Kentucky Derby winner and champion Thunder Gulch dies at 26

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March 19th, 2018

Thunder Gulch, a dual classic winner and champion three-year-old colt of 1995, has been euthanized due to the infirmities of old age. Coolmore America made the announcement via Twitter on Monday afternoon. The son of Gulch was 26.

Despite winning two of his three Kentucky Derby (G1) preps, Thunder Gulch was a 24-1 longshot to rebound from a fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass (G2) in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs. Favored in the 1 1/4-mile classic were fellow D. Wayne Lukas trainees Timber Country, the 1994 juvenile colt champion, and the filly Serena's Song, who were coupled in the wagering.

Under Gary Stevens, who was riding the chestnut for the first time since guiding him to victory in the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct the previous November, Thunder Gulch was within striking range throughout after breaking from post 16. Gradually advancing from sixth, Thunder Gulch hit the front in upper stretch and drew off to a 2 1/4-length win over Tejano Run, with Timber Country third and Serena's Song, later to be voted champion three-year-old filly, 16th.

Though Timber Country turned the tables in the Preakness (G1), beating Thunder Gulch by three-quarters of a length, his retirement soon after left the field open for Thunder Gulch to win four straight stakes and clinch the three-year-old championship. Following two-length wins in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Swaps (G2), Thunder Gulch won the Travers (G1) by 4 1/2 lengths and the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park against older horses. However, he was no match against eventual Horse of the Year Cigar, finishing fifth to that rival in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) in his final start.

Initially trained by John Kimmel, for whom he won once in four starts and placed in the Cowdin (G2), Thunder Gulch was purchased privately by Michael Tabor prior to the Remsen and was transferred to Lukas. After the Remsen, Thunder Gulch finished second in the Hollywood Futurity (G1) and then kicked off his three-year-old season with narrow, back-to-back scores in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1). He retired with a mark of 16-9-2-2, $2,915,086.

Retired to Coolmore's Ashford Stud in Kentucky upon retirement, Thunder Gulch's best offspring was undoubtedly Point Given, who followed in his sire's hoofsteps by wining two classics and the three-year-old championship in 2001, as well as Horse of the Year honors and later a place in the Hall of Fame. Point Given also won the Belmont and Travers, with other stakes wins in the Preakness (G1), Santa Anita Derby (G1), Haskell Invitational (G1), and San Felipe (G2) at three. His only loss on the year was a sixth-place finish as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby.

At two, Point Given captured the Hollywood Futurity and Kentucky Cup Juvenile (G3), and just missed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).

Other notables sired by Thunder Gulch include Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) winner Spain and Grade 1 scorers Circular Quay, Balance, Tweedside, Shotgun Gulch, Sense of Style, and J. B.'s Thunder. Thunder Gulch also shuttled to Australia and South America for a time, siring several Group 1 winners on both continents.

Bred by Peter Brant in Kentucky, Thunder Gulch was out of the Group 1-placed Line of Thunder, by Storm Bird. His second dam was English and Irish champion Shoot a Line.

"It is a very sad day for us here at Ashford as Thunder Gulch has been a pleasure to be around all these years and has left a major legacy at the farm as the first champion sire to reside here," said Coolmore America manager Dermot Ryan.

"He was an incredibly tough and genuine horse on the track and we are very grateful to the Tabors for entrusting us with his stud career."

(Photo courtesy of @coolmoreamerica)