Louisville Magazine

APR 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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Bombay Duck would have won the Derby if he hadn't gotten conked on the head with a beer can. Tis is one of the most persistent Derby urban legends, dating from the year 1975, when Bombay Duck, a 30-1 shot from New Jersey, fired out of the starting gate on top, led around the first turn and all the way down the backstretch — then "stopped," in racing parlance, finishing last in a field of 15 behind the winner, Foolish Pleasure. Afterwards, jockey Menotti Aristone said his horse was hit with a beer can that came track. And everybody around would have seen someone wind up and peg a beer can. Nobody reported seeing anything like that. And they would have. Goose and Donerail, sans saddle, after the 1913 Derby. Did jockey Roscoe Goose ride bareback on Donerail to win the 1913 Derby? It may look like it in the official photo, but Roscoe Goose did not really ride Donerail — the highest-odds Derby winner ever at 91-1 — without a saddle. In the winner's circle (then on the grandstand side of the track) Donerail spooked when someone tried to throw the tradi- tional blanket of roses across his withers. Goose and owner-trainer T.P. Hayes didn't want their horse to be recorded in history without the floral victory mantle. So Goose dismounted and removed Donerail's saddle, which calmed the horse. He then bunched the rose blanket inside a horse blan- ket and remounted. At the right moment, with photog- raphers set to click their shutters, the rider carefully snuck the roses out of the blanket and placed them on Donerail for the photo. One thing disappoint- ingly missing in this black- lofted out of the Infield. Te first version had it that the beer can hit Bombay Duck in the noggin. Te second was that the can hit the horse on the rump. Te trouble with this tale is it is almost certainly not true. I'm not saying that Aris- tone didn't think it happened, or that some drunk might toss something at the horses, but no can was found on the track by the track crew, which would surely have noticed it while harrowing the course for the next race. Some people say there is video in which you can see the can hit the horse. But check- ing the race out in the Derby Time Machine at the Kentucky Derby Museum, I've never been able to see what they're talking about. If such a missile had touched the horse, it could have spooked it. But touching a horse on the butt while it is running will often spur a horse to run faster. Indeed, Bombay Duck did stay on the lead into the far turn before fading quickly through the field. But so have many, many other 30-1 shots. Having been at that spot along the back- stretch fence, I can say it would have taken a pretty strong throw to reach the horses. Would have to be a full beer can; an empty wouldn't get there. Tis was before the turf course was installed at Churchill, but the Infield fence was still pretty far from the [48] LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 4.12 and-white photo is the color in the jockey's distinctive racing silks, which Goose always remarked about: solid red, with a green tobacco leaf on the back. A hole for Sunny's Halo. Over the winter coming into the 1983 Kentucky Derby, trainer David Cross placed all the horses in his barn at Woodbine Race- course in Toronto in the care of other train- ers and packed his only star Toroughbred onto a horse van and set out for Califor- nia. Te horse was Sunny's Halo, who had been crowned two-year-old champion in Canada, and was noted by some as a possible threat for the Kentucky Derby. Cross knew that Canada in wintertime was no place to prepare for the Run for the Roses. Tradition- ally, horses are shipped south to Florida, or stay in California for the warmer weather and rich prep races. But when they got to California, the rains came. And stayed. One of the wettest winters in decades. Cross tried to get his horse fit over the perpetually wet track, but knew he was losing time. So they packed up and moved again to Arkansas to run in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Te weather there held and the track was good, and Sunny's Halo did, indeed, win the Arkansas Derby CHURCHILL DOWNS INC./KINETIC CORP. PHOTO before heading to Kentucky as one of the favorites for the 109th Run for the Roses. But in Louisville, it was raining again. Had rained almost daily for weeks and wasn't letting up. On the Sunday before the Derby, Cross and Sunny's Halo were still under the shedrow, waiting for a chance to sandwich in a critical final Derby workout — a one-mile work, at speed, a week before the big race. Te clouds hung low. Little patches of sunshine would occasionally peek through but disappear quickly as the rain picked up again. Finally, Cross saw what he called "a hole in the rain" and sent Sunny's Halo off to the track. Te horse was out of the barn, around the oval, and back just as the rain began coming down again. Te rider dismounted; the horse was quickly hosed off and handed to a hot walker to cool out under the roof inside the barn. "Tat's it," said Cross. "He's ready." And obviously he was, leaving 19 contend- ers in his wake on Derby Day. Te best seat in the house. Over the course of 48 Derbys, this fan has seen the race from just about every place there is to see it — except for that private box where Queen Elizabeth II saw Street Sense win it. But from the back fence to right on the track to the third floor to the roof, just where is the best place to see the Derby? In my opinion the best spot is the very last seat of the grandstand all the way up at the head of the homestretch — the cheapest box seat on the track and nearly a quarter- mile from the finish line. But from that perch you get a premium look at the start: Tey're off! And then — a minute and a half later — the field comes by again. Only at this point, as they turn for home, big moves are made and within seconds it's down to just those few who will run for the roses down the long Churchill Downs homestretch. Of course the finish line is so far away you can't be sure who wins in a photo — and the greatest two minutes in sports lasts a little longer. Did the band cost Damascus the Derby in 1967? A horse has to be a good horse to earn the worst losing Derby excuse. You can get a bad excuse any afternoon in a $10,000 claiming race. But when Damascus — winner of the 1967 Preakness, Belmont, Wood Memorial and Jockey Club Gold Cup, as well as the Travers, Dwyer and Woodward stakes — ran third in the '67 Kentucky Derby, his trainer, Frank Whitely, claimed Damascus had been spooked by the band playing "My Old Kentucky Home." Spooked by the band! Playing one of the slowest songs on the planet! Te fact is, Damascus had a dream trip

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