Buck’s Boy, the pride of Illinois racing, died at George Bunn’s Quarter B farm near Pleasant Plains, Ill., where he retired for more than two decades. The 1998 United States champion grass horse was 29 years old. His death was reported on January 27 on Facebook by photographer Tom Ferry.
“Quarter B was his home for 22 years, and he was so loved by the team there and the fans across the Midwest,” Ferry wrote.
Owner/breeder/trainer Noel Hickey raised Buck’s Boy on his Irish Acres farm in Illinois. The horse was a true homebred, by Bucksplasher, Hickey’s stallion, and by his winner, Molly’s Colleen.
Racing initially for Hickey, Buck’s Boy emerged victorious on his second start at Arlington Park in July of his 3-year-old year when he won by 13 lengths. After a second victory two weeks later, Bunn purchased Buck’s Boy. The gelding would win his first appearances as a 4-year-old in the WH Bishop Handicap at Arlington and take his first graded win on his next start, the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (G3) which he won gate-to-wire by 1 1/ 4 lengths.
Buck’s Boy signaled early on that 1998 would be a banner year. After a close runner-up to Grade 1 and Grade 2 winner Flag Down in the Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G2T), Buck’s Boy won the 12-furlong Pan American Handicap (G2T) at Gulfstream Park in a track record 2:23.43. He would only finish the table once in 1998 and would add wins in the Riggs Handicap and Fort McHenry Handicap to his resume en route to his first Grade 1 victory in the Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (G1T) at Belmont Park.
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He was the second choice in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T), run at Churchill Falls in 1998, and with his consistent form in mind, he became the first breeder from Illinois to win a race at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. His win also handed the first Breeders’ Cup win to Hickey, who coached him for 20 of his 30 lifetime starts.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf awarded him Eclipse Champion honors. He would also be named Illinois Horse of the Year and Older Horse State Champion in 1998. The gelding had previously won Illinois Horse of the Year and Older Horse Champion the previous year and would win them again in 1999.
Buck’s Boy continued racing until he was 7 years old, compiling a 16-5-2 record and earning $2,750,148. He was the first bred in Illinois to win over $2 million and was the first to win a race with a purse of $1 million or more when he won the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf of dollars.