Archives for April 2015

HOW A SELFLESS ACT LED TO A KENTUCKY DERBY WINNER

The Kentucky Derby Museum Friday night presented the fifth annual program called “My Kentucky Derby.”  The entertaining 75-minute discussion between the moderator–Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas–and five retired Hall of Fame jockeys was held in the Sales Pavilion at Keeneland.  Lukas told of how an act of generosity ultimately resulted in the 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, who he trained.

As a fund-raiser in the early 1990s, the Kentucky Derby Museum was selling a season to the stallion Unbridled, who had won the 1990 Kentucky Derby but had not yet hit the big time as a sire.  The goal was to get $50,000 for the season.

Lukas, a champion of the Derby Museum, asked William T. Young, owner of Overbrook Farm in Lexington and a Lukas client, to buy the Unbridled season for the asking price of $50,000.  Young replied that he could buy Unbridled seasons on the open market for $15,000.

However, after consideration of how the Museum would benefit, Young paid the $50,000–more than three times the going rate.  He then instructed his farm staff to find a mare suitable to breed to Unbridled.  The mare chosen was, in Lukas’ words, a “B-level mare,” Buzz My Bell by Drone.  She had career earnings of $223,295 from 13 starts (2 wins, 3 places, and 4 shows).

The product of that breeding was Grindstone, foaled in 1993.  In 1996, he won the Kentucky Derby by the slimmest of margins and never ran another race because of an injury sustained in the Derby.

An irony:  Overbrook Farm owned and stood Storm Cat, the dominant sire of his generation, and bred superb mares to him.  At one time, he reportedly commanded a stud fee of $500,000.  Yet the only Kentucky Derby winner that Young and Overbrook ever had was Grindstone, a son of an unproven stallion and a second-echelon mare.   The breeding that yielded Grindstone would not have been were it not for Young’s altruism.

William T. Young died in 2004; Grindstone stands at stud in Oregon for $2,500; and D. Wayne Lukas is still active as a trainer, raconteur, and avid supporter of the Kentucky Derby Museum.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business

HALL OF FAMERS TALK OF FAMOUS HORSES AND THE 2015 KENTUCKY DERBY

The Kentucky Derby Museum Friday night presented the fifth annual program called “My Kentucky Derby.”  The entertaining 75-minute discussion between the moderator–Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas–and five retired Hall of Fame jockeys was held in the Sales Pavilion at Keeneland.  The jockeys on the panel were Angel Cordero Jr., Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Laffit Pincay Jr., and Jorge Valasquez.

Lukas has trained four Kentucky Derby winners and the jockeys have collectively ridden eight winners of the Run for the Roses.

Two questions from the audience were particularly revealing.

Question:  What is the best horse you ever rode in a race?

Cordero:  Seattle Slew

Day:  Easy Goer

McCarron:  Alysheba

Pincay:  Sham

Valasquez:  Alydar

The only jockey who equivocated in his choice was McCarron, who seemed to not be convinced that Alysheba was better than Sunday Silence, his winning mount in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Interestingly, the choices of Cordero, Day, Pincay, and Valasquez were not their Kentucky Derby-winning mounts.  Alydar ran second in all three Triple Crown races to Affirmed and Sham ran second to Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.  Similarly, Easy Goer was second to Sunday Silence in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, as well as in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  While Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown, Cordero was not his rider in those races.

Question:  If you could train (for Lukas) or ride (for the jockeys) a horse in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, who would be your choice?

Cordero:  American Pharoah

Day:  American Pharoah

Lukas:  American Pharoah

McCarron:  American Pharoah

Pincay:  American Pharoah

Valasquez:   American Pharoah

No one hesitated even a little in answering this question and the name Dortmund was not even mentioned in passing.  We will soon see how the panel’s resounding endorsement of American Pharoah over his stablemate turns out.

(Sidenote:  Did the owner of American Pharoah intentionally or mistakenly misspell his colt’s name?  Shouldn’t it be American Pharaoh?)

___________________

Tuesday (April 21) I’ll post an interesting anecdote that D. Wayne Lukas told about Grindstone, the Kentucky Derby winner he trained for William T. Young of Overbrook Farm.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business

THE THREE MOST SIGNIFICANT KENTUCKY DERBY SCRATCHES

In 140 runnings of the Kentucky Derby, there have been many entries scratched for various reasons, usually injury.   The most significant ones involved colts that were betting favorites before being withdrawn.

The view here is that the three best horses ever scratched from the Kentucky Derby were General Duke in 1957, Sir Gaylord in 1962, and A. P. Indy in 1992.  All of these colts were exceptional racehorses with the very real potential of winning not only the Kentucky Derby but also the Triple Crown.

General Duke, 1957.  This edition of the Derby is still widely regarded as having the best overall cast ever.  The names of three colts in the field of nine are enshrined in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.  Gallant Man, Round Table, and Bold Ruler finished second, third, and fourth, respectively, in the Derby.  The winner was Iron Liege, the second string entry of Calumet Farm behind General Duke, who, prior to the Derby, was regarded as the most talented colt of 1957.  In fact, most of the prominent race writers of the day predicted greatness for the colt based largely on his resounding defeat of Bold Ruler in the Florida Derby in a world-record time.

Calumet Farm trainer Ben Jones scratched General Duke only minutes prior to the opening of betting windows on Derby Day owing to what was thought to be a bruised foot from his last prep race.  It turned out to be a broken bone and General Duke never raced again.

Sir Gaylord, 1962.  This colt was a blueblood of bluebloods, being the older half brother of Secretariat.  Their dam was the Princequillo mare Something Royal.   Sir Gaylord’s sire was the esteemed Turn-To and his owner and breeder was Christopher Chenery (Meadow Stable), whose daughter Penny campaigned Secretariat in 1972 and 1973.

Sir Gaylord was a solid favorite to win the Kentucky Derby but the day before the race he suffered a hairline fracture of the sesamoid bone.  Meadow Stable trainer Casey Hayes scratched the colt and his racing career had ended.

In a what-might-have-been sidenote, Sir Gaylord’s stablemate was the formidable Hall of Fame 3-year-old filly Cicada.  Had Sir Gaylord’s injury occurred a bit earlier, Hayes would likely have put her in the Derby instead of the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, which she won.

A. P. Indy, 1992.  A. P. Indy is one of the rare horses that demonstrated greatness both on the racetrack and at stud.  He had the background:  His sire was Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and his dam was the Secretariat mare Weekend Surprise.  He won eight of eleven races in 1991 and 1992, including the Santa Anita Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

On Derby morning, trainer Neil Drysdale scratched A. P. Indy due to a quarter crack in the colt’s left front foot.  A. P. Indy was not ready in time for the Preakness Stakes but resumed racing by winning the Belmont Stakes.

A. P. Indy came back with a vengeance after his injury and Sir Gaylord went on to a successful career at stud.  By contrast, General Duke would experience no such redemption.  His life ended prematurely and tragically when he developed the neurological condition known as wobbler’s syndrome and died in 1958.  If fate had been kinder, he might have been talked about in the same vein as the greats of the turf, especially if he had prevailed in the Triple Crown against Bold Ruler, Gallant Man, and Round Table.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business