churchill downs, dust commander, hill prince, horse of the year, kelso, Kentucky Derby, kentucky weather, middleground, mr trouble, muddy racetracks, predictability and unpredictability, sunglow, sword dancer, your host
In Kentucky in the spring, sometimes it rains. When the clouds dark tumult yields rain like we have seen in the past 12 hours, there is not much a track crew can do. Churchill Downs becomes a strange, muddy place, even on the first Saturday in May.
And sometimes the results in the Kentucky Derby are peculiar. While wondering about the additional variable of an off track, I also thought: “The results in the Derby are frequently not what I expect. So maybe mud doesn’t have that much to do with it.”
Among the less predictable outcomes were the 1970 running of the Derby, won by our little friend Dust Commander, and the 1994 running, won by Go for Gin.
But 60 years ago, they had squirrely weather at the Downs, and the order of finish in the Derby was: Middleground, Hill Prince, Mr. Trouble, Sunglow, with Your Host 9th as the favorite over Hill Prince. The first two finishers were the top classic colts of their crop, and Hill Prince (bred by Christopher Chenery and racing in his famous Meadow Stable silks) won Horse of the Year after an exciting year of racing.
At stud, the top two had some good days, but none of the top four had a better day than when Sunglow sired Horse of the Year Sword Dancer (1959). The colt who ran 9th, fast and courageous Your Host, had the greatest day of all: He sired Kelso, who was Horse of the Year five times.
You just never know where the great ones will come from.
For the record, Sword Dancer was second in the 1959 Derby when Bill Shoemaker rode one of best races to get Tomy Lee home first, and Kelso didn’t make it to the classics, yet became Horse of the Year with definitive victories through the second half of the year.