Two-time Canadian Horse of the Year Chief Bearhart, who stood at the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association Shizunai Stallion Station, died Sept. 18 of acute heart failure. The 19-year-old stallion had been receiving veterinary treatment for ill health since early April.
"As Chief Bearhart had been suffering from ill health since early April, we stopped breeding him at that time and had been treating him as best as we can, but unfortunately we are very much saddened that our efforts have come to an end," the JBBA said in statement. "We were hoping he might recover and be able to sire many more winners. Although that did not happen, nothing changes the fact that he was a very good sire for us, and we are very happy to have had the opportunity to stand him."
Racing for Ernie Samuel's Sam-Son Farms, Chief Bearhart first went to Japan to contest the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) in November 1998. He finished fourth and then was returned to North America. He was bought by the Japan Racing Association that year for stud duty and returned to Japan in 1999.
Chief Bearhart, who was a 2002 Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee, won seven championships, including four in 1997. That year he was named Canada’s Horse of the Year, champion older male, and champion grass male, and earned an Eclipse Award as North America's leading turf male.
Chief Bearhart won the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park over German filly Borgia as the 9-5 favorite in stakes-record time of 2:23.92. The time remains the third-fastest in the history of the 1 1/2-mile race. Chief Bearhart also captured that year’s Canadian International Stakes (gr. IT), the Sky Classic Handicap (Can-IIT) in course-record-equaling time at Woodbine, the Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland, and the King Edward Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT)
Chief Bearhart also was Canada’s Horse of the Year and champion turf male in 1998 and Canada’s grass champion in 1996. His biggest win in 1998 came in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park. As a 3-year-old in 1996, Chief Bearhart won the classic Breeders’ Stakes (Can-IRT) by 9 1/2 lengths and then finished second to subsequent Eclipse Award-winning turf male Singspiel in the Canadian International.
"He was a terrific, competitive horse, a little kooky at times, but a genuine racehorse that’s for sure," said the colt’s trainer, Mark Frostad. "He was a true 1 1/2-mile horse but had good speed in his workouts. He was used to dropping off the pace and coming along quickly at the end."
Frostad especially was proud of Chief Bearhart’s win in the Breeders’ Stakes. "He was on the Triple Crown trail, and the race is a classic, and he had been running on dirt at the time," Frostad said about Chief Bearhart’s first stakes win. "It was the same day (Sam-Son’s) Smart Strike won the Philip H. Iselin (Handicap, gr. I, at Monmouth Park)."
During his career, Chief Bearhart carved out a record of 12-5-3 from 26 starts and earned $3,381,557.
Chief Bearhart has sired 15 stakes winners including Japanese champions Meiner Recolte and Merci A Time (a steeplechaser), New Zealand champion Shikoba, and Japanese grade I winner Meiner Kitz.
Bred in Ontario, Canada, by Richard D. Maynard, Chief Bearhart was produced from the stakes-placed Bold Hour mare Amelia Bearhart.