Menifee has died. The runner-up in the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, who went on to become a sensation at Stud in Korea, suffered a heart attack at the KRA Jeju Stud Farm on the morning of June 13th. He was 23.
Menifee [Harlan-Anne Campbell (Never Bend)] was a very good racehorse. He won both his starts as a juvenile at Monmouth and Saratoga and kept his winning streak intact on his three-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park in February of 1999. He suffered his first defeat when 2nd in the Tampa Bay Derby, but quickly returned to winning ways in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
Menifee next went to the Kentucky Derby, running 2nd under Pat Day to long-shot Charismatic. A certain Ecton Park was back down the track that day – those two had not seen the last of one another. Menifee then tackled The Preakness and while sent off as favourite, once more succumbed to Charismatic.
Menifee would finish 8th in the Belmont Stakes but would prove his class when winning the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in August. He concluded his racing career running 3rd in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga and then 2nd – to Ecton Park – in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs that October.
Mary Lukas, who worked for Menifee’s trainer Elliott Walden at the time, remembered Menifee the racehorse as “One of the smartest horses I was ever around. Even as a two-year-old, he had a presence around him; everyone in the barn knew he was going to be something special. He used to pull his hot-walker around the barn to catch up with the horses in front of him.”
While a four-year-old campaign was planned, injuries meant Menifee was retired to Stud, standing at Stone Farm in Kentucky. He had middling results and in November 2006, arrived in Korea as the latest addition to the Korea Racing Authority’s then growing Stallion program on Jeju Island.
Menifee’s Korean progeny began racing in 2010 and met instant success and Menifee would become Leading Sire in Korea in six consecutive years from 2012 to 2017. During that time, he produced five consecutive Korean Derby winners, including his best, Power Blade, winner of the Triple Crown in 2016.
Menifee’s time on Jeju was not without drama – he overcame a life-threatening illness in 2011 – but pushed along by his racing rival Ecton Park, also imported to Korea and standing privately at Isidore Farm approximately ten miles away, Menifee became the most successful sire in Korean racing history. Just as he finally bested him at the end of his racing career, Ecton Park relieved Menifee of his Leading Sire crown in 2018, but Menifee leads the 2019 race and with several more crops to come, is set to be around for some time yet.
Menifee adapted to life in Korea well. Always intelligent, the saying “Menifee speaks Korean” became something of a cliche at the Jeju Stud Farm, as he quickly learned to respond to Korean words and phrases. Like any stallion, caution was warranted when in his presence, but he could be amenable too and he was extremely popular among both the staff who worked with him everyday and with visitors, of whom there were many.
His fame here can’t really be overstated. One example is from when Menifee was brought up for an outing to Seoul Racecourse a couple of years ago. When it was announced over the PA system that he was present and about to be walking (or strutting, as it transpired) in the parade ring, there was quite the stampede of punters, all eager to see just exactly who that horse was whose name they had seen in brackets next to winners in the race card so often. That isn’t normal in Korea.
Nothing Menifee did in Korea was normal. He has been called “Korea’s Sunday Silence” and maybe time will prove that true. For now we remember a wonderful racehorse and a unique and irreplaceable stallion. Korea’s Menifee leaves a precious legacy.