DEL MAR — Charlene Whittingham Von Bleucher had just returned from gussying up her father's pictorial display at Del Mar on Tuesday when someone called to tell her about Ferdinand. Trainer Charlie Whittingham's exceptional colt, the Kentucky Derby winner of 1986 and horse of the year in 1987, is reported to have died in a Japanese slaughterhouse last year.
"This is another tough one," said Von Bleucher, who is the unofficial curator for the walls of photos in the Charlie Whittingham Sports Pub here. "My father's been gone for four years, and people say we have to get over it, but we keep getting these ugly reminders."
An unsuccessful stallion in both the U.S. and Japan, Ferdinand reportedly was sent to a slaughterhouse sometime last year, but his death wasn't confirmed in the U.S. until this week. Six years ago, Exceller, another of Whittingham's best horses, wound up in a slaughterhouse in Sweden.
Sunday Silence, who won the Kentucky Derby for Whittingham in 1989, died last year in Japan of an illness.
There are numerous photos of Ferdinand in the Del Mar bar named after the Hall of Fame trainer.
A Japanese horse dealer was quoted as saying that Ferdinand was in ill health, but there was no indication his condition was life-threatening.
"If he was in bad shape," Von Bleucher said, "couldn't they have just put him to sleep and buried him?"
-- Bill Christine