Sonny Hine Passes AwayDateline: 3/17/00
Hubert "Sonny" Hine, best known as the trainer of 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away, died today at age 69 after battling cancer for 3 years. He is survived by his wife of 37 years Caroline. The funeral is scheduled for Sunday in Miami.
Originally, Mr. Hine had gone to the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's two-year-olds in training sale at Calder Race Course in 1995 to buy a horse to give to his wife as a birthday present. He bought a son of Skip Trial, a horse who had won the 1986 Haskell Invitational for Mr. Hine, for $30,000 but it turned out he had previously undetected bone chips so he could have turn the colt back.
"We actually had left and were heading home," Mr. Hine said in an interview. "But we talked about it, and because it was a son of Skip Trial, we did a U-turn on Hallandale Beach Blvd. and went right back and bought him."
Mr. Hine negotiated the price down to $22,500 for Skip Away. A handsome gray horse with a willful personality only his owner could control, Skip Away would go on to become the three-year-old champion of 1996, missing Horse of the Year to Cigar. He also lost Horse of the Year in 1997 to the undefeated two-year-old Favorite Trick. Skip Away finally won the Horse of the Year title in 1998. When he retired at the end of 1998, "Skippy" had a record of 38 starts with 18 wins 10 seconds and 6 thirds and earnings of $9,616,360. He is second on the all time money earners list behind Cigar.
Born in the Bronx on January 9, 1931, Mr. Hine was the son of Arthur Hine, a clothing merchant and trainer on the Maryland/West Virginia circuit. He often rode match races with his brother Marvin and after graduating high school, hitchhiked to Charles Town and began his life long involvement in horse racing. He trained his first winner that year: Miss Economy at Marlboro Race Course.
Before becoming a full-time trainer he he joined the Air Force. He also attended Yale University for a year and was enrolled in the pre-veterinary program at Penn State when he was contacted by the State Department to become a special investigator in Hong Kong. He worked with the FBI from 1948-50 and was fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
Mr. Hine became a full-time trainer in 1957. While his early years were a struggle, Mr. Hine quickly established himself and became a fixture at Monmouth Park, the Meadowlands and Gulfstream Park, training such crack horses as Amber Pass, Bet Big, Cojak, Guilty Conscience, Norquestor, Royal Hierachy, Skip Trial and Technology.
When he came to New York with Skip Away, Mr. Hine became a national celebrity. He supplemented Skip Away to the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic in 1997 for $400,000 and came away with a six-length victory at Hollywood Park. In 1998, he won in succession the Donn Handicap, the Gulfstream Park Handicap, the Pimlico Special, the Mass 'Cap (carrying 130 pounds), the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Iselin (carrying 131 pounds) and the Woodward. He finished out the year by taking Horse of the Year honors.
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Photo by the author.