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Monday, May 3, 2010

The Kentucky Derby

It is a record crowd of fans at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. People are crowding into the stands. Bid prospects as each reviews today’s favorites. Ladies draped in fashions fresh from Madison and Fifth Avenue. Large brim hats adorn their heads. Each hat colorfully flocked with flowers, lace and feathers. Men in wool suites of upper class privileged aristocracy. The announcer begins to introducing today’s contestant three year old thoroughbreds.

“Oh Charles, look. They are parading the horses,” exclaim Lady Susan. The announcer calls each name paraded by trainer as they walk out horse and jockey. “Lord Boswell, jockey Eddie Arcaro trained by James Smith. Knockdown, jockey Robert Permane also trained by James Smith each from Maine Chance Farm”. “Dark Jungle, jockey Andy LoTurco trained by John Milton Goode.” Each horse enters the track. Reviewed by the crowd, the horses each showing the grand spirit of thoroughbred racing. The announcer continues through the 17 entries. The crowd cheers their favorites checking the programs with excitement.

Charles focused his field glasses as Lady Susan requested, “Charles, may I have the lorgnette.” He handed her a pair of glasses as she held them by the handle viewing among each entry. “Hampden, jockey Jon Dean Jessop trained by Richard Handlen. Perfect Bahram, jockey Ted Atkinson, and once again, trainer James W. Smith, Maine Chance Farm” over the announcers speakers as Lady Susan sips at her Julep starring on at the horses. “Rose, look there,” declared Lady Susan. Rose with her husband Andrew began to giggly. “My, my. I do declare. The number three horse is walking with a limp,” Lady Susan sighed. Rose with her voice of southern charm entreats, “Andrew what horse is number three.” He took hold of his program reading, “Assault, Dear Rose. He’s a Texas entry,” continued Andrew. “Assault, he is more like an insult. Just look at how he doesn’t even have a proper walk. Texas, just another bunch of Cowboys I do declare. They can not imagine a chance to place much less win here today,” Rose replied. The announcer continues calling each horse. “Assault, jockey Warren Mehrtens, trainer Max Hirsch”.

“Charles, didn’t Mr. Hirsch have a win here a few years ago” questioned Andrew. “Oh, I’m not sure. His name does sound familiar. Let’s see what this program reads” replied Charles. Andrew reached into his jacket pocket removing a leather covered silver flask. As he removed the top, Andrew displaying a humorous smile said “When in Kentucky, drink what Kentucky does best”. Charles grinned as Andrew swallowed from his flask of Kentucky Bourbon. He nodded his head at Charles offering the flask. Charles took a sip “Yes Andrew, Kentucky does have a gift for Bourbon”.

The crowd shouted, get that club foot off the track. Boo….came some shouts. The two ladies sipping their drinks laughed as Rose tells Susan. “Assault...more like Hop along might be more appropriate.” Susan agree and they laugh. “He has an 8 to 1 odds” Charles replied.

In the stands are celebrity figures, the First Lady sitting with the Governor and his wife, owners and the aristocrats. Porters carry trays of Mint Julep and Champagne. Over 100,000 people are attending today’s race with the highest prize offered in the history of the Derby. Blue Grass traditions entertain the audience as the horses are moved into the starting gates.

The horses now in the gates, the crowd waits with excitement as the bell rings announcing, “And their off. Lord Boswell takes the early lead. Spy Song moving along side Knockdown behind Lord Boswell. This is a Mile and a half and they are off to a great start. The 17 best horses across the nation racing down the track” as Lady Susan whispers towards Rose, “16 of the nations best and a cripple Hop along Cassidy”. The two couples laugh as Spy Song jockey by John Longden is their bet. “Come on Spy Song” Rose cried out. The crowd is excited. The announcer barely heard over the crowd cheering their favorite.

“Knockdown now leading and Spy Song running second as they come around the turn. Spy Song now over taking Knockdown, Assault moving into third, Hampden forth with Rippey dashing for fifth. Its Spy Song, Knockdown, Assault all thundering hooves as they enter into the back stretch. Spy Song by half a lead, Assault and Knockdown as they enter into the turn. Hold your horse’s girls. Its Assault moving on the inside rail. Spy Song second, Assault stepping out for the roses….Assault taking an eight horse lead with jockey Warren Mehrtens winning his first Derby” stated the announcer. “Spy Song second followed by Hampden, Lord Boswell, Knockdown, Alamond” as the announcer continued through the 17 names.

This was the 1946 Kentucky Derby race. King Ranch has produced champion bred horses and cattle throughout the history of the Ranch. However, Assault by BOLD VENTURE and out of Igual, became the greatest of King Ranch's major stakes winners. He went on that year to become the Triple Crown victor. A title only held by eleven other horses to date. His career brought eighteen victories and total earnings of $674,720.

Assault as a foal stepped on what is believe to have been a Surveyors Stake that stabbed through his hoof. He had to wear a special shoe due to this injury which at the walk or trot showed him with a limp. However, at the gait of gallop, Assault ran earning him the nickname of the “CLUB FOOT COMET.” Assault was plagued with medical problems. Suffering from kidney, splint bone, wrenched ankle, bad knee and bleeding problems; Assault also was sterile where the King Ranch had hope to use him for breeding once retired.

Assault shows the greater abilities which often seem to reduce any possibility of being a champion. Champions overcome handicaps which trainer Max Hirsch believe Assault may have pampered the injury long after it healed though leaving a club foot. Max Hirsch was born in Fredericksburg, Texas, an became one of the most successful trainers in Thoroughbred horse racing history. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1959.....

The Kentucky Derby is a mile and a quarter race held yearly on the first Saturday of May. It is the first of three races for the Triple Crown. The Preakness Stakes held in Baltimore, Maryland and the Belmont Stakes held in Elmont, New York follow the Kentucky Derby for the Triple Crown.

Year Name Jockey Trainer Owner
1919 Sir Barton John Loftus H. G. Bedwell J. K. L. Ross
1930 Gallant Fox Earl Sande James Fitzsimmons Belair Stud
1935 Omaha William Saunders James Fitzsimmons Belair Stud
1937 War Admiral Charley Kurtsinger George Conway Samuel D. Riddle
1941 Whirlaway Eddie Arcaro Ben A. Jones Calumet Farm
1943 Count Fleet John Longden Don Cameron Mrs. J. D. Hertz
1946 Assault Warren Mehrtens Max Hirsch King Ranch
1948 Citation Eddie Arcaro Ben A. Jones Calumet Farm
1973 Secretariat Ron Turcotte Lucien Laurin Meadow Stable
1977 Seattle Slew Jean Cruguet William Turner, Jr. Karen L. Taylor
1978 Affirmed Steve Cauthen Lazaro S. Barrera Harbor View Farm

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