Two-time Breeders' Cup Mile winner Da Hoss at the Kentucky Horse Park. Photo courtesy of Kentucky Horse Park.

Two-Time Breeders’ Cup Mile Hero Da Hoss Dies at Age 30

By Alicia Hughes

Two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Da Hoss, architect of one of the most remarkable comebacks in racing history, died on Jan. 2 at the Kentucky Horse Park due to infirmities of old age. The 30-year-old gelding had resided at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of Champions since January 2000.

“We will miss Da Hoss greatly. He was a fan favorite as he proved that spirit can triumph over adversity,” said Nicole Rivera, Interim Deputy Executive Director of the Kentucky Horse Park. “I would like to extend a special thank you to Rob Willis and the Hall of Champions staff for the great care and affection they showed Da Hoss during his time here at the park.”

The legend of Da Hoss began with fittingly humble roots. Bred in Kentucky by Fares Farm, the son of Gone West was purchased for just $6,000 by trainer Kevin Eikleberry on behalf of Wall Street Racing out of the 1993 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He immediately started paying dividends once he hit the track, winning his first three starts for Eikleberry as a juvenile before his owners sold an 85% interest in him to Prestonwood Farm, who immediately shipped to Fair Hill training center to start training with Michael Dickinson and Joan Wakefield. 

When he stepped into graded stakes company for the first time in the 1995 Best Turn Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, Da Hoss teased of his potential as he led every point of call en route to a three-length triumph. As adept as he was on the main track – he would run second to champion and dual classic winner Thunder Gulch in the 1995 Swaps Stakes (G2) – a switch to the turf would ultimately bring the full brunt of his ability to the forefront, showcasing a talent that could not be dulled even by the passage of time.

His first graded victory on the turf would come in the 1995 Jersey Derby (G2) and while he would also notch wins in the 1995 Del Mar International Derby (G2) and 1996 Fourstardave Stakes (G3), Da Hoss picked racing’s biggest stage for his most impactful statement as he captured the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Woodbine by 1 ½-lengths over Spinning World.

Injuries would keep the gelding on the shelf after that triumph, however, as Da Hoss missed all of 1997 and most of 1998 due to a variety of physical problems. His first start in nearly two years saw him capture an allowance test at Colonial Downs in Oct. 1998. The next month at Churchill Downs, Dickinson’s masterclass of horsemanship was blared across the globe as Da Hoss became one of only five horses to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile twice, and the only horse to win twice in non-consecutive years, when he fought back in the lane after being passed by Hawksley Hill (IRE) to capture the eight-furlong test for the second time, prompting the legendary Tom Durkin to proclaim it: “The greatest comeback since Lazarus!”

“He was our horse of a lifetime,” said Dickinson of Tapeta Farm. “We all loved him. He brought us so many highs, even with his problems, we knew he would never let us down. He gave his all and loved to win.  He was spoiled but deserved to be.  He loved going out in one of his grass fields with his best friend Boomer for two or three hours every day.  He knew he was special. It was comforting to know he was always well looked after by everyone at the Kentucky Horse Park where he enjoyed a wonderful retirement.”

Da Hoss shared the Kentucky Horse Park Hall of Champions with other champion horses including Thoroughbreds Go For Gin, Funny Cide and Point Given, Standardbred pacers Western Dreamer and Won the West, and Standardbred trotter Mr. Muscleman.

Like the other great Hall of Champions horses that died in retirement at the park, Da Hoss will be buried in the Memorial Walk of Champions.