This past week Sea Hero, the oldest living winner of the Kentucky Derby died of old age in Turkey. He was 29 years old.
Sea Hero was bred in Virginia by Paul Mellon who had a long and successful career in horse racing on both sides of the Atlantic, but had so far been denied a win in the Kentucky Derby. Sea Hero’s trainer, Mack Miller, was a member of the hall of fame but he too had yet to have a Kentucky Derby winner. That would change for both men in May 1993.
Although Sea Hero had put up some excellent performances, his record did not make him a favorite in the run for the roses. He was 9th in a field of 19 with odds of 12.90-1. Watch video of the race here. Late in the race jockey Jerry Bailey makes an exciting move and Sea Hero dashes through a gap on the inside and charges down the rail for the win. Sea Hero did not manage to repeat his performance in the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes but he had one last flash of glory later that summer, winning the Travers Stakes. It had been 51 years since a Kentucky Derby winner had done so. After the 1994 season he was retired to stud with a career record of 6-3-4 in 24 starts and earnings of $2,929,869.
His stud career began in 1995 at Lane’s End in Versailles, Kentucky, but didn’t fully develop until after he was purchased by the Turkey Jockey Club and relocated to Karacabey Pension Stud in 2000 where he stood at stud until being pensioned out in 2015. According to Blood-Horse his lifetime progeny earnings worldwide total $19,165,928.
Sea Hero has been immortalized in two statues. One at the Saratoga Race Course, and one right here at the National Sporting Library and Museum, just down the road from Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Stables. Our Sea Hero resides in the boxwood garden between the Museum and Library and is sometimes called upon to assist with educational programming.
Here he is surrounded by children learning about proportion. If you’d like to view our statue or learn more about the Kentucky Derby and the horses and personalities that make it the most glamorous of American horse races, come and visit the Library.
Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail