More than a century and a quarter ago and for decades following, the Kentucky Association racetrack in Lexington was the predecessor to Keeneland as the home track for the Bluegrass and its breeders and racehorse owners. Below is a contemporary race report of the 1888 Distillers’ Stakes, in which 1887 Kentucky Derby winner Montrose met 1888 Kentucky Derby winner Macbeth.
Lexington, Ky., May 7 – The Kentucky association spring meeting commenced today with an immense crowd in attendance. Twenty-two bookmakers are on the grounds and betting is lively. Five races are on the program, four stakes and one purse, making $4,000 additional money.
The second race on the card was the one of most interest, with Macbeth and Montrose both in the field. The Distillers’ Stakes, with $1,000 added, was run at 10 furlongs and was open to horses 3 and older. Starters for the Distillers’ Stakes were Nick Wilzer (113 pounds), Poten (113), Montrose (113), Insolence (113), Libretto (113), Macbeth (94), and Wary (113). The betting pools made Wary a strong favorite at $65 over Montrose ($35) and Macbeth ($25), with Poten and Todd ($20) each.
The race notes show:
They were sent away at the second attempt [from the barrier], with Wary in the lead, Macbeth second, Libretto third, and Insolence fourth. Passing the stand, Cooper sent Insolence to the front, with Libretto second and Montrose retired, the rest close up. At the quarter-mile, Insolence was leading by two lengths, and Montrose second and Libretto third. The pace now became faster, and as they dashed past the half, Montrose had the lead by a length. Libretto had moved up to second place with Montrose at Libretto’s saddle. The race was an open one at this point, and as they passed the three-quarters, they were all bunched still, and into the stretch they went with Libretto leading, Wary second, and Macbeth third.
In the dash to the finish of the 1888 stakes, Macbeth ran second in his prep for the next week’s Kentucky Derby, and Montrose was fourth.
In three subsequent meetings in June, July, and August of 1888, Montrose defeated Macbeth in each and won two: the Brewers’ and Distillers’ Stakes at Latonia and a handicap at Saratoga.