Phantom on Tour lived a charmed life that saw him take residence at numerous homes along the way. The 1996 Ohio Two-Year-Old Champion colt was euthanized Jan. 29 at the age of 24. He suffered from complications caused by equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), a neurological disease he was first diagnosed with in 2006.
His first home was that of Luann and Ray Baker in the Buckeye State. The flashy chestnut colt was sired by Tour d’Or out of their stakes-winning mare White Wool Socks. He then took up residence at Philadelphia Park where he easily broke his maiden in a 11-horse field. Trainer Ray Baker wanted to bring him back to Ohio after that to compete in Ohio stakes, but an imposed quarantine kept him in Philadelphia so he entered him in a allowance race where he just got caught at the wire. They were able to get to Ohio and 13 days later captured the Best of Ohio Juvenile at Beulah Park.
With a hot horse, Baker shipped him to Calder for the Foolish Pleasure Stakes where he went to the front and stayed there. Owner Cal Partee sent trainer Lynn Whiting shopping for a Derby horse (the last they bought privately at Calder was Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee) and he offered the Bakers $375,000 for the blazed-faced Ohio-bred after the race. “Four days later I sold him,” said Baker. “It’s not hard to let a good one go when you get the kind of money we got. I’ve been broke too long to turn down that kind of money.” And so Phantom on Tour took up new residency in the barn of Lynn Whiting.
Phantom on Tour finished sixth to Silver Charm in the 1997 Kentucky Derby (G1). Partee’s runner may not have worn the roses at the Derby. But the investment paid off as he earned $717,415 for the team in a career that included victories in the Rebel Stakes (G3) and the New Orleans Handicap (G3). His victory in the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap was not only a new track record, but vaulted him past Kingpost as the all-time Ohio-bred money winner. While Phantom On Tour never raced in Ohio after his juvenile season, he was voted Ohio’s Special Recognition Award in 1997-98.
In January of 1998, Phantom On Tour injured his left front leg in a workout. Time to find a new home – and it turned out to be Noel Hickey’s Irish Acres Farm in Ocala, Florida. Sent to stud in 1998, the son of Tour d’Or proved to be infertile, he was then gelded and returned to racing. After three starts, a group of fans purchased him in 2001, and he was retired to yet another home – Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances farm at Blackburn Correctional Facility near Lexington.
Shortly after, Phantom On Tour began his third career, as the “House Horse” under the Twin Spires. “Phantom was super personable and super cool,” quoted Alison Knight, equine manager at the Kentucky Derby Museum. “I used to walk him down the sidewalk and right up to the Kentucky Derby Museum’s front doors. He was a great ambassador for retired Thoroughbreds. Our guests loved getting to see him up close and to interact with such a great horse. He was one of my favorite resident Thoroughbreds here at the Museum.”
After eight-years at Churchill Downs, Phantom on Tour retired from the Derby Museum in October 2010 and returned to TRF’s Blackburn farm, where he helped teach inmates equine care as part of TRF’s Second Chances vocational program.
“Phantom was always liked by every inmate that came into the Second Chances program; everyone always wanted to see the horse that had run in the Kentucky Derby,” said Linda Dyer, farm manager at TRF’s facility at Blackburn Correctional Complex. “I would show them his race with everybody commenting on what a good racehorse he was. It helped show them what these retired racehorses are capable of as athletes. We kept him down at the barn in his own paddock and stall, so he led a very spoiled life. He loved to be groomed every day. His favorite thing to do was to rub his head on you. The inmates would sneak him so many mints I had to warn them about giving him too many,” she said.
Phantom On Tour led a sweet life through 24 years that took him from an Ohio pasture to the world’s greatest race. He brought profit for his connections and benefited the entire racing industry with his calm personality and ability to welcome the human connection.