LEXINGTON, KY (March 11, 2005) Yesterday, thousands of people around the world took note and celebrated the 30th birthday of one of the greatest Thoroughbred racehorses of the past century. The Kentucky Horse Park hosted a birthday party for John Henry who, at one time, was the world’s leading money-earner. But the people who rearranged their lives and traveled cross- country to see him yesterday were not here entirely because John Henry was a great racehorse. They love and respect him because he set such a fine example of beating the odds to become someone of substance.
Birthday cards, letters, flowers, email and phone calls poured in to the park for John Henry this week, but the collective sentiment was not so much about his glory days on the track, but about his determination to overcome a deck stacked against him from birth.
Television and newspaper reporters also thronged to the park during the last couple of days to let their viewers and readers around the country have one more look at a living legend. Many of the people at John Henry’s party weren’t even old enough to have seen him run, and yet they came to pay their respects to someone whose courage they admire -- showing once again that it’s not always about what you do in life, but how you live your life that leaves a real legacy.
Much has already been written about the fact that he was physically challenged, pedigree challenged and aesthetically challenged. In an age where any excuse is a good excuse not to succeed in life, John Henry – a plain, brown horse -- proved to the country that there are no good excuses to wallow in self-pity. Consequently, one glance at the faces on the crowd of well-wishers at his party yesterday told it all. The smiling people who braved a mid-week, mid-afternoon, winter day to catch a glimpse of their hero craned their necks, stood on tip-toe and climbed fences to take a peek and a picture of John Henry as he stood before his adoring fans, two decades after leaving the racetrack.
John Nicholson, Executive Director of the Kentucky Horse Park observed, “This horse has set the bar for a lot of people as well as horses. He ran well and he is finishing beautifully.”
Editor’s note: A digital photo of John Henry’s birthday party is available for your publication by emailing your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From March 15-October 31, the Kentucky Horse Park is open seven days a week from 9 to 5 pm. Admission is $14 for adults and $7 for children ages 7-12. Children six and under are always admitted free of charge. Admission includes the American Saddlebred Museum.
The Kentucky Horse Park is a working horse farm/theme park and equine competition facility dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse. The park is an agency of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet that hosted 913,000 visitors and 80 special events and horse shows in 2003. The park is located at Exit 120, Interstate 75, just north of Lexington. The place to get close to horses, the park is open daily March 15 to October 31, and Wednesday through Sunday, November 1 to March 14.