When Princess Rooney won the 1984 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Hollywood Park, she did it in grand style, by seven lengths, a full second faster than that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner, Wild Again. As a result, she earned a permanent place on the list of Thoroughbred racing’s great mares, and became the first Breeders’ Cup winner to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Now Princess Rooney, who was euthanized Oct. 7 at the age of 28, has earned a resting place at the Kentucky Horse Park, near the graves of great race mares Allez France and Sefa’s Beauty. Other legendary Thoroughbreds buried at the Kentucky Horse Park include Man o’ War, War Admiral, Forego, Bold Forbes, and John Henry. Specific burial plans for Princess Rooney have not been finalized.
In a release, John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park, said it was a very easy decision for the grade I winner to be buried at the Horse Park, “Princess Rooney was a Kentucky-bred mare who made a significant contribution to the sport. She will be remembered by racing fans for her big talent, and by the people who loved her for her kind heart. We are honored to offer Princess Rooney a final resting place where the public will be able to pause and remember a fine mare who always gave her best.”
Princess Rooney (Verbatim-Parrish Princess, by Drone) was bred by Dr. Ben Roach and Tom Roach at their Parrish Hill Farm near Midway Ky., which sold her as a yearling.
She had 17 wins, including five grade ones, and finished out of the money only once, earning $1,343,339 and the Eclipse Award for champion older mare for owner Paula Tucker under the tutelage of trainer Neil Drysdale. In the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), she defeated champion 3-year-old female Life’s Magic, who won the Distaff and another Eclipse Award the following year.
When she retired from the track Princess Rooney was sold for $5.5 million, the third-highest price ever paid for a broodmare at that time.
Matt Howard, farm manager at Gentry Farm, where Princess Rooney spent the last several years of her life said, “Princess Rooney was not only an extraordinary athlete, but something truly special to many people. To her fans she was an amazing runner, a real ham in front of the camera, and an instant friend. The horsemen who worked with her found her to be very patient, gentle, and easygoing, yet found she still had that air of royalty about her. But to the family she made here at Gentry Farm, she was all of that and more.”
Howard continued, “She made herself her own little niche by being ‘Grandma’ to the weanling and yearling fillies, leading by example on how to behave, and enforcing her rules if necessary. She was a tremendous teacher to the fillies and people alike. She taught patience frequently by coming to the gate at her own pace. She was fiercely loyal and showed us that no matter what someone has done to wrong you, you should forgive them. Most of all she taught us love. She had not had a baby in four years, yet each year welcomed a new set of babies to teach, fuss over, and love. We at Gentry Farm will truly miss this one-of-a-kind mare, but will remember all the lessons she taught us.”
Nicholson concluded, “This lovely mare was a fighter on the racetrack and a lover in her retirement. She enjoyed visitors and attention at Gentry Farms, so we think it is only fitting that she will continue to have visitors and attention at her gravesite here at the Kentucky Horse Park.”