Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Phantom on Tour, who starred as a living exhibit at the Kentucky Derby Museum for eight years, was euthanized Jan. 29 at the age of 24. He suffered from complications caused by equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), a neurological disease he was first diagnosed with in 2006.
"Phantom was always liked by every inmate that came into the Second Chances program; everyone always wanted to see the horse that had run in the Kentucky Derby," said Linda Dyer, farm manager at TRF's facility at Blackburn Correctional Complex.
"I would show them his race with everybody commenting on what a good racehorse he was. It helped show them what these retired racehorses are capable of as athletes. We kept him down at the barn in his own paddock and stall, so he led a very spoiled life. He loved to be groomed every day. His favorite thing to do was to rub his head on you. The inmates would sneak him so many mints I had to warn them about giving him too many," she said.
Phantom on Tour finished sixth to Silver Charm in the 1997 Kentucky Derby (G1), and he earned $724,065 in a career that included victories in the Rebel Stakes (G3) and the New Orleans Handicap (G3).
Sent to stud in 1998, the son of Tour d'Or proved to be infertile, he was then gelded and returned to racing. After three starts, a group of fans purchased him in 2001, and he was retired to TRF's Second Chances farm at Blackburn Correctional Facility near Lexington.
In March 2002 Phantom on Tour, on loan from the TRF, arrived at the Kentucky Derby Museum where he spent the next eight years. During his time at the museum, he served as the sport's ambassador to thousands of fans.
"Phantom was super personable and super cool," said Alison Knight, equine manager at the Kentucky Derby Museum. "I used to walk him down the sidewalk and right up to the Kentucky Derby Museum's front doors. He was a great ambassador for retired Thoroughbreds. Our guests loved getting to see him up close and to interact with such a great horse. He was one of my favorite resident Thoroughbreds here at the Museum."
Phantom on Tour retired from the Derby Museum in October 2010 and returned to TRF's Blackburn farm, where he helped teach inmates equine care as part of TRF's Second Chances vocational program.
"He was really an icon for our farm here," Dyer said. "He was quite a character and sweet as pie when a visitor came into the barn because he knew they usually had carrots or mints. He was a classy guy and a really good racehorse. He helped make many a horseman here at our Second Chances Program. The 18 men have already commented on how empty the barn feels without him."