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History Challenge: Great rider made wrong guess in 1942 Derby
When a long-retired rider died this past January, the opening sentence of nearly every newspaper story began, “William Harmatz, 79, a jockey who rode Royal Orbit to victory in the 1959 Preakness Stakes . . .”
For all but a handful of the really illustrious riders, a jockey’s career is often defined by whether he or she won a Triple Crown race, especially the Kentucky Derby.
For the top riders of the day, this can involve picking between several horses. For others, it is often just the luck of the draw.
Two years ago, Calvin Borel scored a stunning 6 3/4-length win on Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby, but did something rarely seen. He chose another mount, Rachel Alexandra, for the Preakness.
Last year, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert chose Martin Garcia, a 25-year-old former delicatessen cook who had not ridden in a Triple Crown race before that season, to replace a two-time Eclipse Award-winning rider aboard Lookin At Lucky in the Preakness.
Rachel Alexandra and Lookin At Lucky each won their Preakness. Not all decisions work out as well. Test your knowledge of jockeys and the Triple Crown.
1. Gallant Fox won only 2 of 7 starts at age 2 in 1929, but William Woodward Sr., owner of the famed Belair Stud, believed when his colt learned to settle down, he would be the best he ever owned. Three different riders had ridden the unruly Gallant Fox as a juvenile, but Woodward and trainer Jim Fitzsimmons wanted to get the best jockey for the colt’s 3-year-old season. According to biographer Richard Maturi, the owner and trainer both agreed on two possible jockeys. But both riders had retired from the saddle in 1928. Name the two jockeys.
2. The powerful Greentree Stable of Helen Hay Whitney had two impressive juveniles at the end of 1941 – Devil Diver and Shut Out.
Greentree’s contract rider was frequently up on Shut Out and did not ride Devil Diver until the colt’s only start at age 3 prior to the 1942 Kentucky Derby. In the Phoenix Handicap at Keeneland on April 9, Devil Diver met older horses and won – defeating 1941 Triple Crown winner Whirlaway. This rider returned to Shut Out and scored a comfortable win in the Blue Grass Stakes. Despite trainer John Gaver begging him otherwise, the jockey chose Devil Diver for his Derby mount. Shut Out won the Derby under another rider. Name the two jockeys.
3. It was not until the spring of 1958 that trainer Jimmy Jones was certain that Tim Tam was the best 3-year-old in the powerful Calumet Farm stable. Calumet’s No. 1 rider was aboard Tim Tam for victories in the Everglades, Flamingo (by disqualification), Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby, and Forerunner Purse. But, on opening day of the Churchill Downs meeting, the rider broke his leg in a starting-gate incident. Another jockey took over on Tim Tam and won the Derby. Name the two future Hall of Fame riders.
4. The 100th Kentucky Derby in 1974 attracted a record field of 23 horses and the largest crowd in American racing history (163,628). The winner was Cannonade, the presumed weaker half of the favored coupled entry with Judger, who finished eighth. Since the previous August at Saratoga, this jockey had been aboard Cannonade for 13 straight races, including a second in the Florida Derby. But on Derby Day, the jockey watched the race on television. Name him.
5. When retired Hall of Fame rider Bill Shoemaker suffered paralyzing injuries in a 1991 auto accident, he was returning home from an afternoon of golf with his best friend, another retired rider who would later be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Twenty-seven years earlier, this best friend had ridden Hill Rise to victories in four straight stakes, including the Santa Anita Derby, when he was taken off for the more experienced Shoemaker. Hill Rise, the post time Kentucky Derby favorite, lost by a neck under Shoemaker, who himself made a bad decision on the race. Name the jockey.
History Challenge answers
1. Both Clarence Kummer and Earl Sande retired from the saddle in 1928. The 1929 American Racing Manual called Sande’s retirement “the outstanding incident of 1928 racing as far as jockeys are concerned.”
Kummer, who had ridden Man o’ War to nine victories in 1920, became an exercise rider for trainer Jim Fitzsimmons and never rode a race again. Sande became a trainer, but did ride 10 races in 1929. With Kummer still battling problems with weight, William Woodward asked Sande to ride Gallant Fox during the 1930 season. Sande accepted 43 mounts in 1930 – nine aboard Gallant Fox, eight of them wins, including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. Sande retired again after riding 78 mounts (13 wins) in 1932. (He did not ride in 1931.) He returned 21 years later – at age 54 – to accept 10 mounts, winning with the final one.
Kummer died of pneumonia at age 31 in December 1930, after years of vomiting to make riding weight. Sande died in obscurity at age 69 in Oregon in 1968.
2. In his autobiography, “I Ride to Win,” Eddie Arcaro said that even as late as two days before the 1942 Kentucky Derby, he had the opportunity to switch from Devil Diver to Shut Out. “In fact,” Arcaro writes, “John Gaver urged me to do so. But I had my mind made up. I confess I was wavering . . . but maybe I was pigheaded.”
The mount on Shut Out went to Wayne Wright. The two horses, coupled in the Derby wagering, were 9-5 favorites at post time. Shut Out won ridden out, with Devil Diver a soundly beaten sixth.
The jockeys both stayed in place for the Preakness, but neither hit the board, as Alsab (champion 2-year-old who would also be champion 3-year-old) took the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Shut Out came back to win the Belmont Stakes, this time with Arcaro riding.
3. A filly named Quail Egg acted up in the starting gate on opening day at Churchill Downs in 1958, breaking the leg of jockey Bill Hartack.
The injury cost Hartack the mount on Calumet’s Tim Tam a week later in the Derby. Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela rode Tim Tam to victories in the Derby and Preakness.
When it came time for the Belmont, Hartack’s leg had healed and he asked for the mount back on Tim Tam. Owner Lucille Markey and trainer Jimmy Jones thought it would be unfair to Valenzuela, so they said “no” to their No. 1 rider.
Hartack was livid and immediately severed his relationship with Calumet. Years later, he was still angry about the rejection.
Hartack is tied with Eddie Arcaro for the most wins in the Derby (5).
4. Pete Anderson was 42 years-old and nearing the end of his career when he was the regular rider for Cannonade.
When it came time for the Stepping Stone Purse on opening day at Churchill Downs, trainer Woody Stephens learned Angel Cordero Jr. was available and gave the younger rider the mount.
Cannonade, under Cordero, came from 19 lengths back to win the seven-furlong Stepping Stone. A week later, the two won the 100th Derby.
Cannonade obviously loved Churchill Downs. He had earlier won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. The Derby made him 3 for 3 in Louisville.
Anderson, who won the 1958 Belmont Stakes aboard Cavan (beating a lame Tim Tam) also rode three-time Horse of the Year Forego in the gelding’s first nine starts, including the 1973 Kentucky Derby.
5. While Don Pierce was guiding Hill Rise to multiple stakes wins in California in early 1964, Bill Shoemaker was riding Northern Dancer to victories in the Flamingo Stakes and Florida Derby.
The Shoe liked what he saw in Hill Rise, whom he had never before ridden, and when asked by trainer Bill Finnegan in early April, agreed to take over as the regular pilot for the colt.
Trainer Horatio Luro then selected Bill Hartack to ride Northern Dancer, who would go on to defeat favored Hill Rise by a neck in the Kentucky Derby.