Even though the 2020 Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September, May remains the month when Derby history most comes to mind.

People old enough to remember Jack Benny’s television series, which ran from October 1950 to September 1964, or his radio program before that, will recall the character Rochester, played by Edmund Lincoln Anderson (1905-1977).  Mr. Anderson is historically significant in American horse racing as the first African American to own a Kentucky Derby starter. The year was 1943, four years before Jackie Robinson became a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers and integrated Major League Baseball.

Following is an excerpt from the Notable Kentucky African American Database at the University of Kentucky, which describes what transpired when Mr. Anderson’s horse, named Burnt Cork, took on the eventual Triple Crown winner Count Fleet (the term “burnt cork” refers to makeup used by white blackface performers in old-time minstrel shows):

“Several newspapers around the country accused Anderson of entering Burnt Cork in the 1943 Kentucky Derby as a publicity stunt, and prior to the race, Anderson was advised not to enter his horse; its odds were 25-1.  Anderson would not be swayed, however; he attempted to hire jockey Carroll Bierman, who had won the 1940 Kentucky Derby with longshot Gallahadion. 

Anderson, his wife, and his valet stayed at the home of Kentucky House Member Mae Street Kidd in Louisville; the hotels in Louisville were segregated.  Mae Street Kidd did not care much for Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, but got along well with his wife.  Kidd was invited to join the Andersons in their box during the derby.  Burnt Cork came in last place. He had come out of the gate fast, but quickly ran out of steam and came in 10th, 38 lengths behind the winner, Count Fleet, owned by Mrs. John D. Hertz.

Burnt Cork was ridden by jockey Manual Gonzalez and was trained by A. E. Silver.  Edmund Anderson was disappointed in his horse’s performance, but the loss became part of the comedy routine with Jack Benny ribbing ‘Rochester’ on air during The Jack Benny Program.  The newspapers and other comedians also poked fun at Anderson.  During 1943, there were more than 200 newspaper stories in the United States and Canada about Burnt Cork’s loss in the Kentucky Derby. Anderson continued to race Burnt Cork until the horse died in July of 1944 [of a natural cause].”

Some of the criticism, perhaps most, that Mr. Anderson received for running Burnt Cork in the Kentucky Derby was almost certainly racially motivated in that other owners had previously entered manifestly unqualified horses without such media carping.  In fact, the practice of owners running hopeless longshots in the Derby continued to be commonplace until 2012, when Churchill Downs instituted a qualifying point system for the 20-horse field.

Two other African Americans of show business fame would someday own horses in the Kentucky Derby.  In 1992, rapper M. C. Hammer’s Dance Floor finished third and in 1994 Motown founder Berry Gordy’s Powis Castle came in eighth.  But the pioneer in breaking the color barrier was Eddie “Rochester” Anderson…and pioneers usually get arrows shot their way.

The inscription on the Anderson monument in Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles says simply “Loving Husband and Father Eddie (Rochester).” A very humble epitaph for a resolute man who did so much to pave the way for African Americans in both network radio/TV and sports.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business


In an effort to ensure diversity in the Thoroughbred horse gene pool, the U. S. Jockey Club recently instituted a limit on the number of mares that a stallion can breed in any calendar year.  Following is an excerpt from the media release from the Jockey Club pertaining to the rule:

“Effective today, The Jockey Club’s Principal Rules and Requirements of the American Studbook are amended by adding the following italicized language to the text of Rule 14C:

C. Based on the information on a completed Report of Mares Bred form, The Jockey Club will forward to the stallion owner, lessee or authorized agent a preprinted Service Certificate for each broodmare bred, including the name of the stallion, the name of the broodmare, the name of the dam of the broodmare, and the date of the last cover.

The total number of broodmares bred per individual stallion whose year of birth is 2020 or thereafter shall not exceed 140 per calendar year in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The Jockey Club shall limit the number of Stallion Service Certificates for such stallions to a maximum of 140 per calendar year.

In an effort to illustrate the operation of the new rule, The Jockey Club offers the following examples of how it will be applied:

(1)  For stallions born in 2019 and earlier, there will be no limit to the number of mares reported bred in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The Jockey Club will issue stallion certificates for all mares bred by such stallions within the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico during a calendar year.

(2)  For stallions born in 2020 and later, the maximum number of mares covered within the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico in a calendar year will be 140. It would be a violation of Rule 14C for such a stallion to cover more than 140 mares within the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico during a calendar year. The aforementioned limit will apply to all mares bred during a calendar year regardless of when The Jockey Club receives a Report of Mares bred (or any amendments or supplements thereto).”

This rule raises at least three questions and issues.

First, to what extent can the letter and intent of the rule be avoided by shuttling popular stallions to countries that register foals through their own registries?  A North American stallion shuttled to a Southern Hemisphere nation could service far more than 140 mares in a calendar year, thereby exacerbating the problem of a concentrated gene pool.  Southern-Hemisphere-registered foals can race in North America and stand at stud in Canada, Puerto Rico, or the United States.

Second, suppose a stallion typically gets 80% of the mares he services in foal.  That would mean that under the new limit of 140 mares, he would usually sire about 112 foals per year.  This would create the temptation for a stallion owner to breed, say, 165 mares and count on, say, 132 foals.  This roundabout gamble is apparently prohibited under the new Jockey Club rule and would be very risky if a stallion with an average 80% conception rate happened to get, say, 90% of his mares in foal.  It is similar to the way airlines and hotels overbook knowing that there will be cancellations.  Sometimes, however, the overbooking comes back to bite them when more people than planned show up.

Third, assume that a stallion has bred 140 mares in a calendar year and two of the mares die or abort during the breeding season.  Would the stallion owner then be able to breed mares 141 and 142 as replacements?

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business


A normal 2020 Saratoga racing season is already upended. Fasig-Tipton has cancelled its select sale of yearlings, moving it to Lexington, Kentucky, and it is improbable that the Travers will be run one week before the rescheduled Kentucky Derby.

NYRA is reportedly considering a contingency plan to conduct the 2020 Saratoga meet without fans permitted in to watch and bet.  Another contingency apparently under review is to move this summer’s Saratoga races to Aqueduct or Belmont. 

Either way, the Saratoga region would experience a huge loss of income.  Restaurants, hotels/motels, private homes who rent to tourists, retailers, and others who cater to racing fans would be deprived of their main earning months of the year.

If NYRA decides to run races absent fans, the question is whether to hold the meet in Saratoga or at Aqueduct or Belmont?  Since Saratoga is a favorite with bettors, how much would it matter to them if the meet was held, for instance, at Belmont?  Also, how much of the usual on-track handle would transport to advanced deposit wagering?  As for the latter issue, there would likely be a significant loss of revenue in that Saratoga attracts lots of tourists who bet at the racetrack but do not bet online or via phone.

The best outcome, of course, is a regular Saratoga meet with fans in attendance.  However, if fans are barred, it makes a lot of sense from health and financial standpoints to hold the meet at Belmont.  That way, the moving of horses, trainers, grooms, hot walkers, exercise riders, veterinarians, and others from New York City to upstate New York would be avoided, as well as expenses. Out-of-state contingents would still have to travel to New York City, but the New York City-stabled horses and attendants would be able to remain in place.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business