New, Stronger Calumet Could Boost Racing and Derby

Photo by BILL WINE | Contributing Photographer

The Kentucky Derby, the world’s most famous horse race, set another attendance record this year: 165,307.

After storms that chased a large number of fans from Churchill Downs Friday and delayed the running of the Kentucky Oaks, Saturday’s weather  could not have been nicer.

So can it get any better?

Possibly. And Derby fans should hope that it does. And there is hope.

Here’s why:

Calumet Farm, the most storied of all the Bluegrass horse farms, was sold last week to some extremely wealthy people who have the resources to restore the beautiful farm and its beautiful white fences adjacent to Keeneland and across Versailles Pike from the Lexington airport.

Boost for Derby

More than anything else, racing – and the Derby – could get the boost that horse fans could only dream about.

Just think:

Warren Wright, who used his wealth made from the Calumet Baking Co., established the most successful and classiest farm of them all. It takes money to keep a farm as beautiful as Calumet with all of those white fences and rolling green pastures.

It took money to keep the breeding operation that kept producing the Whirlaways, Citations, Pensives, Ponders, Hill Gails, Iron Leiges, Tim Tams and Forward Passes.

Calumet, under Wright, had not only the best horses, but also the best people: The father-son training combination of Ben and Jimmy Jones and Jockey Eddie Arcaro.

Owners well-heeled

The new owners chose not to publicize themselves when Calumet Farm changed hands, but they are established business people and companies. One of them, a Kentuckian, sold a tobacco company for a billion dollars.

Do you even know how much that total is?

Look at it like this: $1,000,000,000.

Calumet is one of several breeding and racing farms that have been fabulous successes through the years.

The general public can’t just walk in uninvited, but a phone call or letter might get you an invitation to visit.

I have taken out-of-town sports editors and their wives to some of the most beautiful farms. Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm even let us view the mighty Secretariat. The farm manager warned one of the wives, “If Secretariat sees you with that camera, he will come straight toward you as fast as he can. But don’t worry. He will put on the brakes and pose for you.”

The great horse did exactly that.

No Man O’ War

I managed to make it though Derby Week without anyone asking me what year Man O’ War won the big race.

Man O’ War not only didn’t win the Derby, he never even raced in his native Kentucky!

The only race he ever lost was to a horse named Upset.

Best of all time?

Mike Barry, the sports columnist-handicapper, thought the two best horses of them all were Citation and Secretariat.

Just one winner!

If I never tell you another thing, please remember this: There is no such thing as a horse expert.

You saw that long list of media people who had their Derby selections in The Courier-Journal. The Lexington Herald-Leader did the same thing.

Do you know how many of those so-called experts picked I’ll Have Another?

Just one! Jon White, who works for Santa Anita. Of course he saw the Derby winner capture the Santa Anita Derby so he knew the horse was a good one.