Key Contender, winner of the 1995 Suburban Handicap (gr. I), died June 29 at Old Friends NY at Cabin Creek-the Bobby Frankel Division in Greenfield Center, N.Y., because of complications from colic. Key Contender, who was sent to Old Friends in February after being pensioned from stallion duty at Highcliff Farm in New York, was 24.
A son of Fit to Fight bred in Virginia by Paul Mellon, Key Contender initially raced for Mellon’s Rokeby Stable and later for Flying Zee Stable, which purchased the horse for $170,000 from Rokeby consignment to the 1994 Fasig-Tipton New York November sale of horses of racing age. Key Contender carved out a record of 15-17-6 from 56 starts and $839,261 in earnings. In addition to winning the Suburban for Flying Zee and trainer Jose Martin at age 7, he set a track record at Saratoga and one at Belmont Park.
Produced from the grade II stakes-placed Key to the Mint mare Key Witness, Key Contender was a half brother to multiple grade I winner You'd Be Surprised, dam of stakes winner Mystery Itself.
Key Contender sired three stakes winners, including graded stakes winner Weathered and the earners of more than $8.2 million.