The 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, a race often called “the greatest two minutes in sports”, will be held Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The first leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown (followed by the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes) is a sporting spectacle of unmatched grandeur, but also one that has had its share of weirdness. In today’s Six Pack, six warped Derby records:
Only Derby Winner to Wind Up Pulling A Vegetable Cart: Vagrant, 1876: The second Derby winner (defeated Creedmore by two lengths), the gelding Vagrant ran for nine years. When he could no longer race, Vagrant was sold by William Astro and spent the rest of his days pulling a vegetable cart through the streets of Lexington.
Only Derby Winner To Wind Up Pulling A Plow: Spokane, 1889: The only Kentucky Derby winner bred in Montana, Spokane defeated favored Proctor Knott by a nose. Following Spokane’s racing career, owner Nosh Armstrong put the colt to work pulling a plow back in Montana, explaining, “He needs to earn his keep.”
Colt Finishing Most Lengths Behind The Derby Winner: Saigon Warrior, 1971: Not only did hapless Saigon Warrior (Robert Parrott up) finish an astonishing 73 lengths behind Canonero II, who ran a modest 2:05 1/5 (record is 1:59 2/5 by Secretariat in 1973), the colt trailed Fourulia, the next to last-runner, by 14 lengths.
Only Colt To Lose The Derby After Getting Conked By A Beer Bottle, Bombay Duck, 1975: The bottle, hurled by unidentified riffraff from the Churchill Downs infield, struck Bombay Duck as he was setting the pace leading into the second turn. The blow caused the colt to stop running, and he was officially placed 15th and last to Foolish Pleasure.
Most Times Turning Down A Chance To Ride The Eventual Derby Winner: Pat Day. 1987-91: Day had the mount on Alysheba in 1987, but opted to ride Demons Begone. Alysheba won, Demons Begone finished last. Day had the mount on eventual winner Unbridled in 1990, but opted for Summer Squall, who ran second. In 1991, Day had the mount on eventual winner Strike The Gold, but opted to ride Corporate Report, who ran ninth.
Wackiest Derby Stat of All Time: Sunday Silence, Easy Goer, et al., 1989: Sent off the No. 2 choice behind Easy Goer, the reigning two-year-old champ, Sunday Silence prevailed by two lengths, becoming the second winner sired by Halo, the second winner owned by Arthur Hancock, and the second winner trained by Charlie Wittingham. The win also enabled Pat Valenzuela to become the second jockey in his family to win the Derby, following uncle Ismael Valenzuela, who won twice (1958-68). It was Easy Goers second start at Churchill. In the first, the 1988 Breeders Cup Juvenile, he finished second. Easy Goers jockey, Pat Day, finished second in the Derby for second straight year. It also marked the second time Day had been aboard a losing favorite (Demons Begone, 1987).