KENTUCKY DERBY HISTORY: THE “FIGHTING FINISH”

The 1933 Kentucky Derby stands as the most contentious in the history of the race.  It has this distinction because the winning and second-placed jockeys physically attacked one another during and after the running.

Colonel E. R. Bradley owned the declared winner Brokers Tip, a maiden coming in to the Kentucky Derby, who had been born with a deformed foot and could not stand on his own as a weanling.  He eventually overcame this infirmity and ran with the aid of special shoeing.  Brokers Tip was sired by Black Toney, also the sire of the 1924 Kentucky Derby winner Black Gold.

The favorite in the 59th Kentucky Derby 13-horse field was the entry of Ladysman, the champion 2-year-old of 1932, and Pomponious.  However, the race turned out to be a two-horse duel between Brokers Tip, ridden by Don Meade, and Head Play, with Herb Fisher aboard.

The book Portraits of Kentucky Derby Winners, by Beverly Bryant, described how the race played out:

“At the top of the stretch jockey Herb Fisher, unware that Brokers Tip was coming up behind him, took Head Play wide to ride out Charley O, a fatal mistake as Don Meade then pushed Brokers Tip through the hole left by Head Play.  Fisher, thinking he had the race won, came back to do battle neck and neck with Brokers Tip, but Head Play was ‘out of gas’ from running wide, and Fisher made his desperate (physical) lunge to stop Meade.  Past the wire, Fisher stood in his stirrups and slashed at Meade with his whip…Back in the jockey’s room, [Fisher] attacked Meade and they fought viciously until reporters and valets broke them up.”

To be more specific, as the horses approached the finish line, Fisher grabbed Meade’s saddle and Meade retaliated by grabbing Fisher’s shoulder.

In a vast understatement, the official chart of the race said about the incident that Head Play “bumped the winner.”

The 1933 Kentucky Derby did not have the benefit of a precise finish-line photo, so four stewards awarded the race to Brokers Tip.  No one knows for sure who actually won.

Arguably, the most famous photo in the annals of American horse racing was taken by {Louisville) Courier-Journal photographer Wallace Lowry, who took a picture of the “Fighting Finish” from beneath the rail near the finish line.  Click here to see the photo and a narrative about the race.

With Charlie Kurtsinger in the saddle, Head Play won the Preakness and Brokers Tip broke down in the race.  Brokers Tip came back as a 6-year-old but was unplaced in five starts.  His lone career win was in the Kentucky Derby.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

The series on Kentucky Derby history began on February 20 and ends on May 1.

JUMP RACING AT ITS BEST: THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL

The Cheltenham Festival is a four-day steeplechase event held at the historic Cheltenham Racecourse in England with the scenic vista of the Cotswolds hills in the background (click here to see the panorama).  The Festival attracts some 260,000 people and the Racecourse draws 700,000 visitors annually.  The Festival dates for 2017 are March 14-17.

Cheltenham Racecourse, about 95 miles from London (toward Oxford), is one of 14 racetracks owned by the British Jockey Club and it dates to the early 19th century.  The Cheltenham Festival is a social and racing extravaganza that attracts such blue-ribbon sponsors as Bentley, Guinness, Ryanair, and Netjets.

Cheltenham describes itself as follows:

“The Festival epitomises and encompasses everything that is great about Jump racing, whilst delivering an unbelievable occasion as the finest horses, jockeys, owners, and trainers battle it out for the highest racing honours.”

The feature race of the entire Festival is the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase held on the final day, which has a card of seven races in all that can be wagered on at Cheltenham Free Bets offers.  It is contested at a distance of 3 miles, 2 furlongs, and 70 yards.  The race has a purse of £575,000 (about $704,000 U. S. dollars).

Post time for the Gold Cup is 10:30 AM in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States.  Currently, there are 29 horses entered and the favorites are Cue Card, Native River, and Djakadam.

If you have been to Saratoga Race Course, you are likely to have watched a jump race, which is normally scheduled as the first race on the day.  Imagine a full card of jump races each day for four days, that’s what it is like at the Cheltenham Festival.  In the United States there are a number of one-day steeplechase events but they don’t have the draw of the Cheltenham Festival, as jump racing is far more popular in Great Britain and Ireland.

Jump racing is a rural tradition and an ambiance that takes one back to a bygone era when the horse was central to people’s lives and there were few competing sports to watch.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

KENTUCKY DERBY HISTORY: GATEWAY TO THE TRIPLE CROWN

Since 1919, the recognized beginning of the American Triple Crown, there have been 98 Kentucky Derby winners with the opportunity to complete the sweep by winning the Preakness and the Belmont.  Not all the Kentucky Derby winners went on to contest the Triple Crown—Swaps and Spend A Buck, for example–but most did.  Of those, 12 came away victorious.

Two trainers—James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons and Ben A. Jones—account for a third of the Triple Crown champions, as each man trained two winners.

Fitzsimmons won the Triple Crown with Belair Stud’s (owned by William Woodward Sr.) Gallant Fox in 1930 and Gallant Fox’s son Omaha in 1935.  Fitzsimmons-trained colts won two-thirds of the Triple Crown races in 1939 (Johnstown, Derby/Belmont) and 1955 (Nashua, Preakness/Belmont).

Jones won his Triple Crowns with Calumet Farm (owned by Warren Wright) colts Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948, both ridden by Eddie Arcaro.

The current active trainer who has come closest to equaling Fitzsimmons and Jones as two-time Triple-Crown-winners is Bob Baffert, of American Pharoah fame in 2015.   He has sent three other colts to the Belmont with a chance to become Triple Crown champs—Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, and War Emblem in 2002.  In the Belmont, Silver Charm was second, beaten three-quarters of a length, and Real Quiet was nipped by a nose.  With Baffert still training top-level colts, he has a “puncher’s” chance to join the rare company of Fitzsimmons and Jones.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

The series on Kentucky Derby history began on February 20 and ends on May 1.