09/22/2017 1:56PM

Hovdey: A great horse really can come from anywhere


There is a small stakes race on the Oklahoma Derby undercard at Remington Park this Sunday honoring a horse named Kip Deville. Good for them.

Kip Deville was a classy gray scrapper who didn’t care where he ran or who he ran against. He won big races in California, Kentucky, New York, and Florida, and the biggest of all in New Jersey, with a one-length upset of the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Mile. After winning 12 of 30 starts and $3.3 million, Kip Deville met a sad end at age 7 in 2010, after a nasty battle with colic and laminitis.

No horse bred in Oklahoma earned more money than Kip Deville. And yet, he is not the most famous Thoroughbred born there. That honor goes to Lady’s Secret, the 1986 Horse of the Year.

The idea that a Horse of the Year or a Breeders’ Cup winner could come from someplace other than Kentucky, Florida, Virginia, or maybe California or Maryland is a little ridiculous. Based on the size of foal crops, the odds are stacked against it. Oklahoma, for instance, registered 535 foals in 2015. Kentucky’s numbered 8,130.

:: Get bonus PPs and watch Sunday’s Oklahoma Derby card live from Remington Park

Still, there is plenty of state pride to go around, and a fair amount of history has been made by Thoroughbreds from places that get a double-take when listed in the breeding line.

New Jersey (122 foals in 2015) produced Kentucky Derby winner Cavalcade and Hall of Famer Open Mind. But the queen of the Garden State forever will be Regret, the first of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby.

There have been few horses faster than Washington’s Chinook Pass, the champion Eclipse Award sprinter of 1983, or more reliable over the long haul than Nodouble, champion older horse of 1969, dubbed “The Arkansas Traveler.”

Missouri was down to seven registered foals in 2015, but the Show-Me state can cling forever to the legend of Elwood, winner of the 1904 Kentucky Derby despite being described in pre-race headlines as the “Missouri Mule.” The media can be so cruel.

Oregon’s 82 foals of 2015 will help fill a few races at places like Grants Pass and Portland Meadows. They can only dream, though, of being as good as Mioland, who did enough for his Oregon people to come to the attention of Charles S. Howard in early 1940. Mioland joined the Tom Smith stable that winter, where Seabiscuit still ruled the roost, and did enough the following year to earn a national championship.

According to Jockey Club stats, Indiana is the only state where the foal crop has actually increased over the past decade, with 422 registered in 2015. The bar is high for Hoosiers, set nearly 60 years ago by Hillsdale, who came within Sword Dancer’s head in the Trenton Handicap of being 1959 Horse of the Year. Hillsdale won 10 stakes in 13 starts that season and was second in the rest.

Next door in Ohio, the foal crop has stabilized over the past decade at around 350 a year. Harlan’s Holiday takes the prize as the state’s best modern representative, befitting the winner of the Florida Derby, Blue Grass, and $3.3 million.

Up in Montana, there are currently a dozen wildfires of 12,000 to 160,000 acres in size, news that has escaped the national consciousness. One of the smaller fires burned just east of Butte, where Spokane was foaled in 1886. He went on to win the 1889 Kentucky Derby, and six months later Montana became the 41st state. Not surprisingly, Spokane was enshrined in the Montana State Historical Museum.

Kansas can lay claim to Lawrin, who gave both Ben Jones and Eddie Arcaro their first Kentucky Derby winner in 1938. Illinois also produced a Derby winner – Dust Commander in 1968 – and later became known as the home of Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Buck’s Boy.

Tennessee, so close to Kentucky and yet so far, yielded only 31 foals to the population in 2015. No wonder the state has made little noise since the 19th century star Luke Blackburn and three long forgotten Derby winners. And were it not for Burt Bacharach’s major stakes winners Soul of the Matter and Afternoon Deelites, West Virginia never would have boasted a native son of national note.

Texas, for all its geography, owned to barely 500 Thoroughbred foals in 2015. That’s not much for the home of Hall of Famers Pan Zareta, Stymie, and Assault, as well as Derby and Belmont winner Middleground and champion sprinter Groovy.

These days, it is far more likely that impact horses will emerge from a state like New York, which already can lay claim to champions Funny Cide, Fleet Indian, and Saratoga Dew, or Pennsylvania, the home of Smarty Jones, Go for Wand, and Lil E. Tee.

For the most part, though, the smaller breeding states cultivate local heroes. Sure Shot Biscuit became Iowa’s only millionaire running the local table. Cornhuskers can be rightfully proud of Who Doctor Who, who won Nebraska stakes every year from 1985 through 1991 and more than $800,000.

Star Guitar won more money than any other Louisiana-bred, even though the mares Happy Ticket and Hallowed Dreams stole more headlines, just as Peppers Pride ran up the score sticking close to home in her native New Mexico, winning all 19 of her races without leaving the state. As a reward, she was bred to American Pharoah.