A champion on and off the track, High Chaparral dies at 15

December 21, 2014 01:25pm
High Chaparral stallion 615 X 400
Photo: Coolmore Stud


The sad news came in from Coolmore Stud this morning ... High Chaparral was put down at Fethard Equine Hospital in Ireland during exploratory colic surgery due to a perforated intestine. As one of the most influential turf horses and sires of the 21st century, it goes without saying that High Chaparral, only 15-years-old, will be sorely missed. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the good looking son of Sadler’s Wells.

As a fan of a pair of top American turf warriors, I was sitting on the edge of my seat for the stretch run of the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Turf. Both The Tin Man and With Anticipation were in with a real chance as the field braced for the final quarter mile at Arlington Park’s only Breeders’ Cup. The problem was, the Aidan O’Brien trained runner in between the two Americans was High Chaparral.

The Irish-bred three-year-old was all class, and when Michael Kinane asked him for his best run down the lane, it soon became apparent that this edition of the BC Turf was fait accompli. Already a dual Derby winner in Europe, his class bubbled over that afternoon at Arlington Park.

All told, High Chaparral’s glittering record included 10 victories in 13 lifetime starts. He won at distances ranging from seven furlongs to a mile-and-a-half. A winner at the highest level of racing on both sides of the pond, High Chaparral was a Group 1 winner in three consecutive seasons, beginning with his juvenile season, and totaled six Group/Grade 1 wins in all. The worst results of his career, if you could call them that, came in a pair of 3rd places finishes in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in consecutive years.

High Chaparral also went out a winner, by earning a brave dead heat for victory while defending his Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita in 2003. I may not have rooted for him that afternoon at Arlington Park, but it was impossible not to become a fan of his immense ability. My fondness for High Chaparral would grow even stronger after his racing career was over, though.

Since his retirement, High Chaparral has stood at Coolmore Stud, and early on shuttled between his base in Ireland to stud duties in New Zealand and Australia. As a top class, and beautifully put together son of the sire of sires, Sadler’s Wells, it is no wonder that High Chaparral would make his mark in the breeding shed, and in his first eight crops of runners, he sired numerous top runners all over the world. It just so happens that one of his many high class sons, was a favorite of mine.

A striking dark bay, So You Think, did his sire proud. The New Zealand-bred son of High Chaparral won five Group 1 races in Australia, including back-to-back wins in the Cox Plate of 2009 and 2010. He later joined daddy’s old barn in Ireland, winning five more Group 1 events with Aidan O’Brien in Europe, including the Coral-Eclipse Stakes, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Prince of Wales's Stakes. He even came to the U.S. and loomed large on the far turn of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, before fading late on a surface that was not his cup of tea.

Toronado, It's A Dundeel, Shoot Out and Descarado, were just a few more of the others to add to High Chaparral’s growing reputation as a world class sire. Now on the sad occasion of High Chaparral’s premature passing, it is up to his offspring like So You Think to once again do him proud. I believe his legacy is in very good hands. 


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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