American steeplechase legend Lonesome Glory died Feb. 25 from injuries suffered in a paddock accident at trainer Bruce Miller's farm.
Owned by Kay Jeffords, Lonesome Glory is the only American steeplechase horse to win five Eclipse Awards (1992, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1999), and also the only American jumper to earn more than $1 million.
Miller said the 14-year-old gelding got cast in his stall overnight Sunday, and broke a bone in his left hind leg. Efforts to repair the injury failed, and Lonesome Glory was euthanized Monday.
"Sunday night, he got cast in a paddock he's been in for 10 years," said Miller. "When we saw him Monday morning, he was standing on three legs. Several vets looked at him, but there wasn't anything we could do and he was put down in the afternoon. It's a sad time at the farm right now."
A Kentucky-bred son of Transworld and the Green Dancer mare Stronghold, Lonesome Glory was sent to Miller as a raw, unraced 2-year-old and developed into the most-accomplished American steeplechaser in history before being retired after the 1999 racing season.
He won his only hurdle start as a 3-year-old, and captured four of six starts as a 4-year-old (clinching his first Eclipse with a historic victory over hurdles at Cheltenham in England) while still learning the game. The long-legged chestnut with a wide blaze won another championship with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) at age 5 in 1993.
In 1994, he won the first of his three Colonial Cups (NSA-I) but lost the championship vote to Warm Spell. A year later, Lonesome Glory played Michael Jordan -- dominating the game with a campaign that included three grade I victories and a grade II in five starts. He closed the season in England, winning a handicap chase at Sandown by 11 lengths.
"To me, the greatest thing he did was win the two races in England -- one over hurdles and one over steeplechase fences," said Miller, "but I think his best race here was that 1993 Breeders' Cup. There were two four-horse entries in the race, and we were the ninth horse. He beat Highland Bud, who was going for his third Breeders' Cup win."
Lonesome Glory faltered in 1996, losing his only two American starts after beginning the year in England. The champion returned again in 1997, however, joining Flatterer as a four-time champion after becoming the only horse to sweep the grade I Carolina and Colonial Cups over the Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C. The spring/fall double earned Lonesome Glory a $250,000 bonus.
Pointed for England again in 1998, Lonesome Glory missed a try at the Cheltenham Gold Cup with a pulled muscle but returned to action in time to showcase his talent at Churchill Downs. At age 10, he overwhelmed seven foes to win the $100,000 Hard Scuffle Stakes. The fifth Eclipse Award would have to wait a year, however, as Lonesome Glory lost his remaining two starts of 1998.
His 11-year-old season began with a second Carolina Cup score in March and reached a peak with a powerful win in the $188,000 Royal Chase at Keeneland in April. That would be the horse's final career start as he was retired while in training for the fall season, but was enough to convince the Eclipse voters that five was his number.
"He proved he was the best by what he did over time," said Miller, whose daughter Blythe was Lonesome Glory's regular jockey. "The horses he beat were pretty special -- not many horses last like he did at that level. He was a great horse who did a lot for our whole family."
Lonesome Glory won 19 jump races (17 in the U.S. and two in England) from 35 starts and retired with earnings of $1,352,868. Major victories came in North America's most storied races, and included three Colonial Cups, two Carolina Cups, the Temple Gwathmey, the Hard Scuffle, the Royal Chase, the Iroquois, the New York Turf Writers Cup, the A.P. Smithwick Memorial and the
Breeders' Cup Steeplechase. Lonesome Glory topped the National Steeplechase Association's theoretical handicap three times in the 1990s, including a record 170-pound honor after the 1995 season.
Inherited by Jeffords when her husband Walter Jeffords Jr. died in 1990, Lonesome Glory nearly became a show horse but proved too rambunctious for that sport.
His five championships surpass only Flatterer among steeplechasers, and put him on par with Kelso's run of five Horse of the Year titles or Forego's string of four consecutive older male championships. Since the Eclipse Awards were created in 1971, only four other horses have won five or more (of any type). The others were Forego, John Henry, Affirmed and Secretariat.
Lonesome Glory was buried at the National Steeplechase Museum on the Springdale Race Course property in Camden, S.C.