Archives for April 2014


The first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in River City, Kentucky, always offers a fleeting shelter from the barrage of distressing news that assaults our senses.  As the week progresses toward the 2014 “Run for the Roses,” the news purveyors tell us repeatedly of a litany of bad developments.

There is warranted outrage over racial slurs by a National Basketball League owner and a controversial remark about Israel by the U. S. Secretary of State.  While these foot-in-the-mouth incidents were boiling over, tornadoes killed at least 26 people in several Southern states, a madman shot six others and then killed himself at a FedEx facility near Atlanta, and Russia continued to menace the Ukraine.

We learn that the U. S. economy grew by a paltry one-tenth of one percent in the first quarter and pundits on CNBC and elsewhere persistently warn us that the stock market may be in a bubble.

Meanwhile, a bubble of another kind, a marvelous illusion, is forming in Kentucky, as it has since 1875, presenting the opportunity to time travel to the simpler “good old times” that really never were simple.

The make-believe ambiance for the Kentucky Derby is an anachronism, a Twilight Zone escape hatch for people seeking relief from the vagaries of the larger world.  Folks are able to strut in the latest spring styles, sip watered-down and overpriced mint iuleps, sing a sanitized version of a song crafted by a gifted but troubled Yankee, and debate the pros and cons of barely 3-year-old racehorses, just as previous generations did.  “Can he get the mile and a quarter?” or “What is a furlong?” are about as deep as the banter gets.

The Kentucky Derby is certainly not immune to controversy.  In 1968, the winning horse was later disqualified for testing positive for a mild pain killer that was banned in Kentucky at the time.  In 2008, the Eight Belles breakdown cast a pall over the race.  This year, the prospect of a trainer winning the Derby who was recently the subject of an undercover PETA operation is not a pretty outcome.

However, if things go as hoped for, Kentucky Derby festivities and the race will proceed smoothly and spectators at Churchill Downs and on television will be able to recharge their inner beings in preparation for Monday morning, when their world gets back to 21st century reality and all its intrigue and travail.

Cashing a nice ticket would top off a marvelous Derby day, but if you don’t, that’s not even a blip in the scheme of things.  Besides, you have experienced the best day in all of sports.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business


The 1973 Kentucky Derby is forever associated with the famous Secretariat and the beginning of his successful quest for the Triple Crown.  Sham, the second-place finisher, is also well-known as the colt that recorded the second fastest time in Derby history, a record that is not included in the official times because he did not win.  But the fourth-placed gelding in Secretariat’s Derby is sometimes glossed over or forgotten.

Forego finished 11 lengths behind Secretariat but eventually joined him in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.  The 1973 Kentucky Derby was the only time that the two horses raced against one another.

Forego had 57 career starts with 34 wins, 9 places, and 7 shows.  He retired in 1978 with earnings of $1,938,957 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979.

An excerpt in the Hall of Fame about Forego’s accomplishments reads:

“Horse of the Year for three consecutive years and Champion Handicapper for four, Forego clearly was one of the best runners of this century.  He was assigned 130 pounds or more in 24 races and won 13 of them.  During his career he ‘owned’ the Woodward, winning this race four times (1974-1977).   He also won the Brooklyn Handicap three consecutive years.

Forego placed in all but one start at five.  He won the Seminole and Widener Handicaps in Florida, took the Carter under 134 pounds, set a track record under 132 pounds in the Brooklyn, and won the 1 1/2 mile Suburban under 134 pounds.  At 6 Forego was the leader in stakes earnings for a second time; he also won the Brooklyn, Metropolitan Handicap, Marlboro Cup and the Woodward.  In the Marlboro he carrried 137 pounds over a sloppy track to beat Honest Pleasure in a thrilling stretch run.

At 7 Forego repeated his victory in the Metropolitan Handicap and won his fourth consecutive Woodward.  He also was named Champion Handicapper for the fourth time.

Forego ran two more times at 8 before chronic ankle problems brought an end to his career.  He retired to a farm near Keeneland before moving to the Kentucky Horse Park in 1981.”

While Forego will never have the fame of Secretariat, he assuredly is one of the best American racehorses of the 20th century.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business


Following are three miscellaneous items that are Kentucky-Derby related or Churchill-Downs related.

A company called Derby Supply Chain Solutions has developed what it calls an infographic that showcases the history and tradition of the Kentucky Derby.  It includes all kinds of information on the Kentucky Derby and its participants and takes about two minutes to go through.  The infographic is clever and very well done.  Click here to see it.


Lenny Shulman is the features editor for the Blood-Horse and an Emmy Award-winning writer, who spent two decades working in television and film in Hollywood.  Horse-racing fans should appreciate his new novel “Long Way From Home,” which fittingly involves a Kentucky Derby colt.

The paperback’s back cover summarizes the plot “Dan Henry is the worst kind of lost soul—one with great potential unrealized.  But New York City doesn’t give style points for could have been, and Dan’s desperation brings a thundercloud of indifference from millions and a hail of wisecracks from his friends.  Then opportunity knocks.  Rising from under-employed writer to star of a sports talk show, flush with money and a beautiful girlfriend, Dan’s sharp wit and murky sources bring him the good life.  But things are always brightest before the dusk.  Cast off by the job and the girl, he rebuilds his life 1,000 miles away among the horse farms of Central Kentucky.  There, Dan seizes the moment, exposing a plot that threatens the life of a Kentucky Derby runner.”

Horse Racing Business plans to review this book in more detail in the near future.  Click here to see the page for “Long Way From Home” and the reader reviews.


No jockey in modern history has been identified with Churchill Downs like Pat Day, so much so that the racetrack erected a statue in his honor.  Tom LaMarra, online content editor of the Blood-Horse, has done a very insightful article on Day’s motivational life story of redemption.  This article deserves an Eclipse Award for 2014.  Click here to read it.

Copyright © 2014 Horse Racing Business