CALUMET FARM AND THE KENTUCKY DERBY

No racehorse enterprise has dominated the Kentucky Derby like Calumet Farm in its heyday. Its record of owning eight winners of the race and breeding a ninth is unlikely to ever be approached.  In the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, Calumet was the racing equivalent of the New York Yankees of that era.

William Monroe Wright, who made his fortune with Calumet Baking Powder, started Calumet Farm in 1924, breeding and racing Standardbreds.  When he died in 1932, his son Warren Wright Sr. inherited the farm and switched from Standardbreds to Thoroughbreds…and the devil’s red and blue silks that would become so famous appeared for the first time.

In 1939, Warren Wright fortuitously hired Ben A. Jones as his head trainer with Jimmy Jones assisting his father.

Following are the eight Kentucky Derby winners bred and owned by Calumet Farm

1941 Whirlaway
1944 Pensive
1948 Citation
1949 Ponder
1952 Hill Gail
1957 Iron Liege
1958 Tim Tam
1968 Forward Pass

In addition to these eight, Calumet bred 1991 Derby winner Strike the God.  1968 winner Forward Pass, the only colt of the eight not trained by Ben or Jimmy Jones, finished second in the Derby but was elevated to first place when Dancer’s Image was disqualified over a medication violation.  (Henry Forrest trained Forward Pass.)

Lucille Wright Markey owned Calumet Farm after Warren Wright Sr. passed away until her own death in 1982.  The closest Calumet came to winning another Kentucky Derby was with Alydar in 1978, who finished second in all three Triple Crown races to Affirmed.

After his racing career, Alydar went to stud at Calumet and died under suspicious circumstances in an alleged stall accident in late 1990.  This incident and the mismanagement, fraud, and subsequent downfall and sale of Calumet Farm became the subject of Ann Hagedorn Auerbach’s book Wild Ride.

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