04/03/2011 3:36PM

It was twenty years ago this spring.... A look back at the 1991 Florida Derby and Wood Memorial


Who’ll win the Derby? Heck, how about the Triple Crown? Can ‘Mo’ do what no other horse has done since Affirmed?

Today, we study and analyze every step taken by Uncle Mo, Jaycito and Mucho Macho Man. Twenty years ago, while the names are different, that anticipation was the same. Fans certainly remember some of those old friends – Fly So Free, Strike the Gold, Hansel – but others, like Wildly Special and Vouch for Me, are generally forgotten.  

And how about Jackie Wackie? In 1991, he was the talk of the town before the Florida Derby. Gulfstream Park touted the race as a showdown between the undefeated gelding – then 9 for 9 – and 2-year-old champion Fly So Free, even passing out free Jackie Wackie buttons with admission.

Enjoy a trip in the wayback machine to the 1991 Florida Derby and Wood Memorial...

Above:  Gulfstream Park on Florida Derby day 1991, and Aqueduct on Wood Memorial day 1991.  Gulfstream's old paddock featured a lawn jockey that sported the previous year's FL Derby winner's colors - in this case, Unbridled.

Above:  A pony shows its rooting interest on Florida Derby day, 1991.  Gulfstream Park gave out buttons both for Fly So Free and Jackie Wackie.  At right, a stairwell painting in the clubhouse.

Above: The Alydar colt Strike the Gold with trainer Nick Zito, during Florida Derby week.  Strike the Gold was not yet a stakes winner.  Less than two months later, he was the Kentucky Derby winner.

Above:  Richman, by Bet Big, was a six-time stakes winner at 2.  Trained by Bill Mott, the long-faced colt won the Illinois and Louisiana Derbies later in the season.  The exercise rider up (left) is Ralph Nicks.

Above:  17-hand tall Cahill Road, a full brother to the previous year's KY Derby winner Unbridled, coasted at Gulfstream.  He didn't start at two and was playing catch-up.  He'd get his chance to shine more brightly on Wood Memorial day.

Above:  Jackie Wackie (left), the immensely popular Florida-based gelding, who was 9-for-9 before the Florida Derby.  He finished seventh but was found to be harboring a fever.  The following year, he scored a popular upset in the G1 Secretariat at Arlington.  Hansel (middle, right), an unusually kind and handsome colt, won two stakes at 2.  Among his wins at three were the Preakness and Belmont, and he was named champion 3-year-old.

Above:  Fly So Free, trained by Scotty Schulhofer, with Jose Santos up, wins the 1991 Florida Derby over Strike the Gold.  Hansel was third.  Not a bad trio!

Above:  Fly So Free, 1991 Florida Derby.  At bottom right are owners Tommy and Elizabeth Valando - a class act.  I miss those old days when the Florida Derby winner's circle presentation was in front of the tote board, complete with the orchid horseshoe.  It made for classic photos over the years (google "Florida Derby" and "postcard" to see shots of Needles and Tim Tam).

Fly So Free won 12 of 33 starts over a four-year campaign, his final stakes victory being the Fall Highweight at age 5.  He earned more than $2.3 million.  Fly So Free stood at Three Chimneys throughout his stud career.  He died in 2003 and is buried at the farm.

L.A. Times article about the 1991 Florida Derby: articles.latimes.com/1991-03-17/sports/sp-753_1_florida-derby

Above:  Meadow Star came into the Wood off an easy score in the Comely, and Kyle's Our Man came to the race off an impressive score in the Gotham.  That old water tower just screams, 'Aqueduct!'

Above:  3-year-old sprinter Dodge, trained by Wayne Lukas and ridden by Chris Antley, won the Best Turn on the Wood undercard. 

Above:  Neither Allen Jerkens nor Julie Krone figured in the results of the Florida Derby or Wood...but I just couldn't pass up their photos from those days.  Kiaran McLaughlin didn't look much different twenty years ago than he does today, as he accepted the Best Turn trophy on behalf of trainer Wayne Lukas.  Chris Antley was a photographer's dream.

Meadow Star (photo on left shows trainer Leroy Jolley) before the Wood.  The champion 2-year-old filly of 1990 was a huge fan favorite throughout her career.

Above:  King Mutesa, Happy Jazz Band (upper right) and Another Review.  King Mutesa, a Baldski colt, placed in several stakes races. Happy Jazz Band, by Dixieland Band, won 3 of 13 starts.  Another Review hadn't done much to this point, but he eventually became a four-time graded stakes winner in California.  His biggest win was the G1 Californian S.

Above:  Cahill Road, upper left, the race winner.  Lost Mountain, upper right.  At this point, Lost Mountain wasn't well known - he was 40-1 this day - but he later won the Haskell, Dwyer and Peter Pan and earned more than $1 million.  Wildly Special (#2, left), was a Canadian stakes winner at two.  Excellent Tipper, right, raced for what seemed like a zillion years, earned over $900,000, and won 12 of 70 starts.

Above:  Wood start - Vouch for Me (Julie Krone up), Another Review, Meadow Star and Kyle's Our Man.  Vouch for Me, a son of Restivo, eventually won six minor stakes. Those wins came at Suffolk, Rockingham and the Meadowlands.


Above:  The 1991 Wood Memorial.  Cahill Road, Craig Perret up, dominated in the race, but an injury during the running crushed any Derby hopes of owner Frances Genter and trainer Scotty Schulhofer.  The oversized colt limped back to the winner's circle for one last victory photo.  He never raced again (record 6-4-1-1, $370,280).

Cahill Road began his stud career at Gainesway, and he was eventually moved to El Dorado Farms near Enumclaw, Washington.  He died there last year at the age of 22.

New York Times article about the 1991 Wood Memorial: query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html