The second enduring story that came out of the 1970 Triple Crown is how irrational, unpredictable, and unexpectedly exciting racing can be.
The 1970 Kentucky Derby winner Dust Commander was not the best horse in the race. Viewed in terms of career accomplishments on the racetrack, conformation, pedigree, stud success, or whatever else, he was simply not the best horse. There were at least a half-dozen colts (My Dad George, High Echelon, Naskra, Personality, and Native Royalty) in the race who could beat him most any day, and hands-down the best sire was Naskra (fourth).
But the fact remains that the small chestnut son of Bold Commander won the Kentucky Derby by five lengths on a “good” track that only Dust Commander seemed to think was much good.
The colt’s only other major stakes victory came in the Blue Grass Stakes on a muddy track nine days before the Derby.
So Dust Commander is a lesson to all in racing: the best horse doesn’t always win, the surface makes a big difference, current form trumps career form on the day, and luck … well, luck is what makes you crazy.
Owner Robert Lehmann had the kind of luck that makes grown men shake their heads a little, and smile, a little. Such luck comes around and bestows its blessing. Lehmann’s Golden Chance Farm bought Dust Commander at the Keeneland fall yearling sale in 1968 for $6,500. That wasn’t a bad price at a sale that produced an average price of $4,671, and the colt earned $215,012 with eight victories from 42 starts.
When Dust Commander went to stud, he produced a pair of top-notch colts in Master Derby and Run Dusty Run — both for Lehmann. Dust Commander had been sold to the Japanese before his first runners came to the track, and once they had proven some merit, John Gaines paid a premium to repatriate the stallion and stand him at Gainesway.
Somewhere along the line, the luck must have rubbed off because Dust Commander never sired anything as good as Lehmann’s pair of good horses.
Luck is the stuff that makes you crazy.