Kentucky Derby sire Falsetto was bred and raised by JW Hunt Reynolds in Kentucky. A big, growthy yearling, according to a report in The Thoroughbred Record, Falsetto did not race at 2, then won the Phoenix Hotel and Blue Ribbon Stakes in Lexington in his early 3-year-old form.
As a result of his early successes, “Falsetto was regarded with great favor for the Kentucky Derby, and the Easterners figured that if he won that classic he might upset their best laid plans at Saratoga, where the Travers and Kenner Stakes were always fought out by the best of that age the East and West could muster.”
The 3-year-old crop of 1879 included Spendthrift, Monitor, and Harold, and James R Keene, owner of Spendthrift, sent his man Bathgate to Kentucky with a mission. Reynolds priced the colt at $10,000, and Bathgate agreed on condition that Falsetto won the Kentucky Derby.
The Record notes that Falsetto stumbled badly in the race and was second to Lord Murphy by a length. The sale was off, and Falsetto went east for the Saratoga meeting as the property of Reynolds.
At the Spa, Falsetto set the press and racing fans alight with victories in both the Kenner and the Travers. Buyers reappeared.
This time, Col Bruce represented Mr Keene and Col Johnson was authorized to buy Falsetto for Pierre Lorillard. Reynolds priced Falsetto at $15,000 to Bruce and was supposed to meet him at the Grand Union Hotel to close the deal. The Record noted that a twist of circumstance prevented this:
Mr Reynolds during his stay at Saratoga had purchased a Newfoundland dog to take home as a present for his daughter. The dog was bigger than the average Shetland pony and had attracted much attention because of his size. When he started to the hotel to meet Col Bruce this dog accompanied him, but a halt was called at the door of the hotel.
“You can’t bring that dog in here,” Mr Reynolds was told.
Mr Reynolds tried to argue the matter and said that he had a pressing engagement with a guest of the hotel, but it did no good.
“All right, if my dog can’t come in I won’t enter your hotel either,” was the reply of the hasty tempered Kentuckian, who departed in a huff.
He hadn’t gone half a block when he met Col Johnson, who had that morning received carte blanche from Mr Lorillard to buy Falsetto.
Reynolds thereupon sold Falsetto for $16,000 and gloated over getting “$1,000 more than he would have received for Falsetto had not the hotel folk refused to allow his dog to enter their hostelry.”
At stud, Falsetto sired Kentucky Derby winners Chant, Sir Huon, and His Eminence; The Picket (American Derby and Brooklyn Handicap); Belmont Stakes winner Patron; Bright Phoebus (Lawrence Realization); and Counter Tenor (Metropolitan Handicap).