Timber Country, the champion 2-year-old male of 1994 and 1995 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner who went on to a successful stallion career in Japan, died Feb. 24 at Lex Stud in Hokkaido as a result of heart failure at age 24.
"We extend our heartfelt condolences to him," said Akira Maeda, Lex Stud's managing director, adding that Timber Country had heart issues in recent years. "We will erect a monument to his memory in Cherry Blossoms Park near our Lex Stud."
A royally bred son of Woodman, Timber Country was trained by D. Wayne Lukas for Overbrook Farm, Gainesway Farm, and Bob and Beverly Lewis.
He was produced from the Pretense mare Fall Aspen, dam of grade I winner and champion Bianconi and grade I winner Northern Aspen; grade II winner Elle Seule, who produced champions Mehthaaf and Elnadim; and grade II winner Colorado Dancer, dam of champion Dubai Millennium.
Bred in Kentucky by Lowquest, Timber Country was purchased for $500,000 at the 1993 Keeneland July yearling sale.
"We were having dinner at (Overbrook Farm owner) Bill Young's—Graham Beck (of Gainesway Farm) was there, too—and I said I had to excuse myself to get back to the sale because the fourth horse in the ring was a horse I was interested in," Lukas said Feb. 24. "Graham Beck followed me to my car and asked who the colt was and I said he was out of Fall Aspen. He asked who I was buying him for and I said, 'I don't know but I'm going to buy him.' He said for me to go ahead and buy him and they would put something together."
During his juvenile campaign, the colt won four of seven starts, including the Moet Champagne Stakes and Breeders' Cup Juvenile, both grade I. It was the impressive juvenile victory at Churchill Downs that not only earned Timber Country an Eclipse, but also buoyed his connections' hopes for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
"After his 2-year-old season, I really thought he was one of our best chances to be a Triple Crown winner," Lukas said.
But a Triple Crown was not to be, as Timber Country finished third to stablemate Thunder Gulch in the Derby. The colt rebounded to take the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and was on track for a rubber match in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) before he was sidelined with a virus, with Thunder Gulch taking his second classic.
"He was third in the Derby and won the Preakness, and we thought he would win the Belmont," Lukas said. "Two out of three wouldn't be bad, but he spiked a temperature and missed the Belmont and Thunder Gulch went out and won it anyway.
"He was a beautiful horse, with a great disposition and great to train."
A tendon injury precluded Timber Country from racing again and was sold to brothers Teruya and Katsumi Yoshida for $12 million to stand in Japan at their Shadai Farm.
Timber Country shuttled to Australia in 2000 and was leased for one season by Sheikh Mohammed to stand in Dubai. Upon returning to Japan, Timber Country stood at Lex Stallion Station. Among his top offspring was champion Admire Don, a champion and seven-time group I winner in Japan.