Skip Away, a three-time Eclipse Award winner and 1998 Horse of the Year, died the morning of May 14 of an apparent heart attack at Rick Trontz’ Hopewell Farm near Midway, Ky.
The son of Skip Trial, out of the Diplomat Way mare Ingot Way, was 17 years old. As a sire, he is represented by 20 stakes winners. He stood at Hopewell Farm since his retirement following his 1998 campaign.
"He was a tough horse," said Trontz. "He never showed any signs but he had a heart condition for years. Some people didn’t expect him to live as long as he did. He was a durable and hard-knocking sire and racehorse."
Skip Away raced for Carolyn Hine and was trained by Hubert "Sonny" Hine. He won 18 of 38 races and earned $9,616,360--third best on the all-time North American money list behind Curlin and Cigar—and was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2004.
He was bred in Florida by Anna Marie Barnhart, who inherited the mare Ingot Way following the death of her husband in 1984. "Skippy," as he was affectionately called by his owner and trainer, was raised in Florida at Hilmer Schmidt’s Indian Hill Farm. Consigned by Indian Hill to a 2-year-olds in training sale in Ocala, Skip Away was purchased by the Hines for $30,000. Following the purchase, however, the new owners detected a bone chip in Skippy’s knee and the breeder agreed to discount the purchase price by $7,500, the cost of surgery to correct the problem. The surgery was never performed on the horse.
As a 2-year-old, the colt won or placed in five of six starts, including second-place finishes in the Cowdin and Remsen stakes, both grade II. At 3, Skippy prepped for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) with an impressive win in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II), but he was unable to duplicate that effort at Churchill Downs, finishing 12th in the 19-horse field.
In his next two starts, Skippy showed the Derby effort was an anomaly by running second in both the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I). In one of his best performances of the season, Skip Away won a stretch duel with Cigar to take the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). With a seasonal tally of 6-2-2 in 12 starts and additional wins in the Woodbine Million and Buick Haskell Invitational Handicap (both gr. I), the tough little colt was honored with an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male of 1996.
Skippy’s 4-year-old season began slowly, as he failed to win in his first four efforts. But he rounded into form sufficiently enough to complete the year with a 4-5-2 record in 11 starts and earnings of $4.1 million. Included in his triumphs that year were impressive wins in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic (both gr. I), the latter in which he romped by six lengths. Honored as champion older male horse, Skip Away was denied an Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year, an honor that went to 2-year-old champion Favorite Trick. Carolyn Hine was also honored with an Eclipse as outstanding owner.
As good as he was at ages 3 and 4, Skip Away saved the best for last. In his final year of racing, at age 5, Skippy won seven of nine starts and earned $2.7 million. The campaign included seven consecutive wins—five of them in grade I stakes—at six different tracks. He carried 130 pounds or more in two of those wins. His attempt to score back-to-back wins in the Breeders’ Cup Classic failed when the horse finished sixth at Churchill Downs, reinforcing a belief that he never had an affinity for the surface at the Louisville, Ky., oval. Honored with a second Eclipse as champion older male, Skip Away was also voted Horse of the Year.
"He was a very generous horse," trainer Hine recalled. "He always gave."
Hine, who died in March of 2000 at age 69, was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
"I think Skip Away kept Sonny going," Carolyn Hine said following Skippy’s induction into the Hall of Fame. "He gave him some more years, more life. Skippy wasn’t a horse to us, he was a member of our family. He was a blessing."