Groovy, in a portrait shot in 2000 at WinStar Farm.

Groovy, in a portrait shot in 2000 at WinStar Farm.

Barbara D. Livingston

Champion Sprinter Groovy Dead at 23

Groovy, the 1987 Eclipse Award-winning sprinter who set a six-furlong track record at Belmont Park, was euthanized Jan. 26 at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., due to physical infirmities at the age of 23.

"He was having continuing neurological problems that were making it difficult for him to perform the functions that he needed to in order to live a quality life," said Doug Cauthen, WinStar president.

The notorious speedster won 12 of his 26 starts with his front-running style, exclusively in stakes races. He ended his racing career for owner Prestonwood Farms, where he spent most of his years as a stallion. He earned $1,346,956 on the racetrack.

"He was just a great racehorse," Cauthen said, "and just a great horse to be around. He was very intelligent, and he really enjoyed interaction with people. He was a favorite of all the grooms and whoever worked with him here."

The Texas-bred son of Norcliffe-Tinnitus (by Restless Wind) won back-to-back editions of the Tom Fool (gr. II) and Forego (gr. II) in 1986-87. In the '87 True North Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont, he completed three-quarters of a mile on a muddy track in a record time of 1:07 4/5 to win by 5 3/4 lengths. (Artax broke the mark with a 1:07 3/5 clocking in 1999.)

During the 1987 season, Groovy won six consecutive races for trainer Jose Martin – the Roseben (gr. III) , True North, Bud Breeders' Cup, Tom Fool, Forego, and Vosburgh (gr. I). The Preston family purchased the chestnut colt for $4 million from J.A. Ballis prior to the Forego. He ended his career with a second-place finish behind Very Subtle as the 4-5 favorite in the 1987 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Hollywood Park, his only defeat of the year.

As a 3-year-old in '86, Groovy posted a :45 1/5 opening half-mile to lead the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) before finishing last in the 16-horse field. After setting the pace in the Preakness (gr. I) for six furlongs, Groovy faded to sixth. He campaigned as a sprinter thereafter.

Groovy, who ran for eight different trainers, stood at Prestonwood for 11 seasons before transferring to WinStar in 2000. He stood there for two seasons before being pensioned because of his neurological problem.

"He was a champion and it was a great privilege to have been around him," Cauthen said. "Even though he'd been out of service for a couple of years, we kept him in the same stall so he still felt he was part of things. That's what he deserved."

Groovy sired 223 winners from 282 starters who earned $12,219,126 from his 13 crops through Jan. 26. He had 18 stakes winners, including 2000 Carter Handicap (gr. I) winner Brutally Frank. Other top products were grade II winner Incinerate and multiple graded stakes winner Groovy Feeling.