Still just an adolescent in horse years, War Pass (Cherokee Run-Vue-Mr. Prospector) was found dead in his paddock on Christmas Eve at Lane's End farm in Versailles, KY. It's reported that the preliminary necropsy reports are inconclusive.
War Pass was undefeated at 2 capping off that season with a phenomenal win in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile over a sloppy Monmouth Park track. In that race he defeated Pyro (future winner of the Risen Star, Louisiana Derby and the Forego) and completely overwhelmed Kodiak Kowboy (Vosburgh, Carter, Cigar Mile), Tale of Ekati (Wood Memorial, Cigar Mile, Jerome Handicap) and Salute the Sarge (San Miguel). He went wire to wire that day and at one point was leading by 8 lengths. Pyro closed to within 4 3/4 at the wire, but it simply wasn't that close.
His performance certainly impressed a small cadre of racing enthusiasts meeting upstairs at the Happy Gnome in St. Paul watching the Breeder's Cup. This memory is especially vivid since we had maybe a half dozen folks, mostly part of our racing partnership with Star of the North Racing (the fab David M. Miller, prop.), armed with laptops for ADW access and a big screen set up for us. Excitement was certainly in the air and if you combine it with my first year of running a racing partnership (go Fizzy Pop!) there was a lot of dreaming in that room. War Pass' win got me thinking about what it must be like to have a two year old that promising and, if I wasn't infected before with the pursuit of a winning racehorse, I was terminal after that performance.
War Pass started his three year old season with a win in a small field allowance and then was last in the Tampa Bay Derby after having some issues at the break. In reaching for atonement in the Wood Memorial he lost by less than a length to Tale of Ekati, possibly fracturing his sesamoid in the process. He was retired shortly thereafter to stud duty at Lane's End and had just returned home from his second tour of duty in Australia when he was found dead after being turned out in his paddock.
While never fulfilling his sparkling promise he showed as a juvenile, that Breeder's Cup Juvenile will live on as one of the more dominating Breeder's Cup moments in history. Entering stud service in 2009, his first foals still ahve a while before they hit the race track, but it will be a too small legacy for a horse that was taken far too early.