Bernardini, the 2006 Preakness Stakes winner and one of the most decorated international sires of this century, was euthanized on Friday after complications from laminitis. He was 18.

Bernardini 2003-2021
Bernardini’s 6 3/4-length victory here in the 2006 Jockey Club Gold Cup was his sixth and final victory. The 2006 Preakness winner won six of eight races and became a prolific stallion and broodmare sire. (Image: Darley Farm)

The stallion was euthanized at Jonabell Farm in Kentucky, where he lived since beginning his stallion career in 2007. Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Farm owns Jonabell, and Bernardini gave Sheikh Mohammed his first American Triple Crown race victory.

That came in 2006, during Bernardini’s spectacular sophomore season. The son of AP Indy won six of eight races, losing only his maiden special weight debut at Gulfstream Park and his last race. That was the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he finished second to Invasor as the even-money favorite.

In between, Bernardini was untouchable. He broke his maiden in his second try two months later – boosting his Equibase Speed Figure 21 points in the process. From there, Bernardini captured the Grade 3 Withers and the 2006 Preakness by 5 ¼ lengths at 12/1.

Three wins by nearly 22 lengths

From there, he was off. Bernardini won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy by nine lengths and the Grade 1 Travers by seven. He capped the win streak with a 6 ¾-length score in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. That came with a career-high 117 Beyer Speed Figure and 129 Equibase. Bernardini’s average Equibase Speed Figure in his final seven races was 120.1.

“Bernardini was one of a kind,” said Michael Banahan, director of farm operations for Godolphin USA in a statement. “From the day he was born, he exuded class. He was that crop’s best foal, best yearling, and best racehorse. His brilliance was only surpassed by his wonderful character.”

Bernardini headed into his stallion career as the Champion 3-Year-Old carrying lofty expectations as a sire. He answered with a first crop that included four Grade 1 winners, including Stay Thirsty, To Honor and Serve, A Z Warrior, and Group 1 Italian winner Biondetti. Stay Thirsty won both the Travers and Cigar Mile. To Honor and Serve took the Woodward, and Cigar Mile and A Z Warrior won the Frizette.

Bernardini produced winners in two hemispheres

Bernardini went on to sire Bobby Flay’s Humana Distaff winner Dame Dorothy, Woodward and Travers winner Alpha, $3 million earner Imperative, and multiple-Grade 1 winner Cavorting. Recent progeny include Art Collector, Micheline, and Bourbonic.

This doesn’t include Bernardini’s Southern Hemisphere work. He went Down Under for the Australian breeding season for eight years, siring three Group 1 winners, including Boban, Ruud Awakening, and Go Indy Go.

Total it up and Bernardini sired 80 black-type winners, 48 graded stakes winners, and 15 Grade 1 winners worldwide.

As a grandsire, Bernardini stood out

None of this includes his increasingly prolific and noteworthy career as a broodmare sire. This May, he became the youngest stallion to reach 50 black-type winners as a broodmare sire. He produced 54 black-type winners, 32 graded stakes winners, and 11 Grade 1 winners as a maternal grandsire. That includes such notables as Maxfield, Serengeti Empress, Catholic Boy, Colonel Liam, Dunbar Road, and Paris Lights.

“Bernardini was such a majestic animal. He was very talented, one of the best horses I’ve ever been around,” said Tom Albertrani, his trainer. “I just feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to train him. He was a star.”