Go for Gin (inside) winning the 1994 Kentucky Derby (G1) over a sloppy track. Photo courtesy Horsephotos.com.
In 1994, a 3-year-old colt by Cormorant shocked the world with a front-running win in the Kentucky Derby (G1). The colt, a bay named Go for Gin, had gone off as the fifth betting choice at odds of 9-1 and relished the sloppy track, winning by two lengths over Strodes Creek. It was Go for Gin’s first victory since winning the Preview Stakes that January at Gulfstream Park, and it would be the last win of his 19-start career.
After the Kentucky Derby, Go for Gin narrowly lost the next two legs of the Triple Crown, finishing second in both races by a combined margin of 2 ¾ lengths to Tabasco Cat, who had finished sixth in the Derby. Go for Gin took off two months after the Belmont and returned in the Forego Handicap (G2) against older horses, finishing third. The colt took on older males three more times in 1994 but never hit the board. He ended his 3-year-old season with a record of two wins and five other top three finishes in 11 starts for $1,1,78,596 in earnings.
Go for Gin
Sire (Father): Cormorant
Dam (Mother): Never Knock
1994 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner
1993 Remsen Stakes (G2) winner
In 1995, the Derby winner returned to the track for a 4-year-old campaign. Go for Gin came close to winning in his 4-year-old debut when he finished second by just a neck to Ponche, a horse who went on to win multiple stakes races that year. His next race went much the same when he finished second by 1 ½ lengths to Grade 1 winner Prenup. Go for Gin hit the board in a stakes race for the first time since his Forego Handicap third-place finish the August before when he finished third in the Churchill Downs Handicap (G3), run on the same day as that year’s Kentucky Derby.
Go for Gin wouldn’t have a chance to add another win to his record as it was announced by trainer Nick Zito that the colt was retired after sustaining a tear in his tendon sheath while preparing for the Metropolitan Handicap. Go for Gin retired with a record of five wins, seven seconds, and two thirds in 19 career starts for $1,380,866 in earnings.
Due to the lateness of his retirement in 1995, Go for Gin’s first breeding season was in 1996. His career started at the famed Claiborne Farm where he stood for the first eight years of his career before being sold and moving to Maryland’s Bonita Farm in 2004.
As of Feb. 13, Go for Gin has had 409 foals of racing age from 13 years at stud (his last crop of foals are 2-year-olds). Of those 409, 310 have started at least once for an astounding 7-percent starters with 208 of his racehorses winning a combined 704 races. In all, so far Go for Gin’s foals have earned more than $18 million with 12 stakes winners and one champion racehorse in El Autentico, the 2005 Horse of the Year in Panama.
Go for Gin’s American legacy as a sire runs directly through his son Albert the Great. Albert the Great is from his sire’s first crop and was a multiple graded stakes winner, including the 2000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Albert the Great stands in Pennsylvania at Pin Oak Lane Farm and, like his sire, has turned into a useful stallion, siring Kentucky stallions Albertus Maximus, winner of the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, and Nobiz Like Shobiz, winner of the 2007 Wood Memorial Stakes (G1).
Go for Gin also has proved a useful broodmare sire with 156 winners from 227 starters through Feb. 13. His daughters’ runners have amassed nearly $14 million in purse earnings, just $4 million less than his own runners have earned.
In August 2011, Go for Gin was sent to the Kentucky Horse Park after retiring from stallion duties. Initially, it was a hard adjustment for him as he came to the park only two months after breeding his last mare.
“He came during a very active time [at the Park],” said Wes Lanter, equine support manager at the Kentucky Horse Park. “He came in August and right where he’s turned out, you’ll have show horses there every weekend. And at first it got him a little upset, but now it’s just another weekend for him and he doesn’t bother with them at all.”
The stallion has been away from the track for nearly 20 years and will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of his Kentucky Derby victory next year but he still has fans and familiar faces visit him on a regular basis.
“There are people here every day that during the show season that say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember him. I bet on him’ or ‘I was at that Derby,’ ” Lanter said “So yeah, he certainly has a following and [his Derby rider, Chris McCarron is] around here close and he’s popped in a couple times to see him so he has a fan base for sure.”
Go for Gin can be visited at Kentucky Horse Park year round. For Park hours, click here.
GO FOR GIN WATCHES OVER JOHN HENRY'S GRAVE OUTSIDE HIS PADDOCK