published) and how Sonny and Carolyn had given her Skip Away's saddlecloth and had her come to the Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park. That was around the time of the birth of "Kids to the Cup." Anyway, if this is you, I'm happy to see you still have retained your position as president of the fan club after all these years. The Skip Away Fan Club was the genesis of numerous fan clubs around the country.

22 Dec 2008 10:58 PM
Barbara

i was not a fan of Skip Away, as I liked his contemporaries, Cigar, Silver Charm and Gentlemen.  Then, at the 97 BC, I met Sonny and Carolyn at the barn, and I must say - I became a fan.  As I recall, Skippy was nice to Carolyn, but others - not so much.  His 97 BC was as impressive a race as you will ever see and to read his work and race times just makes me realize how good he was and that he never got the respect and accolades that  he truly deserved. What a horse.

22 Dec 2008 11:13 PM
The Deacon

Hey Steve, living out here in the West many of us do not get a chance to visit these great equine champions of the past, is there an tour agency we could connect with to come East and visit these greats of the past? Much like a tour guide company. Back in the day I used to visit some of the ranches out here. As a suggestion, maybe you and Lenny could have John Nerud on as your guest on one of your future "And They're Off" episodes, maybe do an extended show..............just a thought.  Thanks for all of your beautiful blogs, they sure warm my heart.

22 Dec 2008 11:35 PM
RachelSatterfield

Debbie K, He does have a book called Tales from the Triple Crown with similar stories of the human element behind the horses.  It's a great read and I recommend it to everyone.  I notice he was modest enough not to actually mention it. Thanks for the wonderful stories Steve.  I love reading your pieces.  You motivate me to want to write.  Thank you.

22 Dec 2008 11:51 PM
Jane H

I am always most interested in hearing about racehorse personalities, especially in relation to their performance on the track. Was Skip Away aggressive towards Mrs. Hines, or was/is she able to bring out a gentler side of him?

23 Dec 2008 12:29 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, Karen 2 for the kind words. However, if you do go to Kentucky you wont find me there unless it's for the Derby, as I live in New Jersey.

23 Dec 2008 12:36 AM
SkippyFanClubPresident

Steve,

It is me, Amanda Bernacchi. The ironic part of it is, is that the girl who was the president of the Touch Gold Fan club ( she came with me to the '98 Breeder's Cup) sent me this article. It's great to know article are still being written about Skip Away and the Hines, because they should never be forgotten. I actually work at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, and I was told that some of Skip Away's offspring have raced here in the past.

23 Dec 2008 10:17 AM
Kelly E.

Thank you Steve!  I confess I was not a Skip Away fan...nobody could have taken Silver Charm's place in my heart.  I will defiantly note that Skip Away did not beat Silver Charm in their only meeting - that fabulous '98 BC Classic (why not do a piece on that?)...but I will admit that Skippy was one heckuva racehorse and was much-loved.

23 Dec 2008 10:50 AM
Steve Haskin

I forgot the girl's name who was president of the Touch Gold Fan Club, but I felt so badly for her after the Classic when Touch Gold finished last and tore a good portion of his bad hoof off. She took it pretty bad. The horse never should have run in the race. I also remember a boy named Tom, I believe, who was president of the Free House Fan Club. I'm glad to see you've kept in touch and that you're still in racing. I also remember a woman who was organizing this new Fan Club Alliance so to speak, but gave it up. Hard to believe you kids are all grownups now. Time flies as they say. Good luck with your job and maybe I'll see you at the track some day.

23 Dec 2008 10:50 AM
Steve Haskin

btw, I was referring to the '97 Breeders' Cup. I remember her being there that day, too. But maybe my memory is playing tricks with me.

23 Dec 2008 10:53 AM
newsline2

Steve, can you briefly explain how Sonny trained around the bone chip? How did he prevent it from being a problem? And then as a government employee, didn't Sonny have benefits after he left the agency? Or was he involved through military service, so his benefits were limited to those available to Korean War veterans?

Like someone else said, these stories of dedication and achievement are inspiring.

23 Dec 2008 3:15 PM
Viewer # 9

Steve, yet another terrific story - keep 'em coming.  How about one on Monba ?

I took a look at Skippy's PP's: 15 Beyer figs of 115 or higher, 4 of 120 or higher, and a peak of 125.  Not exactly chopped liver.

Alex Stevens, San Diego

23 Dec 2008 4:52 PM
Whirlawayfan

I interviewed Sonny at Saratoga and had my picture taken with Skippy. No inkling of a biting hab it. Sonny couldn't have been more gracious to the editor of a small circulation weekly. Now I'm an owner myself and I also ride a retired Canadian TB that raced in the Queen's Plate.

24 Dec 2008 1:44 PM
Whirlawayfan

I'm just about to read Tales from the Triple Crown and an sure I'll love it.

24 Dec 2008 1:45 PM
Tony

1997 my 50 birthday.

My son trated me to the 1997 Breeders Cup form my 50.

It was a thrill of a lifetime.

My son and I were privileged to see in flesh Damascus, Riva Ridge,Secreteriat,Sham,Forego,Ruffian,Seatle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed and Alydar and many more at Belmont Park. We talked about all the fun we had on the trip from New York to Hollywood Park. We planned on doing a six race parlay 1 Unit Win and two units place on all the B C races.After we hit the first four we had a sizeable amont of money and discussed to take a 1/3 so we would not be devestated if we lost. We decided to stick to the plan and we won the fifth. The winnings covered double the cost of the trips for both and then some. Again we thought aboutkeeping some money but Skip Away was our bet of the day so we decided to let it ride. Skip did exactly what you said. He ran them into the ground and one easily. My son got a Job breeding and racing horses later and we got to race a horse in the Preakness and a filly in the Breeder's Cup. All that was exciting but the Skip Away win tops them all.

Thanks for bringing back the memories.

24 Dec 2008 4:06 PM
laura

Steve,

I love Skippy. The Hines...Remember what he did to Suffolk Downs & the Mass Cap...

Laura

24 Dec 2008 4:28 PM
Richie

I had not been to the blogs for a couple of weeks, but what a nice Christmas gift to sit here on Christmas Eve and read this wonderful piece on one of my favorite horses. Skippy was such a warrior!! It makes me a bit angry that so many forget how great a horse he was on the track because he hasn't had a great career at stud but I know I never will. Thanks for remembering him and the Hines for all of us. I also want to wish you and your family a great Christmas and Happy 2009. Just think of all the great horse stories waiting to be written!!!!! The best part is that you will be there to write them for us.

24 Dec 2008 7:03 PM
Steve Haskin

Whirlyfan, that was Sonny. He was like that to everyone; very unpretentious and always gracious. I hope you enjoy the book.

Thanks for that story Tony. Sounds like an unforgettable trip. What horses did you have in the Preakness and BC?

Laura, I remember the ovation he received at Suffolk. They loved him there. His duel with Formal Gold the first year was fantastic.

Happy holiday to you, Richie, and thank you.

25 Dec 2008 9:32 AM
rich loughrey

What a sweet story. Your words flow like a river out to sea.

25 Dec 2008 10:43 AM
Karen2

I agree with you Richie. I can't wait for the many stories that are yet to be.  My husband got me the tales from the triple crown written by Mr. Haskin for Christmas, so I can't wait to get started reading that.

Steve, you live in New Jersey?? So you are use to cold weather. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas filled with peace, love and cherished memories. Thank you for sharing your gift with us. If I ever make it to Kentucky it will be during the derby. Hopefully this year.

25 Dec 2008 12:44 PM
Marguerite

Steve,

I really enjoyed reading the tribute to Skip Away.  Your story was so full of details and so interesting that I wish your article could be expanded into a book with photos.

25 Dec 2008 2:00 PM
SkipOnSkipAway

I will never forget the first time I ever saw Skip Away. When I was younger I would watch the Derbies and the Classic each year but I didn't follow like I do now. To see that majestic gray charger in the 97 classic post parade was something else. There will never be another horse that I will see that I will love more in this sport. There was a picture of him galloping back after the 98 classic with Silver Charm beside him and it was perfect.

Thank you so much for writing this. Skip Away is a forgotten, underrated horse for the most part. Perhaps because he didn't win the Derby... but he was something else. Thank you so much. All the best in the holidays for you!

25 Dec 2008 4:01 PM
Steve Haskin

Rich, what a poetic compliment. Thanks so much.

Thank you, Karen, Merry Christmas to you, too. Yes, I'm used to the cold. I like the change of seasons.

Happy holiday, Skipon. And to all of you.

25 Dec 2008 4:16 PM
tony

Snuck In in the Preakness and Miss Linda in the o1 Breeder's cup.

26 Dec 2008 10:23 AM
Luvthehorses

Mr. Haskin  -  Another great story.

You always leave me in tears.

The Hines were such great owners and Skip Away was such a blessing to every aspect of their lives.

I always look so forward to your writings.

Thank you -

27 Dec 2008 12:40 PM
GunBow

Thanks Steve. Skippy is not forgotten or underated by me.  I always thought he was one serious racehorse.  Since 1990, I place only Cigar above Skip Away.  And in truth, if the two were to have raced ten times at their peaks, I think Skippy could have actually won more of them. He was just so fast, so strong, so tough and physical, and he could run as far as needed. He truly did just run his competition into the ground. A great example is the 98' Hollywood Gold Cup when he ground down Gentlemen through furious fractions and then held of the future grade 1 winner Puerto Madero. He was old school.

28 Dec 2008 3:54 AM
Bradgm

Hey Steve, long time no talk.

I've been super busy, too much time at race tracks this past summer. Then the BC, was going to look up you guys but the announcement of my alma mater's fav bball coach and his retirement,then ill health (Midnight Lute is his namesake) well I was bummed.

Great Story as always. These guys didn't realize you are a Jersey boy? Mentioned it enough.

I was remembering about Sonny making the comment that Carolyn could go buy anything she wanted to wear at Kmart. Think it was before the KY Derby, not totally clear on the memory.

I knew he spoke Mandarin and they were quite the couple.

I can just picture you mucking stalls (well not really) guess you have a back-up if all else fails.

Thanks again for your great stories, loved this one especially.

Wow if you could do a story on Mr. Nerud, met him once and he's something special. He's what almost 96 now? THAT would be a story and a half.

Dr Fager and the humans he tutored along the way, what an interesting read.

28 Dec 2008 6:15 PM
NEVERKICKYOURDOG

NOTE TO GUN BOW....I WAS AT TONY MANERO'S STEAK HOUSE THE EVENING OF A GUN BOW VICTORY(I WAS ROOTING FOR THE HORSE WHO RAN SECOND)...DAYS LATER, I SAW EDDIE NELOY AND DINNY PHIPPS IN A SERIOUS CONVERSATION AT THE PALM BAY CLUB...WHO WAS TO KNOW.

EDDIE NELOY WAS A GREAT TRAINER AND, POSSIBLY, THE WORST HANDICAPPER/BETTOR EVER.

28 Dec 2008 6:40 PM
dr fager01

skip away definately a great horse, lets not knock him for his winded race record he did improve as an older horse, deacon said cigar was a much better horse than invasor, i agree, but his claim was because cigar faced better compettition,i agreed again, he said cigar faced holy bull and skip away, in that being said he is right, but thats totally not true. cigar for two years ran through a decaying handicap division,the big boys were done ala holy bull the wicked north,and the new kids on the block showed up too late to interfere with cigars 16 in a row. the truth is cigar did face the two better equine stars of the 90s, but one broke down and the other beat him as a three year old who was not even at his peak yet.the likes of gentlemen formal gold alphabet soup were late to tackle his streak. But that just sums up the legacy of cigar, he sort of remided me of forrest gump, he could do no wrong, athough he did not posess the talents of some of the greatest thoroughbreds of our time. he made some allowance caliber horses eat his shorts.

22 Oct 2009 10:40 PM
dr fager01

THE 90S GREATS AS INDICATED BELOW 1-10

1]HOLY BULL

2]SKIP AWAY

3]CIGAR

4]GENTLEMEN

5]IN EXESS

6]FORMAL GOLD

7]SILVER CHARM

8]BEST PAL

9]FREE HOUSE

10]CRIMINAL TYPE

THE DECADE OF THE 80S 1-10

1]JOHN HENRY

2]SUNDAY SILENCE

3]ALYSHEBA

4]EASY GOER

5]SLEW O GOLD

6]PRECISIONIST

7]GATE DANCER

8]CONQUISTADOR CIELO

9]LOST CODE

10]SNOW CHIEF

23 Jan 2010 12:08 AM
Jen

R.I.P. Old friend, thanks for some of the best racing out there.

18 May 2010 12:26 PM

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