Black Tie Affair, Breeders' Cup Champion and Horse of the Year, Euthanized

Thoroughbred racehorse Black Tie Affair, winner of the 1991 Breeders' Cup Classic and Horse of the Year that year, died July 1 at the age of 24.

Black Tie Affair | Photo by Rick Capone

July 2, 2010 — Racehorse Black Tie Affair, the 1991 Horse of the Year, was humanely euthanized July 1 at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, Ky.

The 24-year-old stallion was suffering from laminitis, and Old Friends founder and president Michael Blowen and veterinarian Dr. Douglas Byars made the decision early this morning.

“It was an honor to be associated with such an amazing athlete,” said Blowen. “The Old Friends team, headed by Dr. Byars, did everything we could to help this old warrior. In the end, he exhibited the same class as he did when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was the best in every way.”

Black Tie Affair has been pensioned at Old Friends since July 2009.

In 1991, the steel-gray son of Miswaki was victorious in six consecutive graded stakes for owner Jeff Sullivan and trainer Ernie T. Poulos, including the Stephen Foster (GR III), the Washington Park Handicap (GRII) and Philip H. Iselin Handicap (GRI).

Black Tie Affair capped off his banner year with a gate-to-wire upset win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, conquering a field that included Twilight Agenda, Strike the Gold and Unbridled. For his efforts he was voted champion older male and Horse of the Year.

The Irish-bred Black Tie Affair, who was produced from the Al Hattab mare Hat Tab Girl, retired with 18 wins from 45 starts and earnings of $3,370,694.

He entered stud in 1992 at Ben Walden Jr.’s Vinery near Midway, Ky., and later stood for several years in Japan. He has sired 35 stakes winners, including Multiple G1 winner Formal Gold and 2001 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Evening Attire.

After returning to the U.S. in 2004, the stallion stood at Randy Funkhouser’s O’Sullivan Farms near Charles Town, W.V., for a partnership managed by Donna Hayes.

“He was just life-changing for us,” said Dee Poulos, wife of late trainer Ernie Poulos. “It was such a wonderful experience with him. He was, and will still be, an inspiration for me. When things got tough, I would think about Black Tie. He was my motivator.”

In June, Mrs. Poulos made a trip from her home in Chicago to see her champion at Old Friends. “I felt I just had to see him, and I told my sister that we just had to go,” said Poulos, “and I’m so glad we did. I spent a lot of time with him that day. We brought him out and he was just grazing, and I was playing with his ears–I always loved the feel of his ears–and he suddenly looked up at me and I thought, ‘Oh, Black Tie just said goodbye.’ I didn’t want to think that way, but it was a terrible feeling I had.”

Poulos, who took over as trainer of her husband’s stable after his death in 1997, noted that everyone at the farm was saddened by the news of Black Tie’s passing.

“It was just wonderful that he ended up at Old Friends,” Poulos said. “The horse was one of a kind.”

A special memorial service will be held later this month at Old Friends.

For more information about Old Friends, visit

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