This marks the latest edition of “Stackin’ Cheddar: Looking Back”, a new biweekly series on America’s Best Racing. Here, we’ll look back on an early race in the careers of some of the greatest horses of all time, including spots where they went off at an appealing price.
April 13, 1996
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes
Race 8, Keeneland
Skip Away is one of the most iconic horses of the 1990s. From 1996 to 1998, he won 16 stakes races, including 10 Grade 1 races. Among his career highlights are a win in the 1996 Jockey Club Gold Cup over fellow Hall of Famer Cigar and a six-length win in the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1:59.16, which was a stakes record at the time.
Going into the 1996 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, Skip Away was still searching for his first stakes win, although he had come close on several occasions. He finished second in the Cowdin Stakes and the Remsen Stakes in the final two starts of his 2-year-old season, losing in a photo finish both times. He also finished third in the Florida Derby, beaten 6 ½ lengths by Unbridled’s Song, in his start before the Blue Grass.
In a seven-horse field which included future Preakness and Belmont winners Louis Quatorze and Editor’s Note, respectively, Skip Away went off as the 4.60-1 third choice. He pressed longshot leader Ensign Ray in the early stages, then took a short lead as they neared the half-mile point. By the time they turned for home, Skip Away was well out in front. Under a steady drive from Shane Sellers, Skip Away won by 6 ½ lengths in a stakes-record time of 1:47.20. Louis Quatorze closed for second, while Editor’s Note rallied from last to finish third.
Skip Away finished a nonthreatening 12th in the Kentucky Derby, but rebounded with second-place finishes in the Preakness and the Belmont. That started a streak of 26 consecutive top-three finishes in stakes company. Skip Away, who was the race favorite in 21 of his final 25 starts following the 1996 Triple Crown races, was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.