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History Challenge: Bradley dominated an era of the game
By Ron Hale
Fair Grounds stages its Road to the Derby kickoff on Saturday with the 69th running of the $200,000-guaranteed Lecomte Handicap for 3-year-olds.
That evening in Florida, the 42nd annual Eclipse Awards ceremony will get under way at Gulfstream Park, where the industry will honor its finest horses and individuals of 2012.
It is altogether fitting that on the same afternoon, Fair Grounds will present the 27th running of the Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap for older horses.
In 1971, Edward Riley Bradley was one of the first inductees into the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was honored by the Florida Department of State as one its “Great Floridians.”
In one 13-year period, Bradley bred and owned four winners of the Kentucky Derby and was the first owner to win back-to-back runnings of the Louisville classic.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1859, Bradley was working in the steel mills when he was 14 years old. He tired quickly of hard work with little pay and left for the West.
Through gold prospecting and mining, and land investment, Bradley amassed a considerable sum of money by the 1890s. He moved to Florida, and in 1898 he and his brother opened the Beach Club in Palm Beach. It became one of the most exclusive casinos in the world and made Bradley a fortune. That same year, Bradley bought his first Thoroughbred and set about to make history.
Test your knowledge of this legendary gambler, breeder, and owner.
1. Col. Bradley’s first horse was Friar John, but it was his second, Bad News, that got him hooked on the sport for the rest of his life. Bad News won 54 races from 185 starts and convinced Bradley to use the letter “B” to start the names of all his horses. Over the next four decades, they came to be known to horsemen and fans as “The Bradley B’s.”
After first leasing land near Lexington, Ky., Bradley bought 335 acres for his breeding operations in 1906. By the time of his death in 1946, the farm had expanded to 1,292 acres. In 1913, Bradley bought a colt for $1,600 who would become his foundation sire. Name Bradley’s farm and the horse who would serve as the cornerstone of his breeding operation.
2. In the 138-year history of the Kentucky Derby, no one has started more horses than Col. Bradley. His 28 starters between 1920 and 1945 is seven more than second-place Calumet Farm. His four winners are second to Calumet’s eight.
In 1919, Commander John K.L. Ross became the first owner to run one-two in the Kentucky Derby (Sir Barton and Billy Kelly).
A year later, Bradley started his first Derby horse, By Golly, who finished seventh. In the 1920s, the colonel one-upped Commander Ross by finishing first and second in the Derby in 1921 (with his second and third Derby entrants) and again in 1926.
Not until 1948 (Calumet’s Citation and Coaltown) would an owner again finish one-two in the Derby and none has since. Name the horses who ran one-two in the 1921 and 1926 runnings of the Kentucky Derby.
3. In 1934, Bradley told Time magazine (where he appeared on the cover of the May 7 issue) that he was making $1 million a year from his casinos, which helped pay for his racing operations.
Joining his Beach Club was the Palmetto Club, which Bradley opened in New Orleans. In 1926, the colonel went into the racetrack business when he purchased the struggling Fair Grounds.
Over the next six years he spent $1 million to restore and save the historic icon. He leased the track in 1932 and then sold it in 1934 to cover a huge investment that he had made in another major track. Name that track.
4. When Citation was champion 2-year-old male of 1947 and during his preparation the following season for the Kentucky Derby, his trainer was H.A. “Jimmy” Jones, son of Calumet Farm’s head trainer Ben Jones.
But when Big Cy arrived at Churchill Downs for the Derby Trial and the big one four days later, Ben Jones infuriated his son by insisting that his name appear as trainer on the program.
The elder Jones explained that he wanted to tie the Derby record of four winners held by the trainer who handled all four of Col. Bradley’s Derby winners. Name him.
5. In the 1940’s, growing old and feeble, Bradley often said he lost the Kentucky Derby in 1940 with the best horse he ever bred and owned – Bimelech, a son of Black Toney and a future Hall of Fame inductee.
By the middle of the decade, Bradley was selling off his racing stable. In early 1945, a year before his death, Bradley sold his last great star – the champion 2-year-old filly of 1944 – for $50,000. In the years to come, historians would argue that she was the greatest horse Bradley ever bred and owned. Name her.
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