Winning Colors, 1988 Derby Winner, Dies

By: Beth Campbell, Associated Press
By: Beth Campbell, Associated Press

Winning Colors, the 1988 Kentucky Derby winner who was the last filly to win the race, has died, Gainesway thoroughbred farm said Monday. She was 23.

The roan mare was euthanized Sunday after a bout with colic and buried at Greentree Farm, which is now part of Gainesway, Gainesway Vice President Charlie Aker said.

As a 3-year-old, Winning Colors thrilled Derby watchers when she led wire to wire under Gary Stevens, defeating Forty Niner. She also won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby and Santa Anita Oaks that year and finished with eight wins, three seconds and a third. Her earnings totaled $1,526,837, the farm said.

Her win at Santa Anita helped Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who bought Winning Colors as a yearling at Keeneland for the late Eugene Klein, decide she could compete with the colts at the Derby.

"She started out dominating competition in her own sex pretty handily, and we then decided that we would step out of the box and try her in the Santa Anita Derby," he told The Associated Press on Monday night.

"When she won ... she was one of the best 3-year-olds in the nation," he said. "From there, we decided we were going to try it."

She was the third filly to win the Derby, after Regret in 1915 and Genuine Risk in 1980.

Gainesway purchased her in 1989 for $4 million, one of the farm's first big broodmare purchases, Aker said.

She left an 2-year-old by Orientate in training and a yearling filly by Mr. Greeley at the farm, Gainesway general manager Neil Howard said.

Her Derby win was "really special" to Lukas. She was the first of four Derby winners for him.

"The Derby winner always captivates the imagination of the race fan," he said. "But being a filly and beating the colts made it even sweeter."

One of Winning Colors' second-place finishes was in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff, where she led until the end, when Personal Ensign edged ahead to win by inches and retire undefeated in 13 starts.

"If you look back through the history books, (that is) one of the great races of all times," Lukas said.


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