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Remembering Johnny... our Special Song

Special Song (a/k/a Johnny Rocket) foaled in Florida on April 1, 2008 by Songandaprayer x Kickapoo Princess by Unreal Zeal (35 starts 6/8/5 – purse winnings $118,647)

We had to sadly say goodbye to Special Song a/k/a Johnny Rocket. His prior trainer had nicknamed him “Johnny Rocket” because he was unbelievably fast (Beyer 110!) and loved to run, as reflected by his racing career.

Johnny retired from racing and joined us at Step Ahead in 2014. He was a horse that seemed aware of his greatness and reveled in it. He was a powerhouse with a clowny side who loved to have his tongue pulled on and adored peppermints. However, he selected his friends very carefully. No one could ever accuse him of being overabundant in his affections. One such friend was our barn dog, Mickey. Mickey (who we think is a terrier mix), is a very small but clever dog. One sunny day he was out in Johnny’s pasture and a coyote came sneaking up on him. Upon seeing this, Johnny took off galloping across the pasture and chased the terrified coyote away. Johnny saved Mickey’s life that day.

Johnny will also be remembered for his breathy neigh which reminded us throughout the day that we needed to hurry up and bring him in or bring him some hay. Sometimes he would just neigh to say hello. We will miss that sound forever.


Pam Berry, founder of Step Ahead Thoroughbred Retirement, wrote this in remembrance of Johnny Rocket (Special Song)

It’s with tremendous sadness I write about Johnny. Certain horses make me shake and cry with tears of joy when they are coming home to retire. That was me on the day I was waiting for the Brookledge van to bring John home from Suffolk Downs.

He was graciously retired to me from his owner, Mr. Grossi. I first met John when he came to our farm to rehabilitate from a minor surgery and to prepare him for a return to the races. John didn’t think he wanted any part of our AquaTred (an underwater treadmill). After one solid hour and great patience and understanding from his trainer, William “Radio” Downing, John decided the pool was probably okay. Into the pool he went and continued his workout sessions for the next few months until it was time for me (with a heavy heart) to bring him back to the track to get ready for his next race campaign.

After his surgery and layoff time, I stood and shook as I watched his race on television. On his return, John finished a very game 2nd in a race that was run on a new track in record time. John’s nickname came from his owner, John Grossi, and his trainer, Radio Downing, for his fastness - - “Johnny Rocket.” John would take off in his pasture so fast it would scare you. He loved to follow people around and peep through the fence for treats. Any time, day or night, I never ended my day without giving John another treat; he simply wouldn’t allow that!

At this time I can’t end my day now and look at his paddock. I have yet to go into his stall. Some of these guys are just so special and leave such a great void when they move on. That was John. He was truly special.

Rest in Peace, Johnny Rocket ❤

“If you could only see me now you wouldn’t be so sad, just think of me in a magical place and the good times that we’ve had.

You would be so proud of me, I ran my final race, the finish line was in Heaven and I proudly took first place.

I know that sadness fills your heart because I had to go, just remember when you get to heaven an endless trail ride we’ll go!”

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