Though he resembled his sire in size, color, and build, Tinners Way didn’t exactly give the impression of being like his legendary sire. He was a nervous, flighty, and unsure colt and it took the right trainer, careful preparation, and steady urging for this colt to reach his full potential. But when he did, he echoed the talent of his great sire before him.
Tinners Way, the last son of the immortal Secretariat, passed away this year at the ripe old age of 27. As the last progeny of Secretariat are passing away, it is the ending of an era, and the loss of Tinners Way hit many in the racing industry particularly hard. No, Tinners Way was not his sire – and he failed to earn a championship title. Still, there was something about the chestnut colt that was impossible not to love. He was essentially the opposite of his sire in the beginning, but over the course of his career he slowly began to discover the great love to run and will to win that was in his blood.
Today, we remember Tinners Way and the impact he made on the racing community.
Tinners Way was born on May 25th, 1990, from the final crop of the immortal Triple Crown winner Secretariat; he would be the last colt born from the legendary champion. His dam was Devon Diva, a one-time winner whose sire The Minstrel won both the Epsom and Irish Derby. The regally-bred colt immediately resembled his sire with a chestnut coat and a star and stripe on his forehead. He was bred and owned by prestigious Juddmonte Farms and began his career as a 2-year-old in Europe.
In his lone start at 2, Tinners Way encouraged his connections by winning his debut in 7-furlong maiden at Doncaster Racecourse. Five months later he returned at the age of 3, where he would go on to win 3 of his 7 starts in England and France, including the City of York Stakes and the Milcars Temple Fortune Stakes. He then finished 3rd in the prestigious Prix de la Forêt at Longchamp before being shipped to Santa Anita Park in California for the Volante Handicap, where he finished 4th on the turf ending his 3-year-old campaign.
As a 4-year-old, Tinners Way remained in California and began training under legendary Bobby Frankel. Under a watchful eye from his new trainer, Tinner made his 4-year-old debut racing on the dirt for the first time in an allowance race at Santa Anita Park, finishing a well-run 2nd. The adjustment to dirt took time, however, as his 2nd place finish was followed by 5 stake losses, with a few placings in the Mervyn Leroy Handicap and Arcadia Handicap, making a return to turf in the latter. He eventually returned to the winner’s circle in the Golden Gate Fields Breeders’ Cup Handicap, which he followed up with a 2nd place finish in the Bel Air Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Tinners Way, a now regular stakes competitor in California, came into the the Pacific Classic as an underdog with only 1 win in 8 starts for the season, and along with that was facing a high caliber field with the likes of Bertrando and Best Pal among them. He was ridden for the first time by Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye; after stalking the field for the majority of the race, Tinners Way made a tremendous move around the turn and went on to win by a length over Best Pal in a time of 1:59 2⁄5 for the 1 1⁄4 miles, tying the track record.
For the first time, Tinners Way had caught the nation’s attention. Following his impressive victory in the $1 million Pacific Classic, the colt concluded his 4-year-old campaign across country at Belmont Park in Woodward Stakes, where he finished 6th behind Horse of the Year Holy Bull.
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Tinners Way rested until June 11, 1995, when he made his 5-year-old debut finishing 3rd in the Californian Stakes behind the talented Concern, who had won the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Tinners Way followed up that defeat a month later with a victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup, beating Concern but finished 2nd to the legendary Cigar. Another month passed and Tinners Way returned to Del Mar for the Pacific Classic looking to make a repeat of his fantastic win the year before…which he did! Tinners Way went on to win even more effortlessly than the year before over Soul of the Matter in a time of 1:59.63, making history by becoming the first horse to win the Pacific Classic twice.
By now, Tinners Way was a fan-favorite to many, and he made his highly anticipated next start in the Arlington Million. Returning to the turf for the first time in over a year, he would finish 5th behind Awad, beaten by a narrow 4 1⁄4 lengths. Returning to California for the Goodwood Handicap, he finished second to Soul of the Matter. He then shipped again to Belmont Park for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. After a slow break and wide trip, Tinners Way would finish a dismal 7th seventh behind an unstoppable Cigar.
Tinners Way again took a long break before the racing season and made his 6-year-old debut on June 2, 1996 in the Californian Stakes. He won by 1⁄2 length in 1:46 3⁄5 for the 1 1⁄8 miles, equaling the track record. Hopes were high for another strong season for the California-based son of Secretariat, but he ran a disappointing 6th in his next start in the Hollywood Gold Cup. He returned to Del Mar to attempt to win a third running of the Pacific Classic. Tragically, Tinners Way injured his left front ankle in the race and was vanned off never to race again.
Tinners Way retired after 27 starts, with seven wins and career earnings of $1,849,452. He initially stood at stud at Vinery in Kentucky. In 2000 he was sold to the Harris Farm operation in California where he stood for 3 years. He was then acquired by Phil Leckinger to stand at Key Ranch as the richest racehorse in Texas. Tinners Way remained in Texas until 2010 after the decision was made to pension the stallion. He retired from stud with 93 winners from 14 crops.
He was then donated to Old Friends at Dream Chase Farm in Georgetown, KY by owners Phil Leckinger and Jerry Hardin in 2010.
Tinners Way would go on to be visited by thousands of people for 7 years, being fed carrots and photographed almost as much as his sire was before him. He overcame his nervous disposition and would happily stroll to the fence with a welcoming nicker in anticipation for the carrots he knew he would receive. He was adored by many and carried on his father’s legacy in his own special way. He was a priceless gem of Old Friends Farm, and even at the ripe old age of 27, it came as a hard blow to many when Michael Blowen, founder and President of Old Friends, made the announcement of his passing.
Old Friends resident veterinarian Dr. Bryan Waldridge attributed the cause of death to acute onset of severe neurologic disease. The outpour of love and sadness in the racing community was tremendous. It is fitting that the last son of the great “Big Red” would go on to be one of his best, and I imagine his sire would have been proud of the impact he made on the racing community young and old, on the track and in retirement at Old Friends.
I was one of those fans Tinners Way made an impact on. I don’t even know what captivated me about this horse, but he was special to me. On my 2016 visit to Old Friends, staff specifically arranged for me to visit him after my tour time was up. He was a kind old soul who truly was reminiscent of his sire before him.
Tinners Way may not have been a champion, but he is one who will not soon be forgotten.