Belmont April 29

Glad to be back at Belmont. That Aqueduct meet was like being in the galley of a Roman ship for six months and finally emerging to see the sunlight. Now the fun begins.

Race 1      5-6-1

Beatle Boots was claimed by Abby Adsit and returned on the AQU main in a mile race where he didn’t disgrace himself. I think his figures look best and the drop to $20K should help.  Astron is a seven race maiden with a couple of second place finishes. No reason he couldn’t find his best stride today. Larry Boy has been competitive at this level and is eligible to get a piece.

Race 2      3-6

McQuaid is the typical multiple time starter finally dropping intp the MCL ranks. While his figures don’t dominate they are tops in the group. He gets a shot to win on the drop, but he won’t get my money at 8-5. El Grillo inherits the place spot after the scratches of 4 and 5. Should be pressing the issue early and may hang on in this limited group.

Race 3      8-5-9

Amber Moning is the best of the turf specialists and seems to be on the top of her form right now. Has a win on the BEL turf and that is a plus. Might be better at the spint distance. Lady Kreesa is 5 for 5 in the money at BEL Finished third last time she was in a sprint. Donk is effective off the layoff. Sweetpollypurebred may be an underdog (tweet if you got that) but she’s been with better state breds and looks best at the sprint distance.

Race 4      7-4-1

Bert Stone had no chance last out when his jockey lost his irons. He’s got good early foot and off his best he’s competitive with this group. Oh Billy Boy is another making a big drop. He’s suspect except he’s got DJ in his corner. Can’t ignore but can’t back him with gusto. Francis Freud goes first time with winners and off a short layoff. Nevin is effective with that move. Figures say competitive.

Race 5      1-5-6

Canzoni is coming from GP in pretty good shape. Pletcher trainee has some figs that would crush this field. If he shows up he’s tough to beat. Cleancut Kid is well bred for the turf and the distance. Conway and De Diego are 3 for 10 together. Worth a look at 8-1.  Bigger Picture is another with a decided preference for the turf and competitive numbers. Rice is decent off the layoff and definitely improved the horse by moving it to the turf.

Race 6      3-2-6

Jc’s Shooting Star ran a good race against Tricky Zippy first out. Moves up in distance but breeding suggests that shouldn’t be a problem. Donk is good 2nd time maiden, sprint to route and routes. Lots of positives. Mohawk Lily perked up dropping back in price and moving up in distance. She’s back at MSW today but she is fast enough to compete with this group. Summon the Spirit has been on the improve. A little dicey on the turf but Jerkens has been having a great 2015 and that might be enough to put her in the mix.

Race 7      4-7-6

A P Johnson has plenty of early foot and is experienced on the turf.  Her one win came on the BEL turf. Given Fire is another with front running ability and competitive figures. Lisa Lewis is decent off the layoff and the horse shows ability to win after a vacation. Barrier to Entry was wide last out and lost any real chance to win. He’s got a win at the distance and a win on the BEL turf. Interesting thought at 8-1 ML.

Race 8      9-7-11

Angela’s Dream was a three time winner in Europe but hasn’t quite gotten on track here. Still, she’s in condition and may take to the sweeping BEL turf.  Might be the value at 5-1 ML. Venus de Milo should be prompting the pace. Maker is great on the turf and off the layoff. Looks tough in here. Bartiromo has a penchant for the BEL turf. Barbara is good off the layoff with a limited sampling. Competitive off her best.

Kentucky Derby 2015

Let me be clear up front. There is certainly more than one horse that can win this race. Unfortunately, at least one of them is unlikely to be bettable based on value. This Derby, for my money, this is as good a field as has been assembled for a few years.

For years Dosage ruled when it came to Derby picks. It is currently considered passe, especially since we’ve had five or so winners that fell outside the ideal dosage parameters. I don’t find it unimportant – it’s a piece of data like a Beyer figure, and must be used for what it is worth. The fault, if there is one in the dosage number, is that it overestimates the sire and underestimates the dam. One thing still resonates for me when it comes to dosage and that is having points in one of the stamina categories.

Another key point is that the best Derby horses have the following characteristics:

  • ability to make a sustained run;
  • push-button speed. This means the ability to accelerate at will;
  • ratability. In other words, the ability to relax as needed;
  • battle-tested. In other words, races where the horse has had to show some heart and toughness.

You want a perfect combination of those characteristics – Secretariat. Watch his triple crown races.

Horses rarely are able to win pressing a fast pace – and don’t kid  yourself, the Derby usually has a fast pace – and the ones who have done it have been against poor fields. That would not describe this year’s Derby. If you believe a horse is likely to be up front early, that’s a good reason to toss him.

Finally, horses with a good ability to close are must use in the back holes.

Let’s go through each of the starters.

1.  Ocho Ocho Ocho – Won a G3 at Delta Downs and finished third in his prep in the Bluegrass. He has one chance from the one post – gun out of the gate. He’s shown no real ability to go to the front and stay, and it is highly unlikely he is an influence in this race. Win probability – 1%

2. Carpe Diem – of all the contenders, he was likely hurt most by the post position draw. He’s another one that will almost be forced to fire out of the gate to get his position, most likely expending some precious energy in doing so. For that reason, of all the horses he is the one that suffered most in my opinion. He is memorable for his second place finish in the BC juvenile, but let’s face it – his two wins this year in the Tampa Bay Derby and the Bluegrass were not scintillating. He’s a horse with talent, and Todd Pletcher in his corner is always worth noting,. I’ll use him, but with less gusto than two weeks ago. Win probability – 12%.

3. Materiality – this is perhaps the horse that has generated the most separation of opinion. There are those who see his Florida Derby as a massive victory, especially considering he vanquished Upstart in that race. There are those who still adhere to the “curse of Apollo” and diminish his chances because he does not have enough two year old foundation. The time between the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby is also of concern for a horse with so little foundation. I’m putting him in a secondary category. Win probability – 5%

4. Tencendur – he ran the race of his life in the Wood, but it was still not good enough. Given the assemblage of talent here, I can’t given him more than the nominal win probability – 1%

5. Danzig Moon – finished second to Carpe Diem in the Bluegrass. He really has little to recommend for me other than the potential to close. While I think he has no shot to win, I’ll probably have him in  a back hole. Win probability – 1%

6. Mubtaahij – My instinct tells me this horse has no real chance. Every year that a horse ships from Dubai someone thinks this could be the year, and this year is no different. Mubtaahij is thought to have faced better fields than previous runners, and while we know less about the dam side, he is bred to run all day on the sire side. He has a very low dosage and a stamina point. I’m not inclined to give him a high chance of winning, but he will be in the back holes in the exotics. Win probability – 5%

7. El Kabeir – did what you expect a good horse to do – beat the horses he is supposed to beat. While he started out as a front running sort, he switched styles to great effectiveness in the Gotham. The Wood, in my opinion, was a better than looked race. The pace was slow and El Kabeir looked very lazy in the early going. Once he got going though I thought he showed good ability. He’s not a win prospect, but he’s a must use in the back holes. Win probability – 5%

8. Dortmund – I can only think of one real knock on Dortmund – his three year old races were all won on the front end. That is not going to be successful in this Derby. If I could ask Baffert one question, it would be, how do you intend to run Dortmund? Otherwise, he’s brought the horse to the race in perfect form. He meets most of my criteria for a Derby horse, and more so than stable mate American Pharaoh, he has been tested in battle. Plus he has a win over the CD surface, and don’t discount the importance of that. If Dortmund lives up to his ability, he is a very dangerous horse. Win probability – 17%

9 Bolo – fast horse on the turf, an also ran in this race. He is in the group of horses that should have little to say in the outcome. Win probability – 1%

10. Firing Line – His claim to fame is a hard fought second to Dortmund in the R B Lewis. Truth be told, his walkover win in the Sunland Derby was not of much significance – he beat nothing in that race. He seems to be most likely to be part of the up front duel, which should compromise his chances. I’m going to be kind and give him a win probability – 5%

11. Stanford – He’s a Pletcher trainee and that is pretty much the best thing he has going for him. Win probability – 1%

12. International Star – He is a horse that looks like he improved enormously from 2 to 3 and he dominated the Louisiana preps. He has the style, but his breeding for the mile and a quarter is suspect. He’s a back holer for me. Win probability – 8%

13. Itsaknockout – Another where his biggest positive is Pletcher. He had no business being put up in the Fountain of Youth – in fact, neither he nor Upstart was going to win that race if Frosted didn’t flip his palate. I just can’t give the horse much more than the minimum chance. Win probability – 1%

14. Keen Ice – snuck in after a defection and you’d have thought a major injustice had been righted. I’m not seeing this horse having anything to say in the outcome. Win probability – 1%

15. Frosted – in my opinion, he is the horse with the highest win probability. Now, there is a little bit of faith involved in giving him the nod. He was beaten by Upstart in the Holy Bull and hit the wall in the Fountain of Youth. Was it lack of talent? Perhaps not. He was diagnosed with a common breathing problem, had corrective surgery and came back in the Wood to run a superb race. He has all the things you look for in the Derby horse -speed, stamina (he has a dosage point in the stamina category), and is almost certainly going to run to the best of his ability Saturday. Despite a slow pace in the Derby, he ran by Tencendur without being asked for his best. He is the one horse likely to be beat his odds and for me will be the win bet. Win probability – 18%

16. War Story – is coming out of the Louisiana Preps and looks up against it to me. Win probability – 1%

17. Mr. Z – one win in 12 starts. Enough said. He does not have the talent to beat this field. Win probability – 1%

18. American Pharaoh – whatever you thought might be his race strategy, once he got the 18 his strategies were limited. Most likely he’s going to bust to the front and run from there. He’s 5-2 on the ML. Why? He’s won his races easily, although the competition was limited. He has a bang up work at CD on Sunday, but if I had a dollar for every time Baffert worked a horse fast before a big race, I’d be basking in the dough. That work means Baffert horse more than super talent. He’s not well bred for the distance, so you’ll have to be a believer in the theory that he is a freak, likely to outrun that breeding. This horse is getting all the buzz, and there are plenty of strong opinions that he is the second coming of…California Chrome I guess. He’s a talented horse, but I’m playing the race that his breeding kicks in in the last eighth and he is at best slotted for a minor award. Win probability – 15%

19. Upstart – is a talented horse. The DQ in the FOY was criminal, but the loss to Materiality is of concern. The 19 post doesn’t help either. His breeding seems to suggest a preference for the middle distances. He just doesn’t have enough for me to make him a serious threat, but I’ll use him in some back holes. Win probability – 7%

20. Far Right – has the kind of closing kick that makes him a real in the money threat. He didn’t beat American Pharaoh in Arkansas, and has only beaten some of the lesser runners in here, but he’ll likely start slow, make his way through the field and try for a big run in the stretch. He’ll be in the back holes. Win probability – 8%

The throw-outs for me are Ocho Ocho Ocho, Tencendur, Bolo, Stanford, Itsaknockout, Keen Ice, War Story, and Mr. Z. The low-win, but in the money prospects are Materiality, Danzig Moon, Mubtaahij, El Kabeir, Firing Line, International Star, Upstart and Far Right. The second tier win prospects are Carpe Diem and Ameican Pharaoh. The likeliest winners in my opinion are Frosted and Dortmund.

And my win bet will be on Frosted.

Kellyn Gorder

Horseplayers can be a cynical group. A trainer gets tagged with a drug or medication violation and most often the reaction is a sarcastic, there-they-go-again. The propaganda machine that is the Water, Hay, Oats Alliance and the Association of Racing Commissioners International has done a good job of convincing the public that racing is overwhelmed with alchemists, determined to win using chemical means at all costs, or that unless horses run free of any medication the sport is tainted.

Let’s be bold and turn to the facts to better understand this “runaway drug use” in racing. A 2010 study commissioned by RCI found the following to be true:

  • There were 324,215 biological samples of blood and urine taken from race horses and tested by labs;
  • Less than one-half of one percent (0.493) came back with a drug or medication overage;
  • As hard as it may be to fathom, this was 20% fewer violations than in 2001;
  • Of the violations, 94% were for legal, therapeutic medications;
  • 47 of the 324, 215 samples tested (that’s 0.015 percent, or about once every 7,000 tests) came back positive for Class 1 or 2 substances, those drugs that are most serious when it comes to concerns about performance enhancement.
  • The study did not differentiate, but a certain percentage of the 47 positive tests were almost certainly due to either errors in administration of legal therapeutic medication, or environmental contamination. This isn’t an excuse. It’s the damn truth.
  • If you’re wondering how this compares to just a few years ago, in 2001 the number of violations for Class 1 and 2 substances were 60. This is despite the fact that new testing equipment can find the equivalent of not just a needle in a haystack, but a needle in all the hay grown in Kansas.
  • Violations of the target drug for WHOA, Lasix, stood at 36 out of 324,215 samples, a 33% reduction from violations in 2001.

If these numbers indicate a crisis in racing, I’d hate to see the reactions if the number of violations hit one percent.

Things have changed a bit since the 2010 study. ARCI is finding more drugs to control, including cobalt. They are urging the absolutely absurd adoption of zero-tolerance standards for known and commonly used therapeutic medications. They have even better mass spectrometers that can find amounts of substances so small they are incomprehensible to the average human sense of proportion.

If you want to look at the bright side of things, the number of violations for real, performance-enhancing substances hardly rises to the level of “the sky is falling.” It is a clear demonstration that trainers are not trying to win through cheating and that the testing programs in place are working.

The idea that some imagined rampant drug use by trainers is why people are staying away in droves is nothing more than finger pointing by unqualified racing commissions and those who have declared a fatwa on any drug use, including therapeutics. It is as much the adoption of unmeetable standards by RCI that guarantees positives at levels that have no relation to performance enhancement and their relentless crowing about nailing trainers who are sincerely trying to comply and are good and caring horsemen. It is their failure to find and harshly penalize the real cheats. It is some poorly conceived idea that the racetrack chemists are hard at work designing undectable boutique drugs and that trainers are clamoring for more and more of them.

We’re not idiots. Of course there are cheats, and I imagine there are drugs that are one step ahead of the testing protocols, but I want to know. Where are the labs making the drugs? Why is racing not spending money finding these Breaking Bad actors and shutting them down? How many veterinarians are willing to lose their livelihood just to make a few extra bucks injecting horses with secret potions? Are you telling me that lab equipment that can detect picogram (trillionth of a gram) level amounts of over 1800 compounds is getting regularly fooled by amateur chemists compounding drugs in their garage? Is that the story we’re supposed to believe?

How many Balcos were there in the United States, and how long did it take for the FBI to eventually felonize them once they put their minds to the task? It is not particularly easy to compound completely undetectable medications, and to suggest it is rampantly occurring is at best an indefensible distortion of reality. It is a few trainers and a few home chemists that are the bad guys, and just like baseball if we make a modest effort we’ll find them and shut them down.

But it is the governors of the sport who create the perception of rampant cheating far beyond the reality of actual cheating. Call it job security, or public relations if you want. If you consider the violations of only performance enhancing drugs and not legitimate, therapeutic medications, as RCI’s own numbers show, the number of starts per violation is an incredibly low number. It is a problem equivalent to the current problem ebola represents in the United States. Lots of fanfare and arm-waving, two cases total.

The anti-drug people cite spurious statistics like, the number of starters per race has decreased since Lasix and Bute became ubiquitous. Yes, and the number of foals born per year has dropped by two-thirds. Now which do you think might be more likely the explanation for lower numbers of starters per race?

Facts have taken a back seat to opinion in a world where science has never been so capable of explaining things. I was watching a piece on some of the anti-GMO folks who believe modified vegetables can put holes in our cells. The actual scientific community finds that idea completely incomprehensible. All but about three scientists in the world believe climate change is in some significant part due to human activity. Medical science tells us that while nothing is 100% guaranteed safe, vaccines come pretty close to that standard, and the likelihood that they cause autism is so miniscule it’s laughable to consider it. But instead of arguing the facts, we argue about philosophy or anecdote or undocumented opinion. We give serious TV time to someone who would walk onto the floor of the Senate with a snowball to “prove” the earth is not warming. Even if you don’t buy the global climate change science, you have to be smart enough to recognize a snowball in winter is proof of nothing more than it still snows in winter in the northeast, and that isn’t going to change unless the tilt of the earth’s axis changes.

I apologize for the long intro, but all this leads to the case of Kellyn Gorder. Gorder is considered an excellent horseman, and until the fisaco in Kentucky, a guy that has an almost unblemished record for medication violations. In 2013 he had a positive for Clenbuterol, a drug for which many of the top trainers in the sport have been dinged. That’s it in close to tens years of having a trainer’s license

On November 22, 2014, he ran a horse called Bourbon Warfare in a maiden race at Churchill Downs. The horse won and was routinely tested. Gorder was notified a month later that the test came back positive for methamphetamine, a Class A substance and a zero-tolerance drug. The initial level was 57 picograms, and the confirmatory test came back at 48 picograms.

I’ve talked about picograms before, but just to refresh everyone’s understanding, a 3cc dose of a substance would contain about 215,000,000 picograms. I asked Dr. Steven
Barker at LSU for the significance of 48 picograms of meth and he said, “48 picograms of meth isn’t enough to get a flea high.” Whatever the actual amount of meth needed to get a flea high, Dr. Barker’s statement is clearly indicative that the amount of the drug in Bourbon Warfare’s system would have zero impact on the horse’s running time. In fact, if the 48 picograms was indicative of anything, it was that the most likely source of the meth was an environmental contamination.

The table shown here says that the therapeutic value (the level at which we would see a physiological effect) is 200 times greater than the level in Bourbon Warfare’s blood.

Bourbon Warfare was stabled at Keeneland in Barn 72. Gorder’s primary barn is 74, but because of space limitations, Barn 72 houses some of the overflow horses. Barn 72 is also used by a handful of smaller trainers, those with 4-6 horse stables. In other words, Gorder was not in as absolute control of the activities in Barn 72 as he was in Barn 74, but even putting that aside, Barn 74 had significance once the meth positive was reported.

Bourbon Warfare was shipped to Churchill for the race and housed in Barn 42. She was returned to Keenland after the race.

After the meth positive, the Kentucky stewards conducted an inspection of Barn 74 at Keeneland and turned up syringes and unlabeled, but legal, medications, but no sign of meth. Gorder explained the syringes were used to treat a horse with antibiotics using a nebulizer and he failed to dispose of them after the treatment was finished, a story that was backed up by his vet. Regardless, the syringes were still considered illegal and the unlabled medication was also a regulatory violation. Gorder has no dispute with those violations or the punishment assigned for them.

I asked Gorder if the inspectors took any samples that might confirm environmental contamination. To the best of his knowledge, he said they took no samples. I asked if they sampled the stall Bourbon Warfare occupied in Barn 72. He said to the best of his knowledge, they never inspected Barn 72. I asked if the people from the transport company were questioned or the transport vehicle tested. Again, no. I asked if Barn 42 at Churchill was inspected. Not that he was aware. I asked if Keeneland or Churchill had video surveillance in place. No to both.

Gorder tested 33 of his employees. All were clean for meth use.

Gorder can, at best, be described as stunned. Like many of the trainers I have spoken with, he feels betrayed by the sport to which he has devoted many of his waking hours for years. Horsemen rise with the sun and toil until after it sets, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. They are in this game out of love for the horses and love of the game, and Gorder is no exception. If there is an upside for Gorder, it is that he has received almost universal support from his owners and other horsemen, people who have recognized him as the competent, caring horseman he is.

Still, that cannot compensate for being labeled a cheater. It cannot make up for the loss of his reputation in the eyes of the public. Gorder understands the seriousness of the situation. “It’s a serious, serious situation,” he said. “Fourteen months. You’re talking about starting over. The clenbuterol was a wake-up call for me and I really tried to tighten the operation, then this happens. It’s very disheartening.”

The ruling of the stewards has farther reaching impacts. 33 stable personnel – grooms, hotwalkers and exercise riders among others –  will lose their jobs along with Gorder.

Like most of these cases, the judgment of the stewards is based on nothing beyond the fact that some level above zero for a banned substance was found. Did they research the potential for environmental contamination? (For example, studies have shown that upwards of 90% of the paper money in circulation is contaminated with cocaine, which is why the feds have de minimis levels for a cocaine positive. If this were horseracing, pretty close to 100% of racetrack bettors would show a positive level at picograms for coke.) Did they even try to understand the mechanism by which it occurred? Did they thoroughly investigate the other places where the horse was housed, or the other people who handled her? Did they look at the jockey? The person handling the sample in the testing barn? The person in the lab handling the sample? Did they consider the performance enhancing effect of 48 picograms? Did they consider when a horse might have had to have been actually dosed with methamphetamine to have a residual of 48 picograms? Did they ask themselves why someone would dose a horse and then wait until it had cleared out of its system before running it if they were looking for a chemical edge? Did they feel any responsibility for not having better security in place?  No to all of this, and yet at any point between Barn 72 and the lab the horse or the sample could have been contaminated. It’s not as if meth is a rare substance. They didn’t even bother to ask the question.

The overriding question state legislatures need to ask themselves is, when you gave the racing commission the power to oversee the sport, did you mean that they should promulgate rules that are as likely to punish the innocent as the guilty? Was it your intention to rid the sport of the good guys in some misguided zeal to find the bad guys? Have you really helped horseracing to prosper by sending the message to good, honest horsemen that at any time you could lose your livelihood? Are you really happy with how this sport is being managed?

Let’s be realistic. Racing commissions are being pushed by various groups to adopt standards where they have no idea what unintended consequences will occur. Snaring a few dolphins is a small price to pay to grab the tuna.

There is no piece of hard evidence that would convince any rational thinking person that Kellyn Gorder cheated to win a race. On the other hand, there are piles of real and circumstantial evidence leading to the conclusion that cross-contamination is the likeliest explanation for a 48 picogram positive.

The Kentucky Racing Commission still has the chance to do the right thing. Not just for Kellyn Gorder. For horseracing too.

Aqueduct April 26

No analysis today. Too much time spent getting ready for the radio show. And I’m supposed to “work” today at the golf course.

Race 1      4-1-3

Race 2      1-9-4

Race 3      3-5-2

Race 4      3-5-2

Race 5      7-3-2

Race 6      3-6-7

Race 7      5-2-7

Race 8      6-10-5

Race 9      8-3-9

Race 10    7-2-9

Aqueduct April 25

Race 1      2-6-3

Barrister Jim is a versatile horse, winning at the mid-distances as well as routes. He’s on a four race win streak, although the last race in the streak was almost a year ago. That’s not a great sign but he’s won fresh previously. Figures to be the speed and if he’s right, he’s the dominant horse. Chief Energy has been sliding down the claiming ladder but was only a length behind Percussion in his last. Given the odds difference, I’ll give the 6 a long look. Percussion hasn’t won a race in quite a while but he was good enough to finish third in last year’s Excelsior. He should be tracking the favorite and if that one falters he may have first run.

Race 2      2-8-6

Splendid Gold is not particularly well bred for the turf, but almost won his debut race on the green in an impressive time. If he takes to the AQU dirt he’ll be hard to beat. Magical Miss is the 8-5 ML favorite, and as far as I can tell the reasons are that she stumbled badly at the break first out and never had a chance. On the other hand she was almost 10-1 in that debut which means the crowd didn’t think she was a world beater. She may wind up being the best, but the odds aren’t going to be attractive. Zippa Tequila has three starts and all the races have been creditable. She lost by a nose with Irad in the irons and he is back aboard today. Good enough for me.

Race 3      6-9-3

This is a tough time of the year to handicap turf races since a lot of horses are coming off winter dirt races or long vacations. I’m going to favor horses that have shown some ability on the turf in their career. Despite the shaky connections, I’m taking a flyer with longshot Tree Fire. He had a couple of good races on the turf at a higher level at BEL last year, and you’ll notice he primarily ran his turf races without blinkers. A bit chancey, but at 12-1 he’ll get a look from me. Imawarrior was close last year at this level and has a useful series of breezes for his return. Hiddenite should be the pacesetter and has a little bit of condition due to his races on the inner.

Race 4      1-2-5

Salisbury Knight has the best last race number and figures off the drop in price. Empower is going first off the claim for Danny Gargan who has been having a mind-boggling 2015. No reason the horse can’t repeat. Can’t Catch Me Now always runs close and figures to pick up some of the pieces.

Race 5      8-5-6

Adirondack Posse has two strong races on the turf and based on his figures is the fastest horse in the race. Saez is having a good spring meet at AQU. Ack Feisty goes first time for Chad Brown. Brown is exceptional with first time turfers at a route distance and the workouts suggest the horse is ready for the big time. Raffles Bay has been working at breaking his maiden for a while, but off his best his figures say competitive. Worth a look at the long price.

Race 6      7-3-2

Bet the Power ran a very useful conditioning race two weeks ago after being off nine months. Switches to the hot apprentice Cruz for this trip and makes a significant drop in price. Could get back on the winning track here. Candyman E is about 30% lifetime wins and has been with much better in the recent past. Off his best he’s as fast as any horse in the race.  Carolinian is the best early speed in the race and it’s just a question of how far he will take it.

Race 7      3-10-1

Very tough turf race, made tougher by the fact that I’m not enamored with the ML favorites. Mr Rosenthal is 20-1 on the ML. Admittedly he is a little suspect as he approaches the wire, but he will be with the front runners and his single win last year came off a long layoff. Not a stickout top choice, but not one to ignore either. With Exultation is another that looked good first off the layoff, and Trombetta is good with that move. He always gives a good effort and the competent Jose Ortiz takes the mount. Blue Pigeon gets the final nod. He always seems to be in the mix at the end and while his numbers aren’t as high as some, they are consistent. Clement in your corner is a big positive.

Race 8      7-6-2

The Excelsior marks the return of the well-regarded Wicked Strong. He is the “name” horse in the race and will likely be every bit of his even money ML. He was beaten in his first race of the year at GP in a Grade 2 but ran creditably. With some impovement second time on the track, there is every reason to expect him to win. Red Rifle has been keeping graded company lately and is 1 for 1 at the mile and a quarter distance. At 10-1 he may be one of the value runners. Effinex should have no problem getting the mile and a quarter and has some current condition. Another longshot with better chances than his odds suggest.

Race 9      10-6-8

Killer Crossover never took to the GP turf and was gelded since his last. He drops in price and and looks to duplicate his turf runs from last year. The mild choice. With Expression should be up with the leaders and has consistent turf numbers. Competitive off his best. Frogman Mel should be running in the stretch and could snag a piece.

Aqueduct April 23

Race 1      1-4

Storied Tale goes for Wesley Ward who is lights out with youngsters. If he lives up to his early billing he should win the race. Usually the one post is difficult for young horses, so her success may hinge on her ability to get out. La Nina has a great set of works for her debut and Storm Cat’s can be precocious.

Race 2      6-3-2

Rivetto has been with better in the recent past and his last race was his best in a while. A similar run today gives him a big chance to win. Larrytheeducator comes out of the same race as Rivetto. He’s run consistent figures and should be the one running at the end. Charitable ran a good one last out and Jason Servis has been hot in 2015. Looks primed for his best effort.

Race 3      5-2-6

Consumer Credit won a G3 at Gulfstreat in January and finished a close second in the Florida Oaks. The class of this group. Pine Needles won his first two for Clement and comes into this one off a short rest. Nice maintenance works for the debut in NY. Colour Party ships over from Ireland, gets Lasix (of course) for his stateside debut. Clement is out of sight with Euro shippers.

Race 4      4-6-7

This race has no standout. Rambam perked up when moved to the main and should be in a good stalking position. To Erin Again has been close his last two and should be the speed of the field. Hung in the mud last out, but with a better track he may have a say at the wire. S S Dixie should appreciate the cutback in distance and looks like he is peaking on his form cycle..

Race 5      6-8-9

William’sluckygray scratched out of an event yesterday to go in this spot, now off the turf. Has the best early speed in the group and competitive numbers. Despite the 1 for 19 record, I’m willing to give him a shot. Knacque looks like a turf horse, but has a wet track win on the dirt. Looks to be in shape and considering he was an MTO I’d have to think she was well meant if the race switched to the dirt. Fiery Cat just broke her maiden on a sloppy track and looks competitive for the first time with winners.

Race 6      9-1A-8

Be Bullish drops down to a $25K claimer after beating a slightly more expensive field. Steady series of works for this one and best last out figure. The RuRod entry both show high early speed so it would make sense to scratch one. Still, either is going to be a front running factor. Carolinian looked to be the better of the two, but The Big Deluxe has had plenty of success with better than these. Smokem’s Charm drops down for Charlton Baker. He’s been running consistently and has a good shot against these.

Race 7      3-7-4 (1)

Beyond the Green certainly has the name to be a winner here. He goes with winners for the first time but based on the figures he should prosper at the higher level. Swivel raced well first out against winners and should be rolling in the stretch. Bullheaded Boy has been with much better and should be competitive here. The MTO Fleeting makes it into the race and has the best numbers in the field. A real danger on the dirt.

Race 8      6-5-7

Accomplish First looks for four in a row, although the first three were 10 months ago. Dilger has been super bringing horses back off the long layoff and the horse has shown he can win off the vacation. Here’s Zealicious is 11 for 28 lifetime although lately he’s been having some trouble finding the winners circle. Still, he fits well and has competitive numbers. Bar of Gold looks for his third in a row but would have to improve some to beat this field.

Race 9      2-5-6

Devilish Grin gets fist Lasix and should benefit from the switch to Cruz. Wild Ham should like the distance and is improving each race. Kerry Boy obviously didn’t care for the mud and he’s a little bit of a stab, but the works say he is better than he showed last out. Worth a flyer perhaps.

Aqueduct April 22

Race 1      2-6-3

Call for the Clock is dropping from starter allowance to an open claimer. He’s 2 for 4 on the AQU main and 3 of 8 at the distance. Jacobson claimed the horse two back and he is usually shrewd about placing them where they can win. Cousin Michael has been routing for a while. He has had great success at this distance and on the AQU main, and has the figures to take this event. Bambisfrostyracer returns at the level where he had success last out should be in a good striking position turning for home.

Race 2      2-7-1

Glickman is the speed of the race and if he doesn’t break down he’s a high probability to wire the field. Love to Run should be pressing and can benefit if Glickman doesn’t run his race. Grandpa Len looks for two in a row and is another than can benefit if Glickman falters.

Race 3      1-6-3

Golden Itiz makes his third start for Nevin and drops into a much more comfortable spot today. Risk Management is double digit odds on the ML but has the figures to pull an upset here. Regulus drops down a few levels today; has beaten better in the recent past.

Race 4      6-9-2

This is a complete mess of a race so I’ll go with Theresa’s Candyrose. She has the best turf figures and with only five starts is eligible to improver. Traipse in Utopia takes a big drop, has some turf experience, and turf numbers that should put him in the mix. Gimme Jimmy goes first time with winners and should be in a good striking position entering the stretch.

Race 5      4-2-5

Lietenant Seany O was taken by Linda Rice last out and should be comfortable at this level. Last race was his best in a while. Mr. Palmer is another taking a healthy drop. His best figures would top this field but he hasn’t been at his best for a while. Still, have to respect. Tizmas raced well after the grab by Servis and fits well in this group.

Race 6      9-4-1

Another race where it seems like there is guesswork involved. Sakonnet Point has turf experience and the best numbers by far. She’s All Even hasn’t been on the turf but should be the front runner here and is well bred for the distance. Unspoken showed a bit of early foot last out before fading badly in a sprint, but she is actually better bred for the turf and the route distance. Worth a look at a pice.

Race 7      4-6-5

Jersey’s Kittens raced well first time with winners and has been working very well at Fair Hill.  Midnight Champagne should be the speed with the scratch of the 3 and has a the numbers to hold off the closers. Jilly Mac also ran well first time out with winners and fits with this group.

Race 8      2-3-6

Coltimus Prime was racing with Graded runners last year and settles with a much more comfortable bunch today, Coach Inge gets a positive switch to Velasquez and should be the pacesetter. Good enough figures to compete here. Bemata has the best closing kick and will be coming hard at the end.

Race 9      4-7-2

Gregg’s Beauty showed good early speed last out and should improve today. Myrtlerose has improved in both her starts and looks good in this field. Imposseble Dream was squeezed and steadied at the start last race but still showed interest. Improvement possible at a price.

Mollie and Tenbrooks

This is an original story I researched and wrote a while ago. I sent it to the Blood Horse for publication and they agreed to publish it. Unfortunately, they only offered me $100 for the piece. I turned it down. So instead of publishing it for $100 and letting thousands read it, I’m publishing it for free for maybe dozens to read. Given that, I’m asking that if you read it, pass it along so that it gets as wide a distribution as possible.

Mollie and Tenbrooks

By Rich Halvey

“Run O Molly run, run O Molly run

Tenbrooks gonna beat you to the bright shinin’ sun.

To the bright shinin’ sun, O Lord, to the bright shinin’ sun”

All things considered, 1878 was not history’s most exciting year. Thomas Alva Edison patented the phonograph, prompting the first known occurrence of a parent saying, “You call that music? In my day, we had real music!” Who can forget that 1878 was one of the numerous years when Greece declared war on Turkey. It was also the year of the first of three assassination attempts on Italian king Umberto I; the anarchists may not have been great shots, but they were persistent.

And, oh yeah, it was the year of the Mollie McCarthy/Ten Broeck match race.

In 1878 three sports captured the imagination of the American public. Horse racing dominated the sporting news of the time, exploding in popularity through the last half of the 1800’s until by 1890 there were 314 tracks in operation. Boxing was a distant second followed by the growing sport of baseball. Football was popular on college campuses, but the formation of professional teams with paid players was over two decades away, and nearly half a century from becoming the respectable National Football League. Basketball would not even be invented until 1891. Horse racing all but stood alone atop the 19th century sports world.

The 1870s were a time of change in American racing. Up until that decade, most racing consisted of horses going long distances two- to five-times in a day. The famous 1823 race between American Eclipse and Henry, so beautifully chronicled by John Eisenberg in his book The Great Match Race, was typical of the time, with the horses having to win two-out-of-three four-mile heats. By the middle of the century, horses such as Lexington, perhaps the greatest of the so-called four-milers, were heroes on the track and favorites in the breeding shed.

While the English had all but abandoned the multiple-heat, long-distance race by 1870 in favor of single-heat “sprint” races, change was more gradual in America. Still, the movement toward what we today think of as the prototypical racehorse—fast-breaking and hard-running—was inexorable and irresistible. By 1880, the era of the four-milers was over, and racing took the shape modern fans would recognize.


The track we know today as Churchill Downs was the brainchild of Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., nicknamed Lutie, grandson of the former Missouri governor and famed explorer General William Clark and the great nephew of Louisville founder George Rogers Clark. When his father, Meriwether Lewis Clark, Sr., married Abigail Prather Churchill, the Clark’s gained a connection to one of Kentucky’s first families.

Armistead Churchill, Jr. brought his family to Louisville in 1787, in the process changing the family name from Churchhill to the current well known spelling. He purchased 300 acres of land, part of which included the grounds on which Churchill Downs now sits.

Lutie Clark was only six when his mother died and his bereaved father sent him to live with his aunt and her two sons, John and Henry Churchill, holders of most of the original Churchill property. It was during his time with the Churchills that Lutie developed a taste for custom made suits, good food, and of course horse racing.

By his mid-twenties, Lutie Clark’s love of excess showed both in his physical girth and his personality. He was described as a great mustachioed bear of a man, arrogant, quarrelsome and quick-tempered, traits that would eventually cost him his friends, family and the track he helped start.

In 1873 the 27 year-old Clark returned from a trip to Europe with grand ideas about how to build a racetrack and eliminate the traditional bookmaker in favor of French pari-mutuel (literally “betting between the patrons”) machines. The idea behind pari-mutuel betting was ingenious. Rather than the track or the bookmaker accepting the full risk of a wager, the track would simply act as the “broker,” essentially creating a betting pool of wagers and distributing payoffs to the winners for a fixed fee per wager. In this way the patrons would decide the “odds” of each entrant and the track was completely removed from any financial interest in the outcome. Whether the favorite or the longest shot won the race, the track collected exactly the same amount of money. In theory, this gave them a powerful incentive to maintain the integrity of racing.

Unfortunately, despite Clark’s best efforts, the French machines never caught on. It would be decades before the mechanical version of the automated tote machine fully replaced the on-track auction pools and bookmakers. As was indicative of the time, living, breathing beings (like men and horses) were almost always trusted more than cold, heartless machines, even if those living beings were bookmakers—remember the famous tale of John Henry from the 1800s in which a legendary steel driver outperformed a steam-powered hammer?

With the backing and land donation of the Churchills, Lutie got the track built, and on May 17, 1875, the Louisville Jockey Club and Driving Park Association opened its doors to the public. During the spring and fall the facility was to be devoted to racing, while the rest of the year it was available for carriage riding, hence the Driving Park Association part of the name.

The Churchills happily allowed Lutie Clark to manage the racetrack and in the early years the track did reasonably well, although never turning a profit. Lutie flung himself into his racetrack endeavors to the point of obsession, but the irascible and overly opinionated Clark managed to alienate almost everyone he came in contact with, from the horsemen to the press to each member of his family, one by one. In one well-known incident, Clark refused the prominent breeder, T.G. Moore permission to race at the track, claiming Moore was behind on the payment of entry fees. Moore demanded an apology, Clark refused, and when Moore would not leave the premises, Clark drew a gun on him and ordered him off. Moore left but only to get a gun and shoot Clark through his office door, hitting Clark in the chest but not wounding him mortally. As the years went on there were more and more stories of Lutie Clark’s embarrassments, eventually using up all the patience left in John and Henry Churchill.

The story of how the track came to be known as Churchill Downs also lay in the contempt generated for Lutie. Many locals called the track “Churchill’s downs” as a way of reminding Lutie who was really in control of the track. It became known informally as Churchill Downs in 1883, when reporters picked up on the name. Within a few years, everyone referred to the track as Churchill Downs, but it wasn’t until 1937 that the facility was formally incorporated with that name.

Lutie Clark’s original plan was to hold three major races each year modeled after the Epsom Derby, the Oaks and the St. Ledger Stakes. The three races would be called the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks, still run on the Friday before the Derby, and the eponymously named Clark Stakes, still run during the fall meet at Churchill. While the Kentucky Derby was one of four races carded for that first race day in May (although not the first Saturday), two other races probably provided more of a draw for the 12,000 in attendance: the Louisville Cup and the Gentleman’s Cup Race. Clark’s honored guests watched the races from the clubhouse, sipping mint juleps (a drink often reported as being invented by Lutie Clark) and listening to Strauss waltzes.

In 1875, top-flight 3-year-old racing was considered something of a novelty, and it would be years before the Kentucky Derby would attain status as America’s premier horse race. Still, when the fine racehorse Aristides beat fourteen other 3-year-olds to win the mile-and-a-half Derby in record time, the crowd was appropriately enthusiastic.

Despite a popular desire to assume that the impact of the Derby on American racing was large from its first running, it was not the early Derbys that certified Churchill Downs as one of the elite tracks in America. That would come three years later on July 4, 1878, when Ten Broeck, a horse that had finished fifth behind Aristides in the inaugural Derby, met Mollie McCarthy (sometimes spelled as McCarty) in one of the very last of the four-mile marathons.


Ten Broeck was a regally bred bay stallion by the British import sire Phaeton (who was by Baron de Rothschild’s well-known stallion King Tom) out of the mare Fanny Holton. A look at Fanny Holton’s pedigree reveals not only the prepotent sire Lexington, but also the eventually memorialized Henry, the loser of the “Great Match Race.” Fanny Holton is generally recognized as one of Lexington’s most influential daughters.

Ten Broeck was a useful horse at age three, having defeated Aristides in the Phoenix Stakes before faltering in the Derby. That year, he won five of nine races. By the time Ten Broeck turned four, he had become an eye-catching racehorse off the track and a superstar on the track. In 1876, Ten Broeck won seven of the eight races he entered and established a new record for the four-mile distance. Next year, at the age of five, he won nine of the ten events he entered, with his only defeat coming at the hands of Hall of Fame horse Parole (owned by tobacco king Pierre Lorillard) in the Baltimore Special at Pimlico. This race also featured one of Lexington’s last sons—Tom Ochiltree, the 1875 Preakness winner—and was somewhat artificially billed as a battle of East versus West, even though all three horses were Eastern-bred. In an action that would be unbelievable today, Congress actually adjourned to allow the Senators and Congressmen to attend the event.

After Ten Broeck’s 5-year-old season, his owner, Frank Harper, considered retiring him to stud duty. After all, he had no equal in the best two-of-three four-mile heats. Fortunately for racing, and especially Churchill Downs, Harper chose to give Ten Broeck two more races in 1878. One would be the famous match race against Mollie McCarthy.


The true history and pedigree of Mollie McCarthy is difficult to track due to the great number of fillies and mares of the same name around that time. Most accounts have her foaled in 1873, making her a year younger than Ten Broeck. While some sources suggest Mollie was bred in Tennessee, she was almost certainly born in California, the certain daughter of the top California broodmare Hennie Farrow and the likely daughter of the stallion Monday (a son of Colton that was a lesser son of Lexington). Mollie McCarthy’s breeder, Adolph Maillard, had brought Hennie Farrow, Monday, and a sire named Young Eclipse, originally purchased by Richard Ten Broeck, to California. In 1873, all of these horses were firmly entrenched in Marin County California.

Mollie quickly established herself as a top-flight racehorse. She won her only start as a 2-year-old and six consecutive races throughout her 3-year-old season. She continued defeating all comers during her 4-year-old season, winning five more races. When she defeated a horse named Jake at the start of her 5-year-old campaign, despite conceding fourteen pounds, it became clear that there were no horses left in California to beat. Mollie’s owner, Theodore Winters, sold her to Lucky Baldwin, who decided it was time for Mollie to head East to take on the horse considered the best in training—Ten Broeck.


Elias Jackson Baldwin left his mark all over California. He was swept to California in 1853, like thousands of others in search of gold. He survived losing his way and Indian attacks and finally arrived in San Francisco with little more than the rags on his back. Once he arrived he realized his fortune lay in selling food, supplies and accommodations, not panning Sutter’s Creek. Seven years later he entered the realm of the truly wealthy by playing the volatile silver market in Nevada.

Although Baldwin always seemed to live a charmed existence, by most accounts he earned the moniker “Lucky” a few years after cashing in on the Comstock lode. He left San Francisco to hunt elephants in India, instructing his broker to sell his stocks if they fell below a certain level. The stocks fell, but his broker did not have access to the certificates in his safe and they were never sold. Soon after, the stocks rebounded and Baldwin reaped a multi-million dollar windfall. Baldwin’s good fortune made him one of the richest men in California, and in 1875 he moved to Southern California, purchasing Rancho Santa Anita in the San Gabriel Valley for the extraordinary price of $200,000, and three years later the undefeated Mollie McCarthy.

For a while Baldwin’s luck continued and his wealth grew. Rancho Santa Anita became a showpiece featuring high quality thoroughbreds, eventually including three Kentucky Derby winners. Over time he subdivided the property, creating the communities of Arcadia (where Santa Anita Race Track is located), Sierra Madre, and Monrovia.


Despite its early success, Churchill Downs had not yet achieved the status of some of the more famous tracks in New York and Maryland, and Lutie Clark was looking for an opportunity to add Churchill to the short list of elite racing places.

Frank Harper apparently could not bear the thought of retiring Ten Broeck to stud so soon and had already raced him earlier in the year. Lutie Clark knew that Ten Broeck was still the biggest draw in racing and approached Harper about one more race with an undefeated mare from California. Since Ten Broeck had no real competition left in the east, Harper jumped at the chance. Lucky Baldwin had already committed to move Mollie McCarthy eastward, and Lutie Clark quickly convinced Baldwin that by meeting Ten Broeck he would be part of the “race of the century.” Each side agreed to put up $5,000, an amount that would be worth about $125,000 today. On April 3, 1878, The New York Times published a small piece on the upcoming race:

“Col. M. Lewis Clark, Jr., President of the Louisville Jockey Club, has perfected arrangements by which Ten Broeck and Mollie McCarthy are to run four-mile heats at Louisville, July 4 next, for the sum of $10,000. Two or three other races will be given at the same time. The owner of Mollie McCarthy thinks she can beat any horse in the country. The mare will be brought from California to Louisville in Budd Doble’s car, which has been chartered for the round trip, and will probably arrive here about the first of May to prepare for the contest. Ten Broeck was never in better condition than at present.”

On that same train were a thousand Californians with their life savings in their pockets, determined to match every dollar the Kentuckians wished to put up on their champion.

Despite a tendency then, just as now, to overhype major sporting events, the Ten Broeck/Mollie McCarthy race had every right to be considered one of the two or three “races of the century.” It was the marquee event of the biggest sport in the country, and had all of the elements of drama a major event demands: the veteran Eastern horse, a champion in every respect, versus an undefeated mare with a larger-than-life owner from upstart California. Long before the Seabiscuit/War Admiral race was hyped as racing royalty against the common horse, Ten Broeck and Mollie McCarthy represented that scenario. And while it may not have been clear to everyone at the time, this match race turned out to be the last of the great four-mile events. It was the end of an era.


The event was as eagerly anticipated as any contest of the time could have been. Lutie Clark and the Churchills managed to arrange the event that would turn the track into the home of the greatest racehorse of the day, or at least that day.

On July 4, the weather was typically Southern, sunny, hot and humid. However, rain the day before had turned the track heavy and sticky. The writer L.S. Hardin described the track this way.

It rained torrents for hours the night before the race. When I reached the track the next morning, about 9 o’clock, the course looked as though it had been prepared for aquatic sports. As the track sloped to the rail, it was at that point, of course, deeper in water than farther out, where it was higher. The sun was so hot that horses standing idle in the field were wet with perspiration. This heat dried the track rapidly, but still left it about impossible for a horse to run, on an average, closer than six feet from the rail.”

People started arriving at the track early in the morning, and the heavy stream of patrons did not abate until well after the first race of the day. The New York Times described the streets as “well-nigh impassable.” Still, that many people for a sporting event in 1878 was phenomenal and clearly pointed to the importance of the race. It was among the largest crowds ever to attend a single sporting event up to that date.

Train travel in the 1800s was generally arduous, especially along the transcontinental line that had been completed only a short nine years earlier. Despite Mollie’s fine accommodations, the trip was sure to take something out of her.

When it was time for the first heat, Mollie, the challenger, made the first appearance, still covered in her white sheet. L.S. Hardin described her as “in perfect flesh for a long run,” although other accounts more precisely suggested she was carrying some excess flesh. Her connections dismissed that as a concern, indicating she ran better with some weight to spare. Hardin also mentioned Mollie was moving “awkwardly” with her hind legs, hinting at some lack of racing condition, a natural suspicion after such a lengthy train trip. With the help of the Californians in attendance, she was given a “fair round of applause.”

Ten Broeck emerged on the opposite side of the track from Mollie and was given thunderous recognition. Ten Broeck stripped his covering first and immediately provided an animated display of readiness. A much later account of the race suggested that Ten Broeck was sweaty and glassy-eyed, evidence that he had been drugged. However, by most accounts he was described as fit and well-conditioned. Hardin proclaimed him in “perfect condition for a long race.”

Ten Broeck’s regular rider was an ex-slave named William Walker. In the 1800s, most of the best jockeys were African-American, and Walker was among the best of them all. He rode Baden Baden to victory in the 1877 Derby and was five times the leading rider at Churchill Downs. He was, by all accounts, a gentleman in every respect and a perfect match for Ten Broeck.

Although the race was scheduled as a best two-out-of-three, most newspaper reports only describe one heat. Newspaper accounts of the time were a combination of the facts along with the embellishments of the turf writers who could turn a walkover into a race of riveting excitement. The accounts of the heat reflected this style in their descriptions, but not in the outcome. Some accounts had Ten Broeck leading the entire heat over the overmatched Molly; others noted Molly ran easily for the first two miles, keeping at least a head in front of the tightly restrained Ten Broeck. L.S. Hardin said that for the first two and a half miles the race was “as rapid and hotly contested as man ever witnessed,” and the fractional times bear him out, with the first mile run a tick under 1:50 and the second mile run a tick over 1:55. This was of no concern to Frank Harper who believed his horse had limitless bottom. He had instructed jockey Walker to not only beat the upstart filly, but to do so decisively.

On a track that was deep and sticky and on a day that was like nothing Mollie had ever seen in Northern California, the first two miles were killing. But two miles was as much as Molly had left in her. By the time they entered the third mile, jockey Walker began to let Ten Broeck roll, opening somewhere between five and ten lengths by the time the third mile was completed. Whether or not Molly was defeated psychologically by the powerful run of Ten Broeck can never be known, but she was clearly defeated physically. The question was not whether Ten Broeck would win, but by how much.

Lutie Clark sent a letter to the editor of the Herald, describing the race this way.

“The day was intensely hot and close and the track very heavy. The mare set a pace to kill the big horse, both running about thirty or forty feet from the pole. After going two and a half miles the mare began to weaken, and when passing the stand the third time she was very much distressed.”

As the horses began the fourth and final mile, one of the attendees, the famed detective Yankee Bligh, the man who relentlessly pursued the James gang, was purported to shout, “One thousand Mollie does not pass under the wire again.” One patriotic Californian took him up on the bet, but at the quarter-pole, the magnificent Mollie threw up her tail, gave up the race, and with that, the money of her backers. Ten Broeck galloped leisurely to the wire in the very slow time of 8:19 3/4. Mollie McCarthy, the great hope of her sex and western racing, was taken to the stable area, exhausted and in physical distress. Only the fine work of her veterinarians kept the day from proving an even greater disaster for Lucky Baldwin and his horse.

Accounts of Ten Broeck’s condition after the race varied. While he seemed to be blowing hard as would be expected, there were comments on the lack of sweat on Ten Broeck, lending small credibility to the rumor he had been drugged or even poisoned. However that was countered by reports that stated that an hour after the race Ten Broeck looked fine in his stall, like he could have run another heat.

Even after the race was over, some of Mollie’s supporters refused to acknowledge the superiority of Ten Broeck. Whether it was true or not, later writings about Mollie McCarthy would opine that she detested the muddy going and the unfamiliar, extreme combination of heat and humidity, although a killing pace on a deep track on a hellish day would have challenged any horse.


The Kentucky crowd was ecstatic at the success of the local hero. Ten Broeck was retired after the race to stud duty, where he achieved moderate, but not outstanding, success. A little more than a hundred years later, Ten Broeck was inducted into the racing Hall of Fame. Mollie McCarthy lost her next start in the Minneapolis Cup, but in 1879, her last year of racing, she won the prestigious Garden City Cup in Chicago and a purse race in San Francisco. She retired and became a broodmare. Like Ten Broeck, her foals enjoyed only moderate success on the track, although her female progeny did very well when they were retired to breed. The era of the four-milers ended with one of the greatest racing spectacles of the nineteenth century, and resulted in the emergence of Churchill Downs as one of the cathedrals of American racing.

While Lutie Clark was strongly opposed to track officials (and newspapermen) gambling on the races, he had no problem gambling on the stock market. In 1893 when the economy crashed and the New York Stock Exchange closed for ten days, Clark lost almost his entire fortune. His wife had left him to move to Paris with their son John Henry Churchill Clark. The Churchill brothers had become fed up with his antics, and by 1891 relieved him of almost all his duties at the track. For a while he worked as a presiding judge at racetracks around the country, but in April 1899, all but broke, fearful of growing senile and depressed at his isolation from his family he committed suicide in Memphis, Tennessee.

During the 1890’s the fortunes of Lucky Baldwin evaporated. He was an incurable philanderer, fighting off numerous lawsuits from an unending string of mistresses and lovers, and even surviving two shootings. Having lost most of his fortune, Baldwin headed to Alaska to try to cash in on yet another gold rush, but returned to Santa Anita empty handed. He maintained some involvement with horse racing but died in March 1909, still working on amassing another fortune. However, even in death his luck held for his heirs when a worthless piece of property he owned produced the Montebello Oil Fields, one of the biggest finds in the West.

Billy Walker, Ten Broeck’s jockey, had a very successful career after he stopped riding. He worked as a consultant and trainer and was considered the country’s foremost expert on lineage and breeding. He spent his final years as a workout clocker at his beloved Churchill Downs, dying in 1933 at the age of 72.

Churchill Downs succeeded in ways not even Lutie Clark could have imagined. In the early 1890’s the track was still struggling financially and William F. Schulte took over as president. Schulte oversaw the construction of a new grandstand with a set of twin spires on the roof. Those twin spires gave the track, and the Kentucky Derby, the most iconic architectural symbol in racing.

Still the track failed to turn a profit and in 1902 a group headed by Louisville mayor Charles Grainger, Charlie Price and Matt J. Winn agreed to overtake the operation. It was under the leadership of this group that the track began to prosper and the Kentucky Derby began to emerge as the preeminent three year-old race in America. In 1937 the track finally incorporated under the name Churchill Downs and today remains one of the most successful and recognizable operations in the country.

As was common during that period, the match race between Mollie McCarthy and Ten Broeck was memorialized in song. While the actual songwriter is the subject of some dispute, there is no dispute that it was made a bluegrass standard by the legendary Bill Monroe. In 1947, Monroe used “Molly and Tenbrooks” to make the first known recording of a bluegrass song. Even today it is a standard at bluegrass festivals across the country, and recordings are easily found on the Internet.

The song sums up the story of the match race of the century.

Out in California, where Molly done as she pleased

Come back to old Kentucky, got beat with all ease

Beat with all ease, O Lord, beat with all ease

Beat with all ease by the last of the great four-milers.