Canadian Horse of the Year Thornfield has Died at Old Friends

@Rick Capone


GEORGETOWN, KY – Jan. 20, 2023 – Thornfield, the 1999 Canadian Horse of the Year, died on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, at Old Friends thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky., due to a paddock accident, announced president and founder Michael Blowen today. He was 29.

Bred and owned by Steve Stavro’s Knob Hill Farms, Thornfield was foaled in Canada on March 15, 1994.

The son of Sky Classic–Alexandrina, by Conquistador Cielo, Thornfield was trained most of his career by Phillip England and, except for one race, ran exclusively at Woodbine Racetrack in Canada.

The bay gelding began his racing career as a 3-year old in 1997, but he didn’t break his maiden until his fifth career race as a 4-year old in 1998. He then proceeded to win four consecutive races.

His best season came in 1999 as a 5-year old when he won the Niagara Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G2), and then pulled off a big upset to win the $1.5 million Canadian International Stakes (G1) as the longest shot in the field at 18.85-1 odds. That win made him the first winner sired by an International winner, Sky Classic. Those two wins were also instrumental in his being awarded the 1999 Sovereign Awards as Canadian Horse of the Year and Champion Male Turf Horse.

In addition, that year, he also finished third in a race named after his sire, the Sky Classic Handicap (G3), and 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

Thornfield continued racing until 2002 when, as a 7-year old, he ran in an allowance race at Woodbine on April 27, but did not finish and was retired. He ended his career with six wins, one second, three thirds, and $1,206,074 in earnings in 19 starts.

After he was retired, he attempted a second-career as a hunter jumper, but things did not work out. He was then donated to Old Friends and arrived at the farm on Jan. 1, 2011.

In June 2015, Thornfield was one of five Old Friends retirees relocated to the farm’s newly opened annex facility at Kentucky Downs. He lived there until July 2019 when the annex closed, and then, along with the other horses there, he returned to the main farm in Georgetown, where he enjoyed the remainder of his retirement.

“Thornfield was the king of Old Friends at Kentucky Downs and adored visitors,” Blowen said. “He was as handsome as he was talented and we were honored to have him at Old Friends for more than 12 years.”

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