Runaway Groom, last month at Vinery.

Runaway Groom, last month at Vinery.

Barbara D. Livingston

Prominent Stallion Runaway Groom Dead

Runaway Groom, who beat the year's three U.S. classic winners in the 1982 Travers Stakes (gr. I), was euthanized June 8 at Dr. Tom Simon's Vinery near Lexington because of complications from the infirmities of old age. The 28-year-old son of Blushing Groom, who is represented by 72 stakes winners, was pensioned early in the breeding season,

"We are saddened by his death," said stallion manager Mike Heitzmann. "He was a great horse with an awesome personality. He was a tough horse even at his age, but wasn't mean. He was the king around here and knew it.

"When we showed him at farm, he knew what he was outside for. He knew the people came to see him, and he always put on a good show."

Runaway Groom, who was bred in Canada by Gardiner Farms and raced for Albert Coppola of the U.S., proved himself in a big way in two Canadian classics prior to the Travers at Saratoga. He had won the Prince of Wales Stakes and run second in the Queen's Plate.

For the first time in its history, the Travers attracted the three individual winners of the U.S. classics--Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Gato del Sol, Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Aloma's Ruler, and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Conquistador Cielo. The lineup hardly fazed Coppola.

"My horse was good as the others, and I knew he had a lot of stamina," Coppola said recently. "In the Travers, he was so far back I didn't think he'd make it, but he caught up and won."

The second-longest price on the board, at 12-1, Runaway Groom closed from last to win by a half-length over Aloma's Ruler, with 2-5 favorite Conquistador Cielo finishing third. Gato Del Sol ran last of five.

Following the Mid-Summer Derby, Runaway Groom returned to Canada, where he won another Canadian classic, the Breeders' Stakes on grass. After that, came two unplaced efforts in New York.

Runaway Groom was invited to that year's Japan Cup. He would represent Canada in the late fall race, but Canadian officials frowned on the fact that Coppola, a U.S. resident, was not a Canadian. Runaway Groom didn’t get to go and stayed home.

"We had rescheduled everything to go, even my daughter's wedding," Coppola said.

Runaway Groom, who was voted Canadian champion 3-year-old male, raced at 4 without winning and was retired with six wins from 18 races and earnings of $347,537. He entered stud at El Rancho Murrieta in California, and stood there one year before moving to Donald Dizney's Double Diamond Farm near Ocala, Fla., where he sired grade I winner Wekiva Springs for Dizney and champion sprinter Cherokee Run for George Onett of Florida. Prior to the 1991 breeding season, Runaway Groom was moved to Vinery, then owned by Ben Walden and located near Midway, Ky.

Runaway Groom sired additional grade I winners Down the Aisle and The Groom Is Red, plus numerous other graded winners.

Runaway Groom, who is a member of Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, is buried at Vinery.