Farewell to Skip Away

There is nothing I can say about Skip Away and his owner Carolyn Hine and trainer Sonny Hine that has not been said in the following blog, first published on Dec. 22, 2008. So, I am reprinting it as a tribute to one of the toughest, most durable horses I have had the privilege to see run and the two people whose lives he encompassed.

For Carolyn, Skip Away's death was a devastating blow. It was as if she had lost a son, and in essence she had. Her beloved Skippy was all she had left, and his sudden demise 10 years after Sonny's death was more than she could bear. The horse had become the embodiment of her husband; a physical link to all he was and all he stood for. Skippy was Sonny's final and greatest gift to his wife and she cherished every moment of joy he gave them -- on and off the racetrack.

Carolyn has been recuperating from knee replacement surgery, and for the first time in years she was able to move around pain free. She decided to travel and visit friends and family, and her first order of business was to see Skip Away at Hopewell Farm in Kentucky. She felt guilty not being able to visit him, but now that she finally was up to it, she couldn't wait.

She also was looking forward to going to Monmouth Park on June 12 for the Skip Away Stakes. Now, when she attends the track that she and Sonny and Skip Away called home for years, a feeling of emptiness will pervade on all the wonderful memories. It is hoped that Monmouth will arrange some kind of tribute to Skip Away on that day, not only to honor his accomplishments, but to help soothe the pain Carolyn will be feeling when she presents the trophy to the winning connections.

The blog that follows is broken up into four segments, each depicting a different aspect of Skip Away's remarkable career, his unique relationship with his owner, and of course the relationship between Sonny and Carolyn.

The Skip Trip

22 Dec 2008 2:08 PM

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 the 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 left 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, 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 a 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."

 

131 Comments

Leave a Comment:

anna

skip away might have been the second coming of dr fager only with a silver and black coat instead of bay since both loved hearing the wind whipping though their ears as they ran their rivals off their feet.

19 May 2010 8:51 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

What a tear jerker. Phenominal story. I can't even imagine the horse racing world without Haskin's insights into it. He always answers that question-What's really goin'on? My condolences to Carolyn and all those who knew and loved Skip Away. What a great horse. A workout in 1:08 something. Unbelievable. Is he the greatest front runner of all time? Could you have a better journey than Carolyn, Sonny, and Skip Away had? I don't know how.

19 May 2010 9:00 PM
2:24

Awesome tribute Steve.

19 May 2010 9:05 PM
steve from st louis

Steve: Between the two, who was tougher, the horse or his trainer?

19 May 2010 9:07 PM
steve from st louis

Steve: I think I know the answer to my own question--"dead heat".

19 May 2010 9:16 PM
Pedigree Shelly

       Well done article Steve ! I will always remember Skip Away as the true " Iron Horse "

19 May 2010 9:31 PM
Mike Relva

STEVE:

Thanks for another great work. I  never heard of Skip Away having a heart problem. How long has it existed?

19 May 2010 9:41 PM
Katherine

Steve,

The Bloodhorse should print a warning at the beginning of some of your articles "do not proceed without box of tissue nearby".  How fortunate Carolyn Hine has been. xox to her.

19 May 2010 10:29 PM
Phil McSween

Steve, fascinating piece on a GREAT LOVE STORY.    

Skip Away was a bit before my time but i went back and watched some of his greatest wins.    

AMAZINGLY TOUGH HORSE, especially when he was ON THE MUSCLE.    

Well done Professor Haskin !

19 May 2010 10:36 PM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

I knew I shouldn't read this... I knew it would make me cry... I knew I would feel terrible for Carolyn Hine... but I couldn't resist. I was the proverbial moth to the flame.

There is no comment that I can make that would do justice to the beautiful tribute you wrote for two great human beings and their beloved horse.

Let me just offer my deepest sympathies to you, Mrs. Hine for the loss of both your wonderful husband Sunny and Skip Away, the horse of a lifetime. They were lucky to have you and your love, even if they had to share it in a "dead-heat". Hugs!

19 May 2010 10:53 PM
John T

I have never been able to understand how diamonds are a girls

best friend and man had to settle for a dog whenever there is such a

majestic animal around like the thoroughbred.Now and again there comes along a really great thoroughbred and Sonny and Carolyn Hines were able to find one of them

in Skip Away.It was just like Carolyn said after 30 years of hardships I think Skippy was our gift from God.

19 May 2010 11:00 PM
Maxine

Steve:

Kind thanks for another wonderful article which says the important things with your superb sense of how to do things right--just like Sonny and Carolyn Hine and their grand horse Skip Away. I learned some things I didn't know &/or had forgotten, all of which add to my admiration for all involved. You, Joe Hirsch, and Kent Hollingsworth are three of my all-time favorite writers, all much appreciated for your ability to really see the important core of a story and tell it with such skill, class, and poignancy. If you admire the late Bill Hartack as much as I do, I'd love to see you write his story, particularly in book form. Thanks again for another labor-of-love.

19 May 2010 11:04 PM
txhorsefan

Steve, only you could tell this story in such a way that now I feel like I really knew the Hines' and their wonderful horse.  In reality, I simply remember reading that Skip Away beat Cigar, but at the time it all happened, I wasn't following racing all that much.  Now I know I missed out on so much, but it is wonderful to have you to bring these horses and their people to life for me.  My heart goes out to Carolyn Hines for the loss of her dear Sonny and Skippy.  Thank you.

19 May 2010 11:36 PM
downhomesunset

Steve,

Thank you for reminding us all that Cigar was not the only horse racing that had captured the hearts of racing fans.

Carolyn, thank you for Skip Away

19 May 2010 11:57 PM
Karen in Texas

Thank you, Steve. Skip Away was my all time favorite. As I wrote when you first published the above blogs in 2008, when he came to Lone Star Park a few months after it opened in 1997, the "crush" in the paddock area was similar to the crowd in the paddock for Cigar at Belmont (Breeders' Cup) in 1995. I have many pictures from that day of Skip and the Hines, and I always appreciated their bringing him to Texas. That he had to run against Mike Pegram's champion miler in the Texas Mile and lost did not matter, I knew I was in the presence of greatness. When he completed that season with his Breeders' Cup tour de force, I can only imagine how fulfilled the the Hines must have felt. Maybe Carolyn can find comfort in knowing how special he was to so many racing fans.

20 May 2010 12:05 AM
Greg J.

Wonderful tribute Mr. Haskin, I am speechless...

My sincere condolences to Carolyn and all the lives that Skip Away touched...

20 May 2010 12:21 AM
Matthew W

He could run fast and get the 1 1/4--'nuff said, Skip Away, racing's "tough customer", was the best horse of the 90's--best because of how he won his races--not a grinder, stalker, closer--Skip Away was that rare horse who ran them off their feet, and that's why he was so great...

20 May 2010 2:25 AM
Gary Lynn

Great Horse...my friend's steed led him to the quarter pole in the Iselin , then it was lights out. Wished you'd skipped over SH's having done investigative work for HUAAC if that meant he was a McCarthyite. If so, ironic his colors were red and yellow.  

20 May 2010 6:02 AM
PomDeTerre

Mr. Haskin- Your insight on this great animal and his owners was a joy to read. Skippy was probably the most honest TB to see a race track, and win or lose, that must be respected.  He really was the last Iron Horse, and perhaps because he left so much of his heart on the track with each race, there was nothing left of it to sustain him thru his retirement.  I was fortunate to have owned one of his daughters (a strapping chestnut destined to turn roan) until last December.  She was feisty and possessed her daddy's high knee action.  She also developed a (knee) chip, but, unlike her sire and despite the best medical care I could provide, her soundness was uncertain, and to do what was best for her, she was retired last August at three.  I cried that entire weekend, and your story has me crying again for her, Mrs. Hines and Skip. What a truly remarkable story you have shared with us. I get goosebumps watching Skip Away's BC win, and I offer my sincerest condolences to Mrs. Hines.  

The sport and the world has lost 2 truly great champions in Skippy and Mr. Hines.    

20 May 2010 6:55 AM
Fran Loszynski

You're awesome Steve. I love reading your articles.

To Carolyn: I hope and know you will one day catch the eye of another racehorse with heart. Racehorses know how to find people that care about them.You must know that God gets up every morning and reads the New York Post. He simply said to himself "Hmmm, I miss Skip Away"  and called him home to his finish line.

20 May 2010 7:35 AM
Don in Massachusetts

Steve,

Thanks for a great tribute to Skip Away.  I send my condolences to Carolyn Hines on the loss of her beloved Skippy.  Her love enabled Skip Away to accomplish so much; what a wonderful model of what an owner should be!

Rest in Peace, Skip Away!

20 May 2010 7:49 AM
the_wiz

Steve,

You have a way to bring the behind the scene stories into our homes like no other. I am forever grateful to find a blog that puts such a personal touch on a sport I love.

Carolyn's dedication and love to the "men in her life" is a testament to true human emotions. What a story and what a Lady.    

20 May 2010 8:17 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Two Pulitzer articles in a row. It's a dead heat. Well almost. This one is more moving.

20 May 2010 8:21 AM
SkipAway#1

Steve, it would be awesome if they did a biography on Skip Away.... or better yet make it apart of the Thoroughbred Legends series....

Skip Away is #1 for me forever and always. No horse before or after will ever compare.

20 May 2010 9:00 AM
Debbie in NJ

Steve, what a great tribute. Skip Away was my all time favorite horse! I loved him dearly. I propably cried as many tears as Carolyn did when they retired him. Now I've cried as many for his passing. May you rest in peace Skippy. There will never be another like you.

20 May 2010 9:20 AM
Colmel

Thank you for such a wonderful story BOTH times. This was a fitting tribute to a man with vision who loved his horses and his wife - to a woman who loved her "boys" - and to a horse that the whole racing world grew to love.

Carolyn, if you read this - my deepest sympathies are with you. I understand so completely how it is to be childless and to make your world one with your husband and with your horse(s). Skip Away was God's gift to you and Sonny AND to the racing world. Neither Sonny or Skippy will be forgotten. And, dear Carolyn, neither will you.

20 May 2010 9:32 AM
CV

Mr. Haskin,

You really have a gift for writing. What a beautiful "love story!" It brought tears to my eyes.

20 May 2010 9:34 AM
Cgriff

Steve,

Probably as good a piece as your 2001 Tiznow BC recap.

What a horse.  What a man.  What a woman.

What a love story.

Please let Mrs. Hines know that so many thousands of fans wish her every comfort and sympathy in this very sad time.

But - oh - what memories she has to carry her through.

20 May 2010 9:38 AM
MonicaV

Steve,

This was a wonderful column and I know that Mrs. Hine is devesated to have lost Skippy.  I was truly saddened by the news and the demise of Snow Chief.  I always mourn the passing of these great animals.

20 May 2010 10:55 AM
Runfast159

Come on Steve.  You know you have to do the book of all your stories.  With pictures.  My optimism tells me if I keep asking, some day it will be so.  One can only hope.

This was of course a moving tribute as only you could pen it.  I wasn't ready for tears this morning...

20 May 2010 11:24 AM
Serena

Well Steve.... you did it again. The love pouring out of this story is something I wish we could bottle and sell. Something as honest and pure as love for one another and love for an animal could cure so many of the world's evils.  Thank you so much for your unique and beautiful prose in telling this love story.   It's almost surprising to read of Skip's accomplishments because, while there are so many of them,  he was racking up all those wins  such a routine manner... all in a very blue collar sort of way. With not alot of fanfare surrounding him, he got the job done.   I didn't know what a diverse and intriguing career Sonny had prior to getting into racing. Wow, sounds like quite a resume.  You'd never know it!   I loved seeing the Hines on t.v. and listening to them talk about Skippy.  Truly, he was their child.  My heart goes out to Carolyn for her losses.   And I do hope they manage some sort of honor for Skip Away in his namesake race.  They deserve it.

thanks!

20 May 2010 11:31 AM
Tim G

"Sonny said. "I'm sorry. I'll let you go now. Goodbye old buddy. We'll see you later."

He's finally going to get to make good on that promise.

20 May 2010 11:48 AM
Larissa

Steve,

 I am became a fan of horse racing in 2002.  I never knew the story of Skip Away.  Those article were so beautiful and they truly touched my heart.  Thanks so much for sharing.

Larissa

20 May 2010 12:02 PM
sodapopkid

Damn it, Steve Haskins!  I am just going to have to quit reading your blogs,  My god, man, Please start letting us know that we can read your personal blogs to horses and owners at our own risk.

Could it have been anymore sadder, NO,  Your writing is just to good,  This story is just a heartbreaker. so sad, Oh, my its just to much,  

Such a beautiful piece Mr. Haskins...

Well, My day is busted now.......I have such a soft spot for thoroughbreds anyway,   I will have to leave this blog alone for awhile,  Need to get some Valium to read it again........After reading it again , I need to go on to sleep for awhile.....I won't be worth a darn afterwords........

20 May 2010 12:36 PM
Steve Haskin

Runfast, I have all the stories, but I ain't got no publisher. This would be my kind of book -- everything is already written and I wouldnt have to do anything.

Sodapop, settle down and take a deep breath. You'll be fine in no time. :) Seriously, to you and everyone else, thank you for the reaction and the kind words. All I'm doing is telling the story.

20 May 2010 12:51 PM
maryglynn

Wonderful to be so taken in by a story as to forget where i am and what is going on around me. This story would make a wonderful movie.

May God bless  Ms. Hines. Thank you steve for another wonderful Journey.

20 May 2010 1:18 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve, i am just now seeing that you have written a tribute to Skip Away and his loving caretakers.

I will wait to read it as i know i would have to redo my face and wait until my eyes were dry and not red to go run errands.

God Bless Mrs. Hine and may she be strengthened in the knowledge that there are so many of us who are feeling her great loss right along with her. If horses were mountains, he would be Mount Everest. As i said earlier, he takes my breath away and always will.

Thanks so much Steve.

20 May 2010 1:22 PM
Ray G

Steve: What a great column! I had  lump on my throat reading it. I witnessed many of Skip Away victories at the track and saw the love his owners had for him.

My only complaint about him was that I bet on him on the Belmont stakes and he looked like a sure winner till the very end. What a great race!

Thank you for this article.

20 May 2010 1:37 PM
Catherine

My condolences to Mrs. Hine. She's a class act, as were Sonny and Skippy. They were a real family.

Another beautiful tribute, Steve. You always know just what to say and how to say it. Thank you for the memories, and thanks to Mrs. Hine, Sonny, and Skippy, we got to have them.

20 May 2010 2:16 PM
Kim

Sitting at work with tears in my eyes.  I loved Skippy and cried when he lost his last race at Churchill.  I was present to see it and wanted him to win so badly.  I was honored to see him several times at Hopewell.  They certainly don't make them like Skippy anymore.  I would love to send a card to Carolyn Hine if anyone knows how to reach her.

20 May 2010 2:46 PM
Judy Loves John Henry ~ California

To downhomesunset:

No disrespect, but Cigar was not the only horse who "captured the hearts of racing fans" ~ the legendary JOHN HENRY did, too. ;-)

20 May 2010 2:52 PM
the_wiz

The Steve Haskin Chronicles, Insight Into Horseracing. Has a nice ring to it.

Put all your best material (good luck finding anything not worthy) together and I'd buy it in any shape or form. Who needs a publisher? The best books/chronicles have worn out covers and bindings from repeated use anyway.

20 May 2010 3:03 PM
babette jenny

What a wonderfully written love story! We had a Skip Trial son we retrained to become an eventer. EVERYONE who knew him fell in love with him. His trainer sold him to us at a loss because she said he deserved better than to be claimed off her (he was down to winning in claimers by then, and still a money-maker for her). He is such a cheerful game and bright boy, with absolutely clean legs at 7 when we sold him on to a young event rider who also loves him.I had followed Skip Away and always loved him, and am devastated by his early death.Always hoped I'd find a horse by him that was finished racing and ready for a 2nd career. I am sure he sired many horses who would not only excel at the track but also at a second career as a sport horse. Smart,sound,cheerful,game....good folk!

And your description of the love story with the Hines and their wonderful horse was so perfectly told. I had a pony my daughter rode who I told my husband was "the  other man in my life". Great Spirits and Souls come in many species. I guess we humans recognize them most in dogs and horses because those are the ones we tend to know most intimately.How very wonderful that the Hines  were able to care so deeply for Skippy and appreciate and nurture his special gifts.Thank-you so much for this story.

20 May 2010 3:04 PM
Judy Loves John Henry ~ California

P.S. My condolences to SKIP AWAYS family.

Skip is happy in Heaven's endless pastures with - all the Greats! :-)

20 May 2010 3:05 PM
Flora

Wow, such an awesome and touching  tribute to the horse and "his" humans. Skippy was one of my all-time favorites and definitely on the list of GREAT horses.

20 May 2010 4:22 PM
Runfast159

Steve what do you mean you ain't got no publisher?!  Doesn't Bloodhorse Publications publish stuff?  Hmmmmm, stuff like books about horse racing perhaps? Let's call Bill Nack and get some advice here.  Come on.  You can do this.  People far less intelligent then you do it all the time!  Ever look at the junk on the shelves in an airport bookstore? LOL.  Don't make us beg.....

20 May 2010 6:40 PM
moishezmom

Mr. Haskin, your writing always blows me away, thank you so much for sharing Skip Away's and the Hines' story. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned this yet, but this story screams MOVIE. Not immediately, since the Secretariat movie will be coming out and we don't want overkill (well, I wouldn't mind it actually <G>), but it is such a wonderful story! Thank you again for sharing it with us, and my condolences to Carolyn and the rest of Skippy's connections.

20 May 2010 7:15 PM
Linda in Texas

Three Class Acts - And all under the same roof. Each one holding a loving gratitude and respect for the other that is immeasurable, rare and unspoken forever.

I know i speak for many who raise their glass to you Mrs. Hine, as wife and 'mommy' to 2 supermen of Thoroughbred Horseracing.

Thank you Steve. A superb true love story beautifully written.

20 May 2010 7:22 PM
sherpa

"All I'm doing is telling the story."

And this is what we appreciate.  It's the difference between stitching a seam and weaving the whole cloth.  

Heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Hines.

20 May 2010 7:37 PM
Ida Lee

My heart breaks for Carolyn because I know all too well what it's like to lose a beloved animal. I have lost many and my only consolation is thinking about the love and good life I was able to give them while they were in my care. Skippy had the best life had to offer because he was loved by so many.  We should all be so lucky  RIP Pretty Boy!!!

20 May 2010 7:48 PM
Gene from Ballston Lake

My wife and I were lucky enough to see Skip Away in the 1997 & 1998 Breeders Cup Classics and then to see Sonny Hine & Skip Away inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame.  Skip Away gave us more thrills than other horse in 48 years of race going.  We are greatly saddened at his passing.

20 May 2010 7:53 PM
Flick

I think my favorite Skippy story was that the week of his last race (the Breeders' Cup in Kentucky) he tossed his rider during a workout and had one heck of a run on his own.  Catch me if you can!!  And they couldn't for about ten minutes.

20 May 2010 7:53 PM
Steve Haskin

Runfast, I most certainly don't want you to beg. But you can forget about Eclipse Press. Hey, I'd love to have a book at an airport bookstore. I doubt if any of my six books ever made it there. Six books? Did I actually write six books? Dr. Fager and John Henry actually did OK. There is a new full-length documentary on John Henry that was just released based on my book, so I'm happy about that.

Sherpa, I love your analogy. My goal in writing is to weave the whole cloth. Thank you.

Moishezmom, it is a wonderful story. Maybe we can get Dick Van Patten to play Sonny.

20 May 2010 7:56 PM
Tim G

Steve too bad you can't find a publisher, such a waste of so much talent.  I have all of your books and all of those you co-authored or 'with'.

I guess there is no room in this day and age for horse racing stories (although with Secretariat the movie coming out we can always hope.). There definitely doesn't seem to be any room in the world for feel-good, kind hearted stories. Too much bitterness and sarcasm out there for my taste. Your stories are always a breath of fresh air.

Thanks!

20 May 2010 8:18 PM
Lmaris

My sincere condolences to Mrs. Hines.  I was a huge fan of Skip Away's from the beginning.  For me it was his way of going in addition to his "catch me if you can" attitude.  His unusually high knee action is an indication of a brilliantly laid-back shoulder, much desired in sport-horse breeding.

Part of me kind of wished he'd throw only clunkers at the track so he could be affordable to the jumpers and other sport breeders (think $1500 instead of $10,000).

He was one of the last iron horses.  Today top horses don't make 1/2 the starts and avoid anything but perfect conditions.  I call 'em snowflakes.  

Oh how I wish I could have seen him in person.  He was on my list of "must sees" for next trip to Kentucky.  I teared up when I heard of his death, and cannot imagine the pain it gave Mrs. Hines.

20 May 2010 8:42 PM
GEN.DUKE1957

ONE OF MY FAVORITE HORSES          R.I.P. SKIPPY

20 May 2010 9:31 PM
sodapopkid

It sounds like to me that Skip Away was treated like a member of the family like Zenyatta is by her connections...........PRICELESS,  That makes a big difference, IT makes Happy horses..When they stay with one trainer, one team all the time...........

20 May 2010 10:04 PM
LeeAnne

Thank you for this touching glimpse into the lives of Skip Away and Mr. and Mrs. Hines.

I was mad at Skip Away for beating Cigar and never paid any attention to him. I can see now that I really missed out...

20 May 2010 10:15 PM
sherpa

If weaving the whole cloth has been your goal as a writer, Mr. Haskin, you have achieved it.  You are the Master-Weaver of the genre.

20 May 2010 10:27 PM
Cynthia

Steve a great tribute to an amazing horse your article brought tears to me. I had the pleasure in seeing Skippy run at Monmouth Park. He was a true warrior who had the heart to always want to win. Sonny and Skippy are together again. RIP Skippy

20 May 2010 11:46 PM
gammyp6

I knew I should not have read this!! My sweet wonderful Dad "Will" was a huge Skip Away fan along with me. He passed away at 3:15 am on May 7th- we even talked a little bit about the Derby before he left. I held up pretty well today. Until now. If you were writing screenplays you would have an Oscar by now.

21 May 2010 1:08 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

With the talk of a book of Haskin's writings, I thought of the other great sportswriter of our times,  Jim Murray. I googled and there is a book out, of a compilation of his articles.  To have a book or books someday with all of Steve Haskin's articles is a must. We have a ways to go, with many more great articles in the future. We are just very lucky to be living at the same time he is and to be able to enjoy it now. These last two articles are vintage Haskin. Such  joy, such beauty in these often difficult times. Smiles and tears that make us feel good about human beings and their relationships with other human beings and with horses. You can't  stay cynical as long as you read Steve Haskin.

21 May 2010 2:21 AM
nina

Run free Skippy. Mr.Hines is waiting!

21 May 2010 7:28 AM
MRO

I almost can't believe I'm so sentimental about the death of horses I never cared for on the race track.....but here I am sobbing for Skip Away and Snow Chief. I would like to read a tribute to the beautiful, almost black Snow Chief as well. I started following racing the early/mid 80s, and I can't bear to lose the champions of that era.  

21 May 2010 9:05 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

gammyp6

  My condolences on the loss of your wonderful Dad. I know exactly what you're going through. It's good to let it all out. Be safe.

21 May 2010 10:08 AM
Steve Haskin

Dr. D, I'm running out of words with which to comment on your comments. If you keep it up you're going to convince my wife she actually married someone important.

21 May 2010 11:19 AM
Steve Haskin

I will be copying and mailing all these comments to Carolyn. I'm sure it will help her a great deal.

Thank you all.

21 May 2010 11:22 AM
Karen in Texas

Oh, thank you, Steve, for forwarding the comments to Carolyn! I think that's a wonderful way to allow us to speak to her "personally". Do you know if the Memory Wall comments are going to be sent as well?

21 May 2010 12:17 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve

   Your wife is married to someone important. What you've meant to the horse racing world cannot be underestimated. What you've meant to the literary world is great too. Like sherpa so gracefully said, "you weave the whole story so that we all can live it and feel it."  You not only allow us to cry, smile and laugh but you give us memorable insights that help us to feel like we are a part of the insider's racing community. You remind me of the great writers from the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's when writers gave their audience a complete, moving, and humorous perspective. When our knowledge and insight came primarily from the written word rather than the visual media, and writers had to be great to survive. You don't just report, you are Da Vinci and Michelangelo with a keyboard. I'm not concerned with you getting a big head and it effecting your writer. You are grounded with The Honeymooners.

21 May 2010 12:22 PM
Goldstruck

Steve that was a great article.  Skip Away has always been my favorite horse.  I still have my poster of him winning the Ohio Derby.  I was so sad to learn he passed, I am just so thankful he had such caring and considerate connections!  He was a loved horse!

21 May 2010 12:41 PM
KYFan

Hey Steve, I've been wracking my brain trying to remember where I saw the story or clip about Sonny telling Carolyn she could buy all the outfits she wanted...at KMart. When she told him she needed a new outfit for the Derby after Skip won his prep.  Do you remember that one?

We all knew how much they loved that big guy and each other. This reminds me that we all have one we loved like that. Even the hardboots.

Thanks and remind Carolyn that racing misses Sonny almost as much as she does and will definitely miss Skip.

21 May 2010 1:25 PM
Steve Haskin

Karen, my wife copied all the memory wall comments and mailed them to Carolyn on Monday.

Dr. D. I am going to defer to my wife on that one. I cannot respond to Da Vinci and Michelangelo. That is way beyond my scope. I can, however, respond to The Honeymooners -- the Da Vinci ad Michelangelo of TV comedies. Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Kramden.

21 May 2010 1:43 PM
Steve Haskin

KYFan,I actually wrote about that (K-Mart)in one of my columns. Another great Sonny line was after the Preakness. Zito reminded Sonny he had made more money for second as owner than Zito had for winning. Sonny looked at the second-place earnings and told Carolyn.."OK, you've got 35 minutes in Neiman Marcus...with no shopping cart."

21 May 2010 1:57 PM
Carla

Steve,

You are write when you mention "There is nothing I can say about Skip Away and his owner Carolyn Hine and trainer Sonny Hine that has not been said ...... except for one thing, it always feels like I am reliving the story for the first time. Wonderfully written as always.

Skip Away was the last of the Iron horse era, along with bringing so much to racing fans.

Skip Away touched so many people in so many ways.

21 May 2010 2:10 PM
KYFan

he he I should have known that think I actually did subconsciously. I believe he made the comment to a guy on tv too. Back when racing used to get a good amount of coverage.

I totally forgot that comment about Neiman's like they have shopping carts but I bet Carolyn coulda got some package carriers easy. Nick always has a wisecrack or two himself. Now that is what I call funny stuff.

21 May 2010 2:17 PM
Tim G

Some of us talked about those comments about the shopping. I had wondered about it too.

My wife was thinking of that when she heard about Skippy passing away.

21 May 2010 2:19 PM
Barbara W

Steve,

You have told an amazing story in a way that touches all who read it. Though I've always loved horses, Skip Away came during the time period when I wasn't as involved as I am now.

My deepest sympathy to Carolyn--I cannot imagine losing our horse, and I can totally empathize with her.

Yes, this is a story that must be told and re-told. It is the human interest stories that draw people to the horses, whose power to touch human lives becomes more and more evident as time goes on.

I wish Carolyn would take it upon herself to write the story herself. It would be healing for her, and it would introduce millions to Skippy. She could tell us so much more of the story. Thank you, again, Steve!

21 May 2010 2:47 PM
joe c.

I saw Skippy in the horseflesh twice; the 96 Belmont and the 98 BC (left a hot breakfast plate in the Churchill dining room to see Skippy work in the cold and dark a.m.).  A great career, but I wish he could have edged Editor's Note in that Belmont!

21 May 2010 3:18 PM
GunBow

Beautiful piece on a beautiful subject.  As a 16 year old watching the 1990 Breeder's Cup, I learned to build a tough exterior, but the amazing relationship between Carolyn, Sonny, and Skippy has knocked it down.  How touching.

If I could take 2 horses from the last 2 decades and travel in time to race the best of earlier periods, I would choose Skippy and Cigar.  Unlike most recent stars, Skippy and Cigar would have been comfortable with the racing regimen of the 20s and 30s.  Especially Skippy.  He was so durable, so consistent, and so fast.

Think about Skippy this way: He was as fast as Ghostzapper, the horse generally considered to be the most brilliant of the last decade.  As with Ghostzapper, Skippy earned 4 Beyers over 120, and as Steve pointed out, turned in some remarkable times.  In terms of class, Skippy was like Curlin, but even more accomplished.  Whereas Curlin won 7 gr.1 races, Skippy won 10, and earned an Eclipse Award 3 years.  And in terms of durability, Skippy was like Perfect Drift, Lava Man, Evening Attire, and Brass Hat, except that Skippy did his work exclusively in gr.1 races.

People rightfully talk of how the modern thoroughbred is different from those that ran in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  However, with Skippy, I feel as though I have seen a throwback horse, a horse from another era, a horse we will be lucky to see again.

21 May 2010 3:53 PM
GunBow

I saw Skippy once in person in the 98' Hollywood Gold Cup.  Both in the paddock, during the race, and in the winners circle, one word came to mind regarding Skippy- Power!  As Steve wrote, Skippy was a true powerhouse. His style of racing was exceedingly physical and demanding, and yet he brought it race after race for 4 years.  Skippy could have raced and been successful in any era.  

21 May 2010 3:57 PM
Between Friends

Bless you and your wife for forwarding readers' memories of Skip Away. So many, many people loved Skippy, too, and their thoughts must have been with Carolyn Hine since they heard the news. You can't think about Skip Away without thinking of Sonny and Carolyn Hine and their love for the horse. It would be nice if one of the racetracks sponsors a "Skip Away" day to let Carolyn know how many, many people share her feelings and know how very fortunate they were as fans to share Skippy with the Hines.

21 May 2010 4:46 PM
Karen in Texas

GunBow---We would indeed be lucky to see a horse like Skip Away again. Will there ever be a horse able to break a long standing track and stakes record while carrying 130lbs. as he did in the '98 Mass Cap? I believe that previous record had been set by Seabiscuit in the '30's. Skip Away is a horse for the ages.

21 May 2010 4:59 PM
sushyne

I am pretty sure I read the original story, and was heartbroken to hear of Skip Away's passing. Like Carolyn, I'm embarrassed to say that I say those same words to my cats that "mommy loves you," everyday. What a love they had for a wonderful horse. He died too soon, way too soon...but what a mark he left...Thanks Steve...

21 May 2010 5:47 PM
GunBow

Karen in Texas:

Yes, we will be very lucky to see a horse like Skippy again.

Thanks for mentioning the weight Skippy had to carry; I had overlooked that in my first post.

Skippy carried 131 lbs and spotted the good horse Stormin Fever 18 lbs in the 98' Iselin.  After setting a contested 1:10 pace, Skippy was passed by Stormin Fever at the top of the stretch, and it appeared a near certainty that Skippy's 7 race win streak would end.  But in an amazing display of heart and strength, Skippy rallied agin on the rail and won by a nose.  

As also mentioned, Skippy won the 98' Mass Cap by 4.25 lengths under 130 lbs, spotting the gr.1 winning runner-up Puerto Madero 14 lbs.  Skippy also won the 98' gr.1 Pimlico Special carrying 128 lbs by 3.25 lengths(runner-up Precocity, a gr.1 winner, carried 115) and won the 98' gr.1 Gulfstream Park Cap by 2.25 lengths with 127 lbs(runner carried 15 lbs less and 3rd place horse, the multiple gr.1 winner Behrens, carried 13 less).

Skippy's Beyer speed figures for the 4 races were 114(GP Cap-127 lbs), 114(Iselin-131 lbs), 118(Pimlico Special-128 lbs), and 121(Mass Cap-130 lbs).

Think seeing a horse like Skippy again is likely?  Well, any horse setting out trying to equal Skippy will need to run an average of 10 races for the next 4 years, win an Eclipse in 3 of those years, win 10 gr.1 races, carry in excess of 130 lbs, travel across the country, and run Beyers in the 110-125 range(Skippy did that 22 times!).

21 May 2010 8:19 PM
Convene

All the people who think racing is just about "whipping horses to the wire" (like PETA?) should read this story. We do have our heroes and Skippy was one of them. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. It seems we can never hear too often about the people who love these beautiful animals and share this unique bond with them. It is this special feeling that has kept me "in" this game since Tim Tam and Milo's Derby. May I never be cured of the disease! Happy eternity, Skipaway. You will not be forgotten.

21 May 2010 8:33 PM
My Juliet

   Steve, you are such a gifted writer, thank you also for showing the previous article. "...The racing world had been given a glimpse of the future and its color was battleship gray...", I love it. I always thought the best part of horseracing, besides the beautiful athletes that give us so much, are the human interest stories that go with the horses. This story of Skip Away and Sonny and Carolyn is one of the most special and touching I ever read. How Sonny actually pulled to the side of the road, knowing that was the horse they were suppose to have. I never got to see Skippy at his races but remember on TV how he appeared, seemed to stand taller than the rest, he had that quality, like he knew he was special. It came through even on TV. God Bless you, Carolyn, and Sonny and Skip Away.  

21 May 2010 9:49 PM
Mike Relva

2:24

JayJay and I are TWO different individuals'. Just wanted to clear that up.

21 May 2010 10:01 PM
RavenFilly

Steve - I can't add more than what's already been said by others. Thanks for a great story!

I was at Pimlico when Skip Away won the Pimlico Special in 1998. My husband and two kids were with me. We were down on the rail near the finish line and as the horses entered the top of the stretch I started screaming "Come on Skippy!" By the time he crossed the finish line, tears were streaming down my face (I had been there the year before when he had lost the Special to Gentlemen by a half-length).

My husband and 7 yr old son were staring at me in disbelief, while my 3 yr old daughter tried to dry my tears. She couldn't understand why mommy was sad since the "Skippy Peanut Butter Horse" had won! Remember the Hines' silks were red and yellow, just like the peanut butter jar label!

Thanks to Carolyn, Sonny & Skip Away for such delicious memories!

22 May 2010 12:35 AM
gammyp6

Thank you Dr Drunkinbum.

22 May 2010 1:03 AM
sodapopkid

Mr. Haskins,  May I suggest that in the future when you write such a powerful, heart wrenching story about our equine greats that have left us, especially one that is so touching as this one,  Could you please warn us ahead of time,  Beside the title of the story, could you please write the initials ( TJ) for Tear Jerker, so people like me can brace themselves for what they are about to read,  so I can be ready.........

That is just a beautiful story anyway you put it, but you just have a powerful way of putting it......

22 May 2010 7:12 AM
tommy john

dear steve,

    i would also like to mention someone else to this

great story.  i was a friend to  Skip Away's blacksmith,

jim  Brummett.  He also  was waiting  for Skippy!

    I can hear sonny telling brummett: "go ahead and

pull his shoes,we are going to turn him out."

22 May 2010 9:55 AM
NJTrotter

If Hollywood is looking for a story, here it is!  Steve, excellent writing, as usual.  Maybe today's trainers can learn something from Sonny when it comes to working a horse. No 3F works here.  Skip wasn't treated like a piece of fine china.  He was a tough, blue collar, Jersey based war horse who never ducked a race or the competition.  I can't see Pletcher taking on Cigar as Sonny did.  No excuses from Sonny when Skippy didn't win.  

22 May 2010 9:58 AM
Steve Haskin

SPK, sorry I can't do that. You'll have to take your chances and let the title be sufficient. I will, however give it an "R" rating to prepare you for that.

btw, I take it you're a fan of "Little Big Man."

22 May 2010 10:06 AM
Paula Higgins

Steve, I am sitting here with tears rolling down my face. A wonderful story about two wonderful people and their GOD sent horse. I loved every word of it. Their love for Skippy and each other was a beautiful thing. So is your humanity. You are a simply amazing writer with an emotional connection to every horse and person you write about. As Dr Drunkinbum said, you are like the great writers of the 20's, 30's and 40's.

22 May 2010 12:53 PM
racingheart

Oh blessed Skippy!

I had been retired from grooming race horses for a few years to raise a son. I lost my son at 4 1/2 in a tragic drowning accident & my life, my consciousness, was in limbo. I was trying to decide if I should stay where I was or return to the horses when the following year along came this beautiful gray named Skip Away.  Somehow he filled all the voids, renewed my will to fight, to hope & to live.  Although I never did return to my beloved stables, Skippy reminded me of how simple things could breathe such life into darkness. He was a tremendous hero to me & an inspiration to never give up the fight.  Has it been this many years since he raced that day at my Pimlico Race Course, taking down the mighty Cigar??

Much love & endearing memories fly with you, Skip Away. & all my love to Carolyn Hine. Your horse saved more people than you know......

22 May 2010 4:38 PM
Terri

Steve: Thanks for paying tribute to one of the best horses I've ever seen. I was lucky enough to see him race three times, including the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic and Hollywood Gold Cup, then to see him once more after his retirement.

To Carolyn: So, so sorry for your loss. I know how much you loved him and hope you know how much joy he brought to racing fans.

22 May 2010 7:55 PM
ruffianruns

Steve,

As many have said: thank you for your gift.  I've only recently discovered these blogs and have learned that your stories are must readings and that they require Kleenex.  Thanks.

Carolyn,

I am so sorry for your recent loss.  It must hurt so much more because of the sudden nature of Skippy's death.  I also ache for any regret or guilt you might feel because you were unable to visit him before he died.  I've suffered a few losses under similar circumstances, and I just hope that you are really gentle and forgiving with yourself.

Take good care.

22 May 2010 7:56 PM
Terri

A great tribute to Skippy...next month Sonny Hine is going to be inducted into Bedford County (PA) Sports Hall of Fame with his brother accepting the award on his behave...

22 May 2010 8:05 PM
txhorsefan

racingheart, thank you for sharing your story of Skip Away reviving your soul after the loss of your son.  The loss of a child is an unbearable pain and while that precious child cannot be replaced, horses do have an amazing way of helping to fill in that void.  Maybe it is just that they give you another focus, I don't know, but at any rate, I'm glad that Skip Away was there for you.  His is such a beautiful story and Steve has told it so well.

22 May 2010 9:02 PM
Mike985

Steve,

Thank you for telling this wonderful story.  This was all new information for me and I was riveted on every word.  You are a great story teller.

Mrs Hine,

My condolences to you. It sounds like you and your husband were two people who appreciated the simple things in life and you counted your blessings every day.

22 May 2010 9:21 PM
Bob

Carolyn,

My wife and I spent a great deal of money trying to get our mare in foal to Skippy.  Had the name picked out....SkipSuddenlyAway.  I guess that is how both of our dreams ended.  

22 May 2010 9:22 PM
Deacon

There is nothing like the love of a horse. Sonny & Carolyn Hines are to be held in high esteem, their contribution to this beloved sport is second to none.  Now this is a story that would make a great movie Steve.  Much the way Seabiscuit captured our hearts. You could be the narrator at the beginning of the movie.  Your writing of this story was the cherry on the ice cream sundae, just amazing stuff. Honest, hard hitting animal, the same as Forego and John Henry.

Kudos Steve..............

23 May 2010 3:34 AM
dr fager01

Skippy was great, he had a better career than cigar, athough thats debatebly said. As we say farewell to the fist of the big 3 of the 90s. I must say thanks to his connects for letting us experience the skip away experience. For he was not only a great champ, but if he were a human athlete, he skippy would be a brand. thanks Skip, and thanks for your brand of racing. As a legendary writer once called it "SMASH MOUTH RACING" so long to another great one gone in the blink of an eye.

23 May 2010 7:07 AM
Larry

Thank you to the Hines for bringing Skip Away to Toronto. He was a pure champion.

23 May 2010 7:34 AM
arlissholmes

Skip Away was one of the last true IRON horses.  He could run all day.  There are very few, if any, perhaps Zenyatta, that are even remotely close to the talent and stature of a Skip Away.  His record is incredible.

23 May 2010 9:08 AM
Kelly E.

Thank you Steve for yet again capturing what makes horse racing so special.  Skip Away was an amazing animal and the kind of champion "they just don't make anymore"!!!  I was a Silver Charm fan first and foremost and appreciated the "rivalry" of the two awesome grays.  Wow--the good ol' days!!!

23 May 2010 10:35 AM
Christine

I recently debated someone who claimed Skip Away was not deserving of HOY. I hope that person read this article. Skip Away was a throwback horse...versatile, durable, fast and powerful. A true racehorse. Wonderful article Steve, and my prayers go out to Carolyn.

23 May 2010 11:54 AM
Native Dancer

Mr. Haskin thanks to you and your work everyone is and will forever be able to understand why horses and men have cherished an eternal and magical partnership. From being the engines of history to nurturing hopes and happiness in modern days the horse is organically present in our dreams and hearts. The massive response to this blog attests this communion.

Mrs.Hine with my sympathy I just want to remind that your beloved husband and your unforgettable Skippy are now immortals... They will certainly live forever in our minds and hearts.

23 May 2010 1:24 PM
Paula Higgins

racingheart, I am so sorry for the loss of your son. I am glad that Skippy helped you during that very sad time. It is amazing how animals can bring joy back into someone's life. I thank GOD for them everyday.

23 May 2010 1:46 PM
Jim P.

Priceless.

23 May 2010 3:11 PM
Steve Haskin

Once again, thank you everyone for all your comments. Native Dancer, that was beautifully stated.

Racingheart, I'm sure youre story will bring tears of joy to Carolyn. Thank you so much for sharing that and showing just what a profound effect a racehorse can have on a person's life. I'm so sorry for the tragedy you suffered.

23 May 2010 4:20 PM
LastingOne

This is why horse racing can be so great.  Skip Away is one of my favorites of all time and I am heavy with grief in regards to his passing.  The Hines' love for Skippy was infectious and it showed with every stride he took.  This is a terrible loss for the racing world.

23 May 2010 4:36 PM
Brother

What a great article! Steve you captured the love Sonny always showed for his wonderful wife, Carolyn and his great management and training ability.

23 May 2010 5:30 PM
Kathleen

I met both Sonny and Carolyn one afternoon at Monmouth Park.  I was a complete stranger to them both, but they treated my husband and I so warmly, and were so proud and happy to talk about their beloved Skippy.  As for Skippy, I was fortunate to see him in person several times.  I like to think of him as a true warrior horse. May he rest in peace.  

23 May 2010 6:39 PM
Hole In The Wall Newsletter

Great Article once again Steve. He was indeed a Super Horse as he was only Eclipse Champion ever to Win at The Big T in The Ohio Derby! All of the other Champions have been embarrassed as the heavy favorites here time after time at The Graveyard of Favorites as it is called. He truly was a special horse. Thanks Again Steve for your Great Article.

23 May 2010 7:38 PM
Kimberly

What a nice write.

Last April my husband took me on a dream trip (for me) as a 40th b-day present to KY for a week of Keeneland and Churchill Downs leading up to the Derby.  While we had an incredible time with a lot of LUCKY twists and turns that allowed us to meet Carl Nafzger/Calvin Borel/Mine that Bird as he arrived at Churchill/Rachel as she worked/General Quaters and his Owner/Trainer...the list goes on.  However, the most intimate and wonderful day was when i located my favorite horse at Hopewell and they said-come on over!  No frills/tours, etc.  We drove right through the property, alone, and actually went into Skippy's barn unattended for about 15 minutes (I was terrified to touch anything)and watched him in his stall.  Eventually the man in charge of Skip came by (He likely held 40 titles as opposed to other more commercial farms we visited that had at least 5-6 folks per horse)and just TOOK him out for me, personally.  i was allowed to pet him, feed him the most coveted peppermints, and walk him around like a pet.  I cried like a baby and was a bit timid for the first time around horses in my life! I've often thought back and wondered if I could've just hoppped onto him, but of course, probably not-wish i tried though!It was the most special moment of my trip as Skip had always been my favorite horse.  I couldn't believe my good fortune, but, having read this, I can see why he was at that farm.  It was loving and personable, just like Carolyn and Sonny.

I am so grateful to have had the experience knowing he's gone and relatively young.  I have great pictures of him just staring into the vast green distance and my husband and i remarked how happy and seemingly pleased he seemed when surveying his LAND so to speak.

I'd love to share the pictures, they are remarkable and he looked really good.  Still huge in person but so kind.

Thanks Steve, and yes, I cried too!

23 May 2010 11:38 PM
Buddy Hogan

Gen.Duke I believe you Dr. Fager and Skip Away are the three fastest race horses I ever seen. In 1957 the Duke would have won the Derby for Calumet and when he went out at Keeneland that left Iron Leigh. Then came the good Dr. and then Skip Away.

24 May 2010 12:58 AM
Cris

Goldstruck, I think I read a story in the Baltimore Sun about the Hines going to Denny's for dinner after winning a big stakes race at Pimlico. A sports writer followed them there, wanting to see if they're homespun story was changing with Skippy's long winning streak. After a country fried steak dinner with the Hines he got his answer.

I just saw Mrs. Hines in the winners circle with a horse she co-owned and thought to myself how alone she looked without Sonny. She was surrounded by others at the winners circle, but she looked strange there without Sonny. It was a couple of days later I read your notice of Skippy's death. What a loss. Life goes on, but it must be so hard for her.

24 May 2010 7:40 AM
Skippy's Biggest Fan

Of course I always considered myself Skip Away's biggest fan. But I'm sure many of the rest here did as well. He will forever be my most favorite race horse. I have the race call from his Breeders Cup memorized. He was the most perfect race horse. He was truly campaigned like a race horse, unlike so many these days... He was strong when racing was turning weak, he was healthy when all the other three and four year olds were defecting and then there were his owners. A little eccentric but so in love with the horse. I followed Skippy's every move and had disks full of pictures of him. One of my biggest goals in life was to make it back to Kentucky to meet him... Sadly that day hadn't come yet and now it's too late... Rest In Peace Skippy. Live on in our hearts.

24 May 2010 10:51 AM
Linda in Texas

Kimberly --

What a lovely remembrance you present of such a majestic specimen of a true thoroughbred horse. You will have that visit in your own memory bank for the rest of your life. Thanks for sharing your visit with us.

Skip Away knew he was special and showed you that he appreciated that fact by his actions. You were there for such a short time, so you can see the impact that he had on Mr. and Mrs. Hine. He clearly communicated with humans through his actions, antics and movements.

And those who cared about Skip Away heard every word he said.

A very nice story indeed. Thanks for telling us about your visit to Hopewell Farm.

24 May 2010 11:25 AM
Suzie in Highland

Aw, Steve ... how beautifully you told Skippy's story.  I saw him at Churchill in the BC Classic; even though I was disappointed that he didn't win, it was such a thrill to see him "in person."  The thunderous applause and cheers of "Go, Skippy!" that swept through the grandstands as he pranced past us during the post parade gave me goosebumps.  He was one in a million!  

24 May 2010 2:34 PM
Kim R

Beautiful!

24 May 2010 4:57 PM
alybar

Once again you pulled at the heartstrings.  ^You are the best at writing about horses and kwoing how to touch our hearts.

When I first read about Skippy's death, my heart immediately went out to Carolyn knowing how much she loved this horse.  As I never had children, my animals mean everything to me,  My deepest heartfelt sympathy is extended to Carolyn Hines.

24 May 2010 6:57 PM
johnny d

Well done Steve as always. I saw him at hollywood park as he came through the paddock to the track and i had to take a step back, he was the most huge, imposing horse i've EVER seen and the guy was bouncing on his toes all the way to the winners circle. Scary, freaky good animal.

24 May 2010 10:28 PM
racingheart

Thank you all so much for you heart felt sympathy. It is something that one never stops feeling, the loss of a child. & I am sure that Carolyn is feeling a very deep loss now.  Sonny, Carolyn & Skippy always seemed like such a happy family & it touched me so to see the pride & joy that Sonny & Carolyn shared over Skip. Yes, Skip was truly a gift but he too was blessed with a grand set of "parents"!!

Carolyn, I know that there is emptiness now, but I pray that the outpouring of love from everyone who has responded to this blog will ease the loneliness in your heart for you are NOT alone in your grief, dear lady.

24 May 2010 11:38 PM
1 week

thanks steve i miss both sonny and skippy, after working with them both i truly miss them.racing has never been the same. pete [ sonny's assistant for twenty- two years]

25 May 2010 11:06 AM
Steve Haskin

Hi Pete, it's been a long time. I haven't seen you since you were working for Kenny McPeek. What have you been up to?

Thanks for writing. You were the backbone of Sonny's stable and you sure taught me a lot in the short time I worked there, especially about hotwalking.

I'm sure you miss those days in the '80s and '90s. How can anyone forget the steady stream of people coming to the barn for bagels and donuts that Carolyn would bring.

I guess Skippy's passing was the end of an era. We'll never see one quite like him again.

Please keep in touch and I hope you're doing well.

25 May 2010 11:23 AM
Mike

I saw "Skippy" live and in person win the Blue Grass Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Classic!. Both perfomances are forever ingrained in my memory. I got to see Skip at Hopewell early this spring, he was such a kind animal with a heart of a lion.

Farewell Skippy..

25 May 2010 1:42 PM
Prepster

Hi Steve . . .is there a way to send you a Skip Away story (I own one of his sons, hence the display name) that would be a little longer than something to post on here?  Thanks!  

26 May 2010 1:49 PM
Steve Haskin

Prepster, e-mail it to me at sehaskin@aol.com

26 May 2010 4:09 PM
loveskippaway and his son skippy

hello my name is kristen i have skipaways son looks the same as skipaway i named him skippy in honor of skipaway he is four years old i am not SELLING HIM TO YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!reast in peace skipaway i told your son he misses you dearly i love u skipaway by the way  i am 11 and the person that lets me keep him works at churchill downs love u leslie<3

10 Jun 2010 12:52 PM

Recent Posts

Recommended

Video

Social Media

More Blogs

Archives