Forty Niner Passes Away in Japan at 35

Forty Niner (inside) beats Seeking the Gold in the 1988 Haskell | Bill Denver/Equi-Photo

Forty Niner (Mr. Prospector–File, by Tom Rolfe), a four-time Grade I winner and champion of his generation in 1987 before becoming a sire of considerable importance, passed away Monday, May 18, in Japan due to the infirmities of old age. He had just celebrated his 35th birthday May 11.

Owned and bred by Claiborne Farm and trained by Woody Stephens, Forty Niner won the 1987 GI Futurity S. and GI Champagne S. to clinch a divisional championship. A leading sophomore of 1988, Forty Niner missed by a neck to Winning Colors in the GI Kentucky Derby and bounced back from a disappointing effort behind eventual champion Risen Star in the GI Preakness S. to add the GI Haskell Invitational S. and GI Travers S., defeating Seeking the Gold narrowly on each occasion. Second, beaten a neck, by Alysheba in the GI Woodward S., Forty Niner prevailed by a neck in the GI NYRA Mile H. and closed his career with a fourth to Alysheba in that year's GI Breeders' Cup Classic. He retired with a record of 11-5-0 from 19 starts and earnings of $2,726,000.

Forty Niner stood at Claiborne from the time of his retirement in 1989 through 1995, siring 41 stakes winners (12% SW to foals), 22 at graded level, including four-time graded winner Distorted Humor. The latter carries on the legacy of Forty Niner at WinStar Farm. Forty Niner was the sire of six Grade I winners, including 1996 GI Belmont S. hero Editor's Note, fellow Travers winner Coronado's Quest, Ecton Park, Nine Keys, Marley Vale and Gold Fever. He was the leading freshman sire of 1992, and his son End Sweep followed suit in 1998 after accounting for a then record 33 first crop winners.

Forty Niner was sold to continue his career at Shizunai Stallion Station and was pensioned from stud duties in 2007. From his Japanese crops, he was responsible for 14 stakes winners, including two group winners. Coronado's Quest was also sold to Japan, while End Sweep shuttled from Arrowfield Stud in Australia before his untimely passing in 2002, siring future Horse of the Year Admire Moon (Jpn) from his final crop. End Sweep's son Swept Overboard stood in Japan (died 2017) and is responsible for G1SWs Omega Perfume (Jpn) and Red Falx (Jpn). Ecton Park is a perennial leading sire in South Korea.

Forty Niner's producing daughters have been represented by 95 black-type winners to date, 38 at the group/graded level and eight G1/GI winners High Yield (Storm Cat), Island Sand (Tabasco Cat), Jack Milton (War Front), Mass Media (Touch Gold), Albertus Maximus (Albert the Great) and Daredevil (More Than Ready) in the U.S.; Epoca d'Oro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) in Japan; and Pryka (Arg) (Southern Halo) in Argentina. Forty Niner's lesser-known stallion son Roar is the broodmare sire of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro), while a daughter of West Acre produced two-time Eclipse Award winner Songbird (Medaglia d'Oro). Distorted Humor is the sire of the dams of 97 black-type winners, 45 GSWs and 14 G1/GISWs.

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