Put Another Candle on John’s Birthday Cake

Resident Kentucky Horse Park celebrity Jonh Henry celebrated his 32nd birthday in 2007

John Henry
Photo by Gayle Strickroot

How many people came to your last birthday party? About 100 horse lovers showed up at the party held at Kentucky Horse Park a few weeks ago for its most famous resident, John Henry. The wiry dark bay gelding celebrated birthday number 32, though he wasn’t exactly the life of the party. In his typical anti-social manner, he shunned reporters and well-wishers and chose instead to nibble on the grass in his pasture. A recipient of racing’s Horse of the Year honors in 1981 and 1984, John Henry currently looks more like a scruffy pony than the cantankerous, hard-headed horse that won nearly $7 million during his racing career. But who can blame him? Theoretically, in “horse years” he’s about 90 years old.

Eventually, Kentucky Horse Park will also be home to a cache of John Henry mementoes courtesy of the estate of Sam and Dorothy Rubin, who owned the gelding during most of his racing heyday. The win photos, trophies and racing silks—among other items—will be housed in the park’s Museum of the Horse.


  1. I’m glad to hear this remarkable horse is doing well! Only wish your article had featured a current picture of the birthday boy.

  2. You gotta love John. I have the “dubious” honor of getting bitten by him while visiting KHP in 1985. Being a horseperson – without even thinking about “Who” he was – I smacked him in the side of the head! His groom thought that was hilarious! He was a naughty boy! He let me think he was enjoying the attention and wow – he was as fast with his teeth as he was with his feet!! Many more, you grouchy ol’ guy!

  3. Thank you so much for this information! I have loved John Henry ever since I read him on a book when I was kid. John Henry is very funny and cute old man. I saw him at the Kentucky Horse Park and you now what? He kissed me on the cheek!! I love him. FOR EVER JOHN HENRY RULES THE RACE TRACK WIT ALL OTHER HORSES!!

  4. I watched him race when I was a kid. He caught my attention because my favorite teacher had the same name. I thought anybody who is named after such a great horse had to be cool. I wish him many more birthdays to come.


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