Thunder Gulch, whose storied career was highlighted by winning the Kentucky Derby, Belmont and Travers Stakes, is being retired after fracturing his left front leg.
Thunder Gulch’s injury apparently happened during the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Saturday at Belmont Park in New York, when he finished fifth behind winner Cigar. The fracture was discovered upon X-rays that were ordered after the colt seemed uncomfortable after his return to the barn.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas identified the injury as a “condylar fracture to the cannon bone,” which is a fracture low on the leg, near the ankle. “The bone is not displaced, but it’s there,” Lukas said Sunday. He also said it was probably the reason Thunder Gulch ran so poorly in the Gold Cup.
“What we discovered, watching the horse cool out after the Gold Cup, (was that) the horse got a little bit uncomfortable,” Lukas said, “and as time went on he got a little bit more so. Although there was no filling or no heat or anything we could see, we took some X-rays.”
The injury is one that can heal with nothing more than time and stall rest, Lukas said. But there will be no more racing. Thunder Gulch’s owner, Michael Tabor, said that rather than race the colt again next year, he is retiring him to Ashford Stud in Versailles.
“I’m shell-shocked,” said Tabor, a Monte Carlo resident who recently sold his family-owned bookmaking business in England. Tabor was with Lukas Sunday at Keeneland to watch his Honor and Glory win the Breeders’ Futurity for 2-year-old colts. But the devastating news about Thunder Gulch, coming on the heels of that colt’s loss to Cigar in their long-awaited matchup, took away some of the glitter from Honor and Glory’s winning race.
“He’s been a terrific horse, and I think it’s the fair thing to do,” Tabor said about the retirement to stud. This means the son of Gulch will begin breeding mares in February 1996.
It also means there will be no rematch with Cigar, whom he was to challenge in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 28 at Belmont. Lukas said it’s disappointing that Thunder Gulch did not get to race against Cigar when Thunder Gulch was at his best.
“We didn’t really get a chance to have the showdown that was advertised and everybody anticipated,” Lukas said.