Thunder Gulch, champion 3-year-old male of 1995 and leading sire of 2001, has been pensioned at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky. The 23-year-old son of Gulch is "in great health and doing well," according to Ashford's director of sales Charlie O'Connor.
Thunder Gulch is the sire of 96 stakes winners worldwide from 2,382 foals. He stood 17 seasons in the Northern Hemisphere: 16 at Ashford and one at East Stud in Japan in 1999. He stood seven seasons in the Southern Hemisphere: four at Coolmore Australia and three in Argentina.
Thunder Gulch's top runner is Point Given, Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male of 2001, the year Thunder Gulch was the leading sire in North America by progeny earnings. Winner of the Preakness and Belmont (both gr. I) stakes, Point Given earned more than $3.9 million. He stands at Calumet Farm near Lexington.
Other top runners include Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner Spain, grade I winner and sire Circular Quay, and grade I winners Balance (a half sister to 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta) and Tweedside.
Out of the Storm Bird mare Lines of Thunder, Thunder Gulch was bred in Kentucky by Peter M. Brant. A $40,000 Keeneland July sale yearling in 1993, Thunder Gulch raced early in his 2-year-old season for Mutual Shar Stable and trainer John C. Kimmel. After being sold to Michael Tabor, he was transferred to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and closed out his juvenile campaign with a runner-up effort in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I).
At 3, Thunder Gulch danced most every dance and was pure iron, winning seven of 10 starts in a nine-month period, with nine of his starts coming in grade I or grade II company.
He won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and Florida Derby (gr. I) to kick off the year, but flopped with a fourth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II). Sent off at 24-1 in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), he drew clear under Gary Stevens to win the Run for the Roses by 2 1/4 lengths. In the Preakness Stakes he was beaten three-quarters of a length by stablemate Timber Country and Marylander Oliver Twist, but bounced back with a two-length score in the Belmont Stakes.
Thunder Gulch returned in July to win the Swaps Stakes (gr. II) at Hollywood Park, then was shipped across the country to win Saratoga's Travers Stakes (gr. I). He then topped older rivals in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. In his finale he was fifth behind Cigar in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). It was later discovered he had fractured his left front cannon bone.
A winner of nine of 16 starts, Thunder Gulch earned $2,915,086.
He began his stud career at Ashford with a fee of $40,000 and it reached as high as $80,000 for the 2002 season. His last grade I winner in the U.S. was 2011 winner Shotgun Gulch.
Check out this 2009 visit with Thunder Gulch from our past Kentucky Derby winners series: