LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The relationship between horse and jockey in the Kentucky Derby is a two-minute partnership that can thrust both into horse racing history. That happened 23-years ago for Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron and Kentucky-bred ‘Go for Gin.’
On the first sloppy Kentucky Derby day track in 46 years on May 7, 1994, ‘Go for Gin’ and McCarron went wire-to-wire to win the 120th running. “It was just an unbelievably exhilarating feeling. Go for Gin ran the best race of his life that day,” said McCarron.
Fast forward to May 2017 and McCarron is back to reunite with his Derby day partner at the Kentucky Horse Park where ‘Go for Gin’ has resided in the Hall of Champions since retiring from stud in 2011.
“He looks like a three-year old,” said McCarron. At 26, ‘Go for Gin’ is the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner in North America. The oldest winner is 1993 champion ‘Sea Hero,’ who lives in Turkey.
‘Go for Gin’ is in terrific shape. He doesn’t look or act his age. He is adored by the tens of thousands of visitors who greet him each year at the Kentucky Horse Park. Hall of Champions Supervisor Rob Willis says he often asks visitors to guess ‘Go for Gin’s’ age and he says they’re always way off, sometimes by 20-plus years.
‘Go for Gin’ was a generous and honest race horse. He finished in the money in 14 of his 19 lifetime starts that saw him earn more than $1.3 million on the track. At stud, he sired seven stakes winners, including ‘Albert the Great,’ who won more than $3 million on the track. ‘Go for Gin’s’ offspring netted more than $22 million.
The argument can be made that ‘Go for Gin’is one of the greatest Triple Crown campaigner’s ever. He won the Kentucky Derby and finished second in the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, losing to ‘Tobasco Cat’ in both classics by a combined 2 3/4 lengths. In other words, he was a fraction of a second away from winning the Triple Crown.
He gave jockey Chris McCarron one of the greatest rides of his remarkable career and he is forever grateful. “It’s indelible. You can’t take those memories away. To cross the wire at the Kentucky Derby, you never forget it and you never get over it,” said McCarron.
It is interesting to note that 34 of the past 35 Kentucky Derby winners were descendants of ‘Man O’ War.’ The lone exception? You guessed it, ‘Go for Gin.’