Visiting with Past Kentucky Derby Winners

Courtesy of Esther Marr

Last month I was presented with the opportunity to host a series of videos featuring all the past Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winners still residing in Kentucky. As a staff writer who has never considered a career in television, I was nervous at first about being on camera, but in the end, it seemed like it would be well worth it to gain the experience of completing a project like this.

I will never forget the experience of being able to see, hear, and sometimes even touch these magnificent creatures that have accomplished such amazing feats, and, in a way, have provided me with a career.

Since I have only been around the Thoroughbred industry for four years, I had never seen the Derby performances of some of the horses I would be visiting, so I made sure to watch each of their races on Youtube before traveling to their respective farms.

It was almost surreal to view those races, and then see the horses in person, all the while thinking, "Do you have any idea how amazing you are?"

Some of the past Derby winners I met, such as Thunder Gulch, Fusaichi Pegasus, and Grindstone seemed content, peaceful, and stoic as they went about their daily routines.

Funny Cide, who won the Derby in 2003, had a bit of an attitude as he continuously tried to nip his handler, Cathy Roby, the barn manager at the Kentucky Horse Park's Hall of Champions.

Not surprisingly, Smarty Jones drew a large crowd of tourists at Three Chimneys who stood in awe of the 2004 Derby and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner. Five years after his stellar racing career had ended, there were still "oohs and ahhs" as he was paraded around a walking ring and thousands of camera shutters snapped.

Smarty seemed unfazed by all the attention, as I'm sure he's used to being gawked at during Three Chimneys' daily tours.

Street Sense looked every bit as beautiful as he did running on the track during his greatest performances in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), and 2007 Derby and Travers Stakes. His sleek, dark coat shone in the sunshine as he was walked back and forth on the lush grounds of Darley USA near Lexington.

Another farm that blew me away was Adena Springs near Paris, Ky., where 2005 Derby winner Giacomo resides.

 The main office looks like the combination of a barn and an elaborate mansion, with the breeding shed connected to the back of the massive building. We were greeted by stallion manager Bill Drury, who led us to the back of the office and opened a sliding door that led directly into the breeding shed, where El Prado was covering a mare.

Giacomo was then led out and released into his paddock, where he immediately zipped around with such vigor, that at times I was worried he was going to take a bad step and crash into the fence. But he knew his area so well and had memorized all the corners of his paddock that he could make turns at top speeds without missing a beat. With his tail flagged like an Arabian, the gray son of Holy Bull certainly put on quite a routine, and I was in awe.

Other horses that delivered flashy performances for us in their paddocks were 2001 Derby winner Monarchos and last year's winner, Big Brown. Monarchos seemed to be king of Nuckols Farm as he galloped freely around his paddock, which overlooks one of the highest points of Central Kentucky. A gentle giant, he is the only stallion I have ever fed a peppermint out of my hand.

At Three Chimneys, Big Brown tried (without success) to engage his next-door-neighbor Rahy in a racing game up and down the length of his paddock, his hoofs thundering across the soft turf. With a powerful demeanor and seemingly endless energy, he rolled in the grass, kicked up his heels, and repeatedly reared on his hind legs to display his colossal form. It was quite a show.

Looking back over this experience, I was richly rewarded by seeing each of these nine horses in person, and feel privileged to have had the opportunity to introduce them to their fans as they are today.

[brightcove videoid="20939712001"]

1995 Kentucky Derby Winner - Thunder Gulch
1996 Kentucky Derby Winner - Grindstone (Featured Above)
2000 Kentucky Derby Winner - Fusaichi Pegasus
2001 Kentucky Derby Winner - Monarchos
2002 Kentucky Derby Winner - Funny Cide

A new video will be posted each day so check back often!


Leave a Comment:


Thank you Esther for taking time to write this guest blog! It is a great blog and I could actually put myself in your shoes next to each of these horses. Amazing.

24 Apr 2009 3:53 PM

Esther, I couln't agree with you more. I too was in awe the first time I went to a horse farm. I had been a fan of Point Given ever since he ran in the Triple Crown races. In the fall of '03 I visited Three Chimneys and finally got to see the horse in person I had so much admired. Getting to stand beside him and pet him was like a dream come true. Later that day I visited Claiborne and stood beside Monarchos. He was so laid back. When you see these horses in person it's kind of hard to believe you are actually petting a Kentucky Derby winner or in the case of Point Given, a Horse of The Year. They are just fantastic wonderful animals and a thrill to see in person.

24 Apr 2009 4:26 PM
For Big Red

Esther, thank you for doing this blog. I absolutely LOVE the videos and look forward to all of them. The story about Grindstone and his halter is funny. :)

Sigh...I wish we could see a video of Charismatic. I know he's standing in Japan and hasn't much of a record as a sire, but I love that horse. Also, coming from SoCal, I'll always remember the tragic story of Chris Antley, who probably saved Charismatic's life, but who couldn't overcome his problems to save his own.

24 Apr 2009 5:27 PM

What a wonderful series!  So far I have totally enjoyed the videos of Grindstone and Thunder Gulch, along with the replays of their Derbies.  Thank you for doing them!

For Big Red, I'm right there with you wishing we could see something about Charismatic - I love that horse, and of course the book Three Strides Before the Wire was a compelling read about his connections and the sad story of Chris Antley.  My hope is that some sweet day Charismatic and War Emblem will be able to come home much like Alysheba.

24 Apr 2009 8:04 PM

Thank you for the article! For Big Red I am just now reading the book on Charismatic and Chris Antley. The book is called "Three Strides Before The Wire".

24 Apr 2009 8:13 PM

I couldn't agree more with any of the comments.  Had a chance to visit Claiborne farm last year, and it was breath-taking!! To be in the presence of such great animals was remarkable.  Anyone who visits Kentucky needs to go to any of the farms.  The stallion managers really know their charges.  Claiborne will always hold a special place in my heart for it is there that the  GREAT SECRETARIAT lies.  Just to try to picture him running in his paddock is heart stopping. It a shame he left us all far too early, what only might have been.

24 Apr 2009 9:01 PM
Karen in Indiana

Thank you for the videos & I look forward to all of them. I went to Three Chimneys last year, mainly to see Big Brown. It was just a few weeks after he got there and he was still adjusting to the change so I look forward to seeing this video. Sounds like he's settled in nicely! But I have to confess - while everyone else was oohing and aahing over Smarty Jones, I was on the other side watching Sky Mesa and thinking good thoughts to him. He ambled over to see me and I got some nice pictures.

24 Apr 2009 9:52 PM
Midnight Hill

I have had the oppertunity to visit all of the Derby winning stallions you have seen in your journeys, plus several more that have since passed and as always it is a pleasure and an honor to stand before such impecable horseflesh.  All of them that I have ever come across have had an air about them and a look in there eyes.  Not to mention that I would gladly live where these horses do any day - they are treated like the royalty they are!  I look forward to viewing more videos on these Kings of the Sport.

24 Apr 2009 10:34 PM

What a cool Blog topic.  Thank you so much.  I had the pleasure of visiting Unbridled at Claiborne in 2000.  It was amazing to stand next to that gentle giant.  Also got to see Pleasant Colony and Bold Forbes at the Kentucky Horse Park.  Bold Forbes still had an "air" about him though he was quite old.  Beautiful horses.

25 Apr 2009 1:16 AM

You are doing a great job on the videos! It's nice to see some old favorites that the newer fans may have only heard about...we always want to remember our "old friends"'s nice to hear about the younger stallions, too.

25 Apr 2009 8:05 AM

I echo Karren; Bold Forbes at the park was a sweet old guy.  And I recall my anticipation in 1996 traveling to 3Chimneys to see Seattle Slew.  BOY HE KNEW WHO HE WAS.  Last time I visited, 1999, they just left him in his stall;  looking out his window, he turned rather offended that I snapped his picture and violated his solitude.  Affirmed was a shock-gorgeous color and big; his sleek coat so warm to the touch on a summer day.  Claiborne let me enter the legendary stall of a sleeping Unbridled (knowing his gentle nature) and he rose in a blur to he feet as my camera clicked.  It is something to see them away from the track.

25 Apr 2009 2:52 PM
Greg J.


     Awesome blog, Incredible videos, Kudos to you...

For Big Red,

     Iburi Stallion Station on the island of Hokkaidōis, Is where

Charismatic stands, Here is their Website, Scroll down to Charismatic(Put cursor over each pictue, will give name in english on the bottom of page), There is a current picture of him(Sorry, No video), He sure looks great(Silver Charm and Boston Harbor are there too)...


25 Apr 2009 7:08 PM
Greg J.

For Big Red,

      Actually, If you click on his picture, then goto the bottom right, second line up, above the word TOP, click on it, there are some great pictures of him(4 Pictures)....

25 Apr 2009 7:11 PM

Love your series Esther.

Here is Secretariat running in his paddock.  Look how low he gets to the ground;)

25 Apr 2009 11:07 PM

Esther, it must have been great! I hope to see Funny Cide this summer.

Since we have lost Genuine Risk and Alysheba, who is the current oldest Derby winner? Genny was and then Sheba was. Just curious.

26 Apr 2009 2:35 AM

Love to see Big Brown having a good time - and of soft turf for those hooves.

26 Apr 2009 6:59 PM

To Barbara - thanks for Secretariat on YouTube - it was great to watch him run free.

26 Apr 2009 7:08 PM

I'm glad Monarchos is doing well. Add Strike The Gold to the list of Derby winners that need to come home!

26 Apr 2009 9:51 PM

keep up the good work EXPOSING our National Treasures...Long Live The King!!!...

27 Apr 2009 12:02 AM

Loved the first 4 visits, especially since I picked all 4 for their Derbies, LOL!

Monarchos is due a big winner...maybe next Saturday?

27 Apr 2009 6:34 AM

Can anyone tell me how the oldest living Derby winner, Strike the Gold (1991) is doing? The last I heard about him, as well as the 1993 winner Sea Hero, was that they were in Turkey. After what happened to Ferdinand, it scares me about what could happen to these champions unless all of us who care show interest in their well-being.

30 Apr 2009 1:13 PM

I'm really enjoying the videos of past Derby winners. For many of us, they disappear after going to stud. So nice to see how they are doing years later. I've been enjoying many of the Bloodhorse videos. THANKS!

30 Apr 2009 9:08 PM

The Grindstone and Giacomo videos were particularly fine.   Thank you.

25 May 2009 11:09 AM

Wish that Charismatic would get to Kentucky Horse Park.  He won two legs of the Triple Crown and finished third - injured! - in the Belmont.  He is a true champion and deserves to come home!

10 Apr 2010 6:00 PM

Great the videos. :) And you did great.

27 Jul 2010 11:57 PM

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