Darby Dan Days

If it were not for Graustark I would not be writing this blog. That’s because I would not be writing for the Blood-Horse. The reason I would not be writing for the Blood-Horse is because I would not have worked for the Daily Racing Form for 29 years or written for the Thoroughbred Times for five years or the Thoroughbred Record on and off for many years.

The truth is, having abandoned a career on Wall Street because I detested it, and not having the experience or the skills to do anything else, I likely would have wound up living in a cardboard box somewhere under the Belt Parkway. I wouldn’t be married to the greatest wife anyone could ask for (she’s put up with me for 28 years) and I wouldn’t have fathered the greatest daughter anyone could ask for.

So, I ask you, how important has Graustark been in my life? Now, before you start envisioning some warped version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I’ll briefly fill you in. This is actually a two-part story. If you can somehow make it through the first story, it might be worth the trouble in order to get to the second, more compelling story.

It had been nine months since I departed the scream-and-curse-all-day world of Wall Street, where your status was based on the price of your wing-tip shoes. During those nine months I was, well, unemployed, and living in the fantasy world of my newly discovered obsession, horse racing. But fantasies don’t come with pay checks, so on the advice of my father I applied for jobs in the racing industry, despite having no experience in any aspect of it. The only response I received was from Charlotte Berko, secretary for Saul Rosen, editor of the Morning Telegraph/Daily Racing Form, informing me that Mr. Rosen wished to speak to me.

Like an idiot, all I could think of was to memorize the winners of all the Kentucky Derbys, as if I was going to be quizzed. I had no selling points other than my passion and an insatiable appetite to learn everything imaginable about Thoroughbred racing.

With my entire life hinging on this interview, I skulked into Saul Rosen’s office. Outside, the copy editors were gathered around a TV set watching the New York Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles in game three of the 1969 World Series.

I sat down, not having a clue what to expect. Then came Saul’s first and only question to me: “Do you know how to type?”

“Uh, oh,” I thought. “I’m a dead man.” It was as if the door to my future, my entire life, had been slammed shut in my face. Hell, no, I couldn’t type. My answer wasn’t quite so abrupt, but the ‘no’ part came across loud and clear, as did any chance I had of working for “The Telly,” and in fact, working, period. Skid Row awaited.

“Sorry,” Saul said. “Why don’t you learn how to type and come back?”

“Sure,” I replied, knowing that wasn’t going to happen, not with my tiny, spastic fingers.

Then, from out of nowhere, the words blurted out of my mouth -- simple, trite, innocuous words, but ones that would alter the course of my life.

“Well, while I’m here, is it possible to get the lifetime past performances of Graustark?” I asked. The person who had introduced me to horse racing was a fanatic Graustark fan, and I became one as well by association. Saul called up Sol Seiden the head librarian and asked him if he could help me out. Sol came in and brought me back into the library – the library! Horse photos, clippings, bound Telegraphs. I was in heaven. While he was having someone Xerox the past performances from one of the bound volumes, Sol said to me: “I have an idea. I’m going to need an assistant. Maybe you can work here as a copy boy to get your foot in the door and learn how to type in your spare time.”

To make a long story somewhat short, I was ecstatic, and Saul Rosen agreed to it. I started work the next day as a copy boy for around $90 a week, down quite a bit from my $250 a week salary on Wall Street. I was a lousy copy boy, spending most of my time talking horses with the copy editors and handicappers. I never learned, or even attempted to learn, how to type after seeing what little typing was required (the name of a horse or trainer on an envelope). I managed to fake it and convince Sol I was an expert typist by learning how to type one phrase: “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their parties.”

I was promptly promoted to assistant librarian. Sol then left the library to work in the advertising department, and I was named head librarian. When the Telly closed down in 1972 I was one of the fortunate few who were asked to go to the new Daily Racing Form plant in Hightstown, N.J. Several years of freelance writing for other publications followed until the new Racing Times came along, after which I finally was released from the library and became a feature and news writer for the DRF. I then became national correspondent, replacing the legendary Joe Hirsch as the author of “Derby Doings.,” and the rest, as they say, is history.”

So, where am I going with all this? Because of the debt of gratitude I owed Graustark, I continued to be a fan of his as a stallion and also of Darby Dan, which was owned by John Galbreath, who bred, raced, and stood Graustark.

In the winter of 1969, shortly after I was hired at the Telegraph, I had visited Darby Dan, in good part to see Graustark and his newly turned yearling full brother, later to be named His Majesty.

This is where part two of the story begins. First, as a footnote, I would visit Darby Dan every year on my vacation for the next six or seven years. I became close to everyone at the farm, including farm manager Olin Gentry and most of all stud groom Floyd Williams, who took care of Graustark, Ribot, and later His Majesty and Roberto. Also standing there in the early years were Sea-Bird, Swaps, Sword Dancer, Chateaugay, Sailor, Summer Tan, and Helioscope. I would actually lead visitors down the shedrow and brief them on the stallions, putting on the best southern drawl I could muster. If you haven’t heard a Brooklyn—Kentucky accent, you’re missing something. One year I stayed on the farm during my vacation, witnessing my one and only Thoroughbred birth. In 1972, I photographed two yearlings on the same day. One was a Sea-Bird colt, later to be named Little Current. The other was a Graustark filly, to be named Cherished Moment. Years later, Little Current, who would romp in the Preakness and Belmont, was bred to Cherished Moment and produced Belle of Killarney, who would become the maternal granddam of Funny Cide.

Basically, this has been a rather involved, long-winded introduction to the intended story of His Majesty and his boyhood pal Good Counsel.

The winter and spring of 1969 was an exciting time at Darby Dan, with most of the excitement being generated by Graustark’s yearling full brother, a magnificent-looking son of Ribot out of Flower Bowl. The night the colt was born, everyone on the farm was beaming over the birth of the full brother to their pride and joy. But the following morning, Flower Bowl began to hemorrhage, and all efforts to save her failed. The foal was raised by a nurse mare and placed under close scrutiny by Gentry.

When it came time to wean all the youngsters and place them in a paddock together, Gentry realized he couldn’t risk injury to Graustark’s brother. He was too valuable a prospect, so Gentry put him in his own small paddock right next to the yearling barn. But horses are social animals, and Gentry knew he had to find a yearling with an easy-going temperament to serve, not only as paddock mate, but a calming influence on the feisty Ribot colt.

He chose a son of Hail to Reason, out of Polylady, and the two of them hit it off immediately. I had the good fortune of visiting them in the winter and again in the spring. And with my trusty Kodak Instamatic camera, I took numerous photos of them, one of which actually appeared in the Morning Telegraph and another in the Daily Racing Form years later. One showed the two colts standing nose to nose, nuzzling each other, and the other was of them both up on their hind legs wrestling, with the Ribot colt’s front legs up on the Hail to Reason colt’s shoulders. It was apparent the two of them had become the best of friends.

But as anyone who works on a farm knows, friendships are fleeting. By mid-summer, the carefree life was over, as the yearlings were sent to the Columbus, Ohio farm to be broken. The two colts now had other things on their mind and both learned their lessons quickly.

The following year, the Ribot colt, now named His Majesty, was sent to trainer Dave Erb at Belmont Park, while the Hail to Reason colt, now named Good Counsel, was shipped to Darby Dan’s European trainer Vincent O’Brien in Ireland. Soon after, longtime assistant Lou Rondinello replaced Erb as trainer, and could tell right away that His Majesty was something special.

The colt had grown into a magnificent athlete, who showed great promise in the mornings. After breaking his maiden by five lengths in his second start at 2, he was shipped to Hialeah where he scored an impressive victory in an allowance race. Then came an incredible performance in the seven-furlong Bahamas Stakes, in which he finished third, beaten a half-length by Graustark’s son Jim French, after being forced into the rail and stumbling badly. Following a gutsy head victory over Jim French in the 1 1/8-mile Everglades Stakes, in which he barely snuck through a tiny opening along the rail, His Majesty became one of the early favorites for the 1971 Kentucky Derby, along with Hoist the Flag.

But in the Flamingo, he once again got stuck down on the inside and again hit the rail, finishing sixth behind Executioner. The following day, X-rays revealed a chip fracture in the right front pastern. Following surgery, he was sent back to Darby Dan to recuperate and did not return to the races for nine months.

Meanwhile, Good Counsel, had finished second and fourth in his two starts in Ireland. With His Majesty on the sidelines, it was decided to send good Counsel back to America, where he won three of his first four starts before finishing third in the Travers Stakes and winning the Rosemont Stakes at Delaware Park.

When His Majesty returned in December, it took him several races to get back in top form. Now reunited, His Majesty and Good Counsel were sent to Santa Anita, where they ran well, but never really took to the hard surfaces.

Then it was on to Hialeah and the 1 1/4-mile Widener Handicap, one of the most prestigious races in the country for older horses. What followed was something right out of Hollywood.

His Majesty went to the lead and set testing fractions of :22 4/5, :46 1/5, and 1:10 1/5 while under pressure throughout. He then found another gear turning for home and opened a two-length lead at the eighth pole and looked to be home free. But, seemingly out of nowhere, here came Good Counsel charging down the stretch and closing the gap with every stride.

Good Counsel pulled on even terms with His Majesty, and the pair drew off from the rest of the field. Through the final sixteenth, they were as inseparable as they had been in their paddock as yearlings. All that was missing was the wrestling. Here were two buddies who had grown up together and played together, sharing the same paddock for some seven months, in a desperate struggle to the wire. They hit the finish line as one, and it took a photo to determine that Good Counsel had just nosed out his more illustrious stablemate. The newspaper headlines the next day referred to them as Darby Dan’s Dynamic Duo.

That was the last time they would meet in competition. His Majesty injured a stifle the day of the Hawthorne Gold Cup and was sidelined for five months. During that time Good Counsel won the Longfellow Handicap at Monmouth, then was retired sound to Darby Dan. His Majesty returned again the following year, but his hard luck continued. After setting a track record for 1 1/8 miles at Hialeah, he suffered a bowed tendon in the Donn Handicap, ending an ill-fated career that had once shown so much promise.

His Majesty and Good Counsel were now back together again and placed in adjoining paddocks. All day long they would race each other back and forth in their paddocks until it reached a point where Gentry had to separate them. As Floyd Williams said, “I think His Majesty was trying to get even for the time Good Counsel beat him.”

His Majesty went on to become the leading sire in the country in 1982 and continued the Ribot line through his son Pleasant Colony, and Pleasant Colony’s sons Pleasant Tap and Pleasantly Perfect, not to mention Pleasant Tap’s sons Premium Tap and Tiago. Pleasant Colony and Pleasant Tap alone have won or sired the winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, Japan Cup, Irish Derby, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Santa Anita Handicap, Santa Anita Derby, Arlington Million, Woodward Stakes, Dubai Duty Free, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Good Counsel didn’t have much success as a stallion and died in 1987 of laminitis. The once grand-looking His Majesty eventually began to deteriorate physically and was barely able to control his bodily functions. In 1994, he had fallen off a mare in the breeding shed, and it was obvious the end was near. According to John Phillips of Darby Dan, he just lay on the ground for a while and looked up at him.

“He had very sad eyes,” Phillips said several years ago. “When I bent down to pet him, he just looked up at me and it was like he was letting me know his time was up.”

Shortly after, His Majesty began to lose weight and became extremely weak in his hind end. The decision finally was made to put him out of his misery.

I just happened to be in Kentucky at the time and went to pay His Majesty a visit, knowing it could be the last time I’d ever see him. What I found was an empty stall and a freshly dug grave next to the graves of Graustark and Ribot. Of course, I knew immediately that His Majesty, the horse I had followed from the day he was born and watched grow up with his buddy Good Counsel, was gone.

His Majesty lies next to his brother and sire on a grassy area next to the stallion barn with a large headstone for all to see as they drive by. Good Counsel lies in the main grave site with a smaller headstone outside the yearling barn, just a few yards from where he and His Majesty had played together 40 years ago.


Leave a Comment:

Clarence S

excellent article !

11 Nov 2008 8:39 PM



11 Nov 2008 8:48 PM

A most moving life story of your love for horses. I have experienced a similar love that has extended from my first bet {Promoter's Crash} $34 to win at River Downs, to owning my first race horse (Code Blue, bought from John Galbraith in 1971), to co-breeding and racing my dream horse after almost 40 years of trying, a Candy Ride gelding name Capt. Candyman Can. Nothing can explain the pure exhilaration, the joy, the heartbreak of this game we are addicted to. As I dream of the Captain's next race, I got news of his half brother weanling by Purge fracturing a carpal bone in a paddock accident. The joy with tears, the sorrow with tears, are all what make up this labor of love we call horses. If we were to make it to the Derby, I don't know if my legs will hold me up if he is in contention coming down the strech. The hook that Promoter's Crash set in my stomach 45 years ago may just snap and I'll fall to my seat, again with tears, be they of joy, exhilaration, exhaustion, and hopefully not sorrow.

11 Nov 2008 9:39 PM

Steve, you have a gift for getting deep into the soul of your readers.

I love everything you write. I admire the way you took a chance all those years ago to do what you love. It was very gutsy. I look forward to many more years of your


11 Nov 2008 9:44 PM
Ryan Moseley

Brilliant as always but touching too!!

11 Nov 2008 10:08 PM
needler in Virginia

Dammit, Steve, you've done it again, and I just recovered from the last teary read!!! Because of you and your memories we see the heart and soul of racing, AND we participate (second-hand) in those memories. But JUST ONCE will you write a funny one???????????

I swear the Kleenex people must LOVE you!!! And, by the way, we do, too!

11 Nov 2008 10:19 PM

His  Majesty was a great horse! I was lucky enough to see him at Darby Dan before he died. The groom posed him, and made him look he's best. Love to hear these types of stories!!

11 Nov 2008 10:32 PM

You were really fortunate to have been around those great Darby Dan stallions, Steve.  Those horses had quality and could run all day.  I always regretted never seeing Graustark run.  People who have talk about him with reverence. He must have been something.  Thanks for your recollections of that storied farm.

11 Nov 2008 10:53 PM

Awesome story Steve!  Interesting how things work out huh?  What a way to get your foot in the door!  Well you have definitely succeeded - you are quite the writer and have a great perspective on racing!  It must have been really awesome to meet those two as foals and see them through their lives.  In fact, you have had the pleasure of meeting many great horses which must be really fantastic!  That was a neat account of the horses friendships too - I think that is really special! Thanks for sharing!

11 Nov 2008 11:25 PM
Matthew W

Steve I was a 13 year old paperboy in early'72 and my father took me to The Strub/San Antonio/Big Cap that year....It was a stronger-than-usual group--especially the 4y/olds Autobiography/Triple Bend/Unconscious---and everybody had to contend with Cougar II...I was very informed/very much into the sport...I remember Good Counsel as a deep closer but it was His Majesty who had my fancy from the get-go...He was regal! Cougar couldn't beat those four year olds...and Jim French was a runner as well...and yes I remember the big Derby Fav Hoist The Flag...The '68 crop was strong--not weak like they were saying when HE won The Derby....I saw HIM work out between races that Spring....I was alone at the 1/2 mi pole/he was snorting/he was some kinda animal was Cannonero II....

11 Nov 2008 11:43 PM

we love those Horse stories thanks...i think a lot of Horse people keep the stallions & mares in service to long...just how i feel...give em a early break thats all...Long Live The King!!!

12 Nov 2008 12:38 AM
Dr. Robert Fishman

Lovely recollection, Steve. I've always admired your work, but this one resonates particularly. As I think you know, we share similar experiences and memories of the old Darby Dan. Mr. Gentry was a wonderful mentor to me, and gave freely of his friendship and time. I was first drawn to him by my intense admiration for the great Graustark. Later, with Mr. Gentry's help, I managed to acquire privately from Darby Dan my first daughter of Graustark, Jildac Rose, who was carrying Good Counsel's all-time money earner, Partout. It was Mr. Gentry, with arthritic limbs, who accompanied me to a far off barn at Keeneland to help me evaluate a Tom Fool mare which I subsequently purchased (with his tutelage/in his seats) as an early mate for His Majesty. That mating resulted in a talented, stakes-placed filly. My fondest memories of Lexington are those visits to Darby Dan,wonderful Floyd, the warmth I received from Miss Jane and Donna upon entering, and then Mr. Gentry's beckoning me to his office. He always had time for me, taught me so much. We remained close to the last. My fondness for Darby Dan endures, and among my small broodmare band today is one of Graustark's last daughters, a Darby Dan bred, whose pedigree is filled with the influence of Olin Gentry. Thank you, Steve, for stimulating those wonderful memories.    

12 Nov 2008 1:27 AM
Jack Downs

Graustark was always a favorite of mine and his exercise rider shared some interesting moments with me..John Nazareth was on him as a 3yr. old when the clockers recorded a Black type :33 flat for a 3 furlong work.....Jon said he actually was working 1/2 mile that day and they went in :31 flat for 3/8's and he let Graustark just gallop out the last 1/8 and the time was :43 and change for the 1/2 mile.......Realizing no one would believe the times, the clockers decided on the :33 flat for 3/8.......

12 Nov 2008 2:44 AM

Well, Steve, this is a 4 tissue story, for sure.

12 Nov 2008 6:33 AM

Wonderful stories.  Brings back so many memories, when I used to visit Darby Dan as a wide-eyed teen, seeing *Ribot and *Sea-bird and His Majesty and Roberto.  Thanks for sharing those wonderful memories.  And where are those pictures of His Majesty and Good Counsel as playmates anyway?

12 Nov 2008 7:08 AM

This is one of the sweetest stories. Thanks for sharing it with us Steve! It is always nice to know the background/history of horses and their lives right up to the moment they leave us. It makes them seem less the untouchable athlete on a TV screen and more like creatures we can touch and love. Thanks!

12 Nov 2008 7:22 AM
Blue Blue Sea

A poignent and heart-wrenching tale. Thanks for sharing it.

12 Nov 2008 7:30 AM
c a strickland

beautiffly written you have made my day  many thanks

12 Nov 2008 7:50 AM

What a great story.  With tears in my eyes, I thank you.  

A real fairytail in such depressing times.

12 Nov 2008 8:15 AM

Wonderful, wonderful story, Steve.  It is something beautiful that you can bring to life these heroes of the past in such a way to make me then care so much about them.  Prior to reading this, Graustark and His Majesty were names on a pedigree that I'd read but knew nothing about.  Thank you - again.

12 Nov 2008 8:46 AM
Steve Wycoff

Wounderful article! Having lived in Columbus my entire life and knowing the Galbreath family I have been to Darby Dan Farms many times and I too recall seeing His Majesty and Good Counsel many times here as yearlings. You brought back some great memories.



12 Nov 2008 9:01 AM

Since I pretty much lived everything you wrote with you, I congratulate you on your accurate memory, and am thrilled to hear you recount those magical years.

12 Nov 2008 9:02 AM

Another great piece that brought back many memories for me. The story of Good Counsel and His Majesty is just wonderful. I have added Darby Dan to my list of farms to try and visit this year-a peppermint on each of their graves would be a nice thought wouldn't it. Thanks Steve-and Thanks to Graustark.  

12 Nov 2008 9:19 AM
Steve Haskin

Umatilla Joe, thanks so much for sharing all that and the best of luck with the Captain. I know he'll be high up on my Derby list. He seems to have it all. Here's hoping your dream takes you to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Dog, I'm aware of the story of Gentry hiding Graustark from Conway, but this wasnt the place to get into that.

Bob, thank you for your recollections. I remember Jane and Donna well. In fact, my friend Fred (who also commented on here) and I stayed with Jane on the farm the year I saw my one and only

birth. Fred is the the person in question who introduced me to racing and Graustark, and we haven't been in contact for close to 25 years. It was great to hear from him. We have a lot of catching up to do.

12 Nov 2008 9:49 AM
Michelle Wingo

This is why we love horse racing and endure the sadness that sometimes comes along with it.  For every sad story there is an equally amazing or heart warming story.  Great article Steve:)

12 Nov 2008 10:01 AM
First Time Starter

What a story to start off my day. Thank goodness I was able to  claim allergies for the sniffles and watery eyes that followed; not that anyone was buying it.  Thank you so much for sharing and giving us the opportunity to live vicariously through the wonderful moments and memories of those special horses and the people who were lucky enough to be a part of their lives. Keep 'em coming.

12 Nov 2008 10:21 AM

 Thanks for another great story Steve. You certainly do have a lot of great memories you share with us.

  Umitilla Joe, I'm hoping the best for you and Capt. Candyman. I've just started to follow him and I think you have a Derby contender. I will be following all his races. Good Luck!!!

12 Nov 2008 10:34 AM

Terrific piece!  As an old (72), life-long horseplayer and race tracker (one of my earliest memories is of me sitting on my father's shoulders at some race track, somewhere)who still sometimes refers to the "Form" as the "Telegraph", your article brought back many pleasant memories.  Darby Dan is a name seldom heard anymore but to any knowledgeable aficionado of the game it's a hallowed name.  Ribot and Tesio were among my most revered names in the game back in the days when I was a small-time owner/breeder, and when I sent my long-suffering wife to a handicapping class (so she could read the Telly without disturbing me) taught by Clem Florio, those name4s shone even brighter.  Clem believed that Tesio was the most important and influential breeder in the world and that Ribot and his offspring, like Graustark, would be prepotent and favorably influence the game for many generations.  I agreed with him and read Tesio's books and attempted, in my woefully inadequate (and poverty guided) way to follow his lessons and methods in my short-lived breeding career.  Anyway, without boring you any further, I had to let you know that your article and anecdotes struck a chord with me.  Thanks.

12 Nov 2008 11:33 AM

What a great story. You are a true master of storytelling. I always liked your work better than Andy and that other Steve....

Kidding aside, I seldom miss your writings. It made me think of one experience that I had when I was a young fan who didn't even know how to read the form. My uncle took me to the Big A to see the races and it was the Gallant Fox handicap. Back when it was a graded stake race, 1 5/8 miles on the main track. I don't even remember who won. However after the race they announced that the trainer of Gallnt Fox, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons would present the trophy. That was so cool. I was 12 and he must have been 80-something even then. I still like to relate that I got to see, in person, the trainer (albeit the first trainer) of Seabiscuit.

12 Nov 2008 12:08 PM

I actually have a Good Counsel story.  In 1974, my fiancee and I  finished up our college term and flew back to Louisville for the 100th Derby.  As she was spending some time with my family and me, we decided to tour a horse farm the week after Derby.  We arrived at Darby Dan Farm in the afternoon, saw some stallions in their paddocks, and drove around looking for someone to talk to about a tour.  When we finally saw an employee, we were told there were no guided tours, but to take our time, enjoy the place and don't trash it.  So we went back to our point of origin, the stallion paddocks.  There was one close by the fenceline.  We parked the car, got out and walked over to him, standing quietly until he stuck his head over the top rail.  We were able to rub his muzzle and pat him on the head.  Turns out it was Good Counsel, and I told my fiancee that I had seen his Widener victory on TV.  Later in the day we were by the yearling barns, and the groom on duty regaled us with stories.  He said they turn the yearlings out in the morning, they gallop to the far side, take all day to graze across the pasture, and at day's end the grooms didn't even have to go out in the field to retrieve them for they would have grazed their way back to the barn door.  Sure enough, as we stood talking with him for some time, we could see the yearlings coming back.  Then, he asked what we had seen at the farm that day, and we told him our Good Counsel story.  His eyes got REALLY big!  He didn't believe us at first.  He said that Good Counsel had a bad reputation on the farm as a biter, and most days was fitted with a wire basket muzzle even when turned out to pasture.  Yet, he had been nothing but kind and courteous with us.  Go figure!  Steve, through my murky memory, I do now remember cheering on His Majesty as my choice in the Widener that day, and Good Counsel charging on the outside to beat him.  I also seem to remember that the start was delayed by one of the horses breaking through the starting gate and having to be reloaded.  Do you recall that too?

12 Nov 2008 3:25 PM

You have stirred up alot of old memories for alot of people Mr. Haskin god bless you for that alone.I so look forward to your  posts and the thoughts others put down here. I love to see the "old timers" reminisce about days gone by.Thanks again.

12 Nov 2008 3:40 PM

HGFACT said two magic words: Clem Florio.  What an interesting, knowledgable, entertaining man he waa!  I used to go to Bowie just to listen to him pontificate on the virtues of whatever horse or horses he was selecting that day as the handicapper for the now defunct Baltimore News-American.  Clem made a great amount of sense when it came to thoroughbreds and was a better public handicapper than most anyone I can remember.  He is sorely missed on the Maryland racing scene.

12 Nov 2008 4:08 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks everyone for all your remembrances of Darby Dan and all the stallions.

Tex, it's hard to imagine Good Counsel as a biter, but horses do change when they become stallions. Darby Dan was one of the few farms that allowed visitors to drive around and walk around by themselves. They would just drive up to the stallion barns and Floyd would show them the stallions and answer any of their questions.

One of mty favorite stereotype stories happened one day when Floyd was out back, and I was at the barn, dressed in my jeans. A women from Lexington who gave guided tours drove up with a few people, and I was happy to show them the stallions and talk to them about each one. Afterward, the woman handed me a few dollars and said, "Here, put this toward a bottle of whiskey." Now that's what I call stereotyping.

12 Nov 2008 4:12 PM

THank you Mr Haskins for another great story, a little bit of a tear jerker though, Looking forward to your future Derby Dozen. It has been an absolute pleasure to read your great articles, but I think this may be your best.

12 Nov 2008 4:40 PM

Thanks, Steve.  That was a good story - - tears were  streaming down my face at the end.  And I liked how you tied it to today, with Funny Cide.  I look forward to Part 2, and all of your stories about the horses and people who make racing so much fun. You're the best!          

12 Nov 2008 5:56 PM

Steve, this is an amazing piece, as per usual with your writing.  You truly have a magical gift in relaying such beautiful occurrences in life to the general public.  We're looking forward to many more of these!

One question:  Has the Ribot/His Majesty/Pleasant Colony line been successful with Slew crosses?

12 Nov 2008 6:18 PM

I was thinking after reading all the great responses on here  that you had said awhile ago that you would never write another book. You really don't have to.  If you took all the wonderful articles that you have posted on the blog site and made them into a book you would have a best seller. I would always have several copies around the house-when people asked what is the best part of our wonderful sport I would hand them a copy. When they were done I know no more comments would be needed. Please never stop your great stories about these wonderful athletes and friends, both past and present.

12 Nov 2008 6:50 PM

My goodness you do have the knack for story telling.  Thanks Steve.  I think that I could just sit and talk with you for days on end!  I cannot wait for part 2, as always.  

12 Nov 2008 7:01 PM
Steve Haskin

Maybe one day, Richie. You might be right, judging from the wonderful responses, which I truly do appreciate.

Marcia and Jennifer, I hate to inform you that part 2 was actually the second part of the blog, part 1 being my early experiences at the Telegraph. But I'll be glad to write another part 2. I once did something on Graustark's son Jim French, the most indestructable horse I've ever been around. If enough of you have not already read it I can re-work it for my next blog. The campaign this horse had at 3 was unprecedented, and we'll never see another one like it. For those who dont know about it, it will shock you. It might be worth re-telling, and also how the horse wound up "jailed" and padlocked in his stall by the Saratoga County Sheriff prior to the Travers. His whole career is quite a story.

12 Nov 2008 7:35 PM
Steve Haskin

I'll have to check on that Seattle Slew nick. I can't think of any off the top of my head.

12 Nov 2008 7:45 PM

Did you ever come across True Knight? He was one of my all time favorite horses. I think he came from Darby Dan.  

12 Nov 2008 9:40 PM
War Thief

As a trainer in the early eighties at Ak Sar Ben I was lucky enough to employ a gentleman that had retired from the track and bought a small farm nearby in Iowa. Becoming bored on the farm Bob came to work at the track again. Bob happened to rub Graustark throughout his career and the stories about the different trainers and bullet works were simply astonishing. This story made me think of old Bob out on his farm.

12 Nov 2008 9:52 PM
Steve Haskin

I was a huge fan of True Knight. He was one of the smallest horses I've ever seen, but he had an amazing closing kick, coming from 20+ lengths out of it every race. I remember his races against Forego where he looked like a little pony next to him. He beat Forego in the Suburban and won lots of other big races. That was a great time for Darby Dan in the early '70s. If True Knight were running today he'd have a huge fan base for sure. The fans would love this little guy.

13 Nov 2008 1:18 AM

Wonderful story, quite riveting.

My mother, who is 83, has I don't know how many times repeated that typist phrase when she would sit down to the typewriter, or keyboard and warm-up.

I wish they would have buried those two next to each other..............why didn't they? I'm a sentimentalist, I guess.

You've been blessed with a joyful, horseracing life! Thanks for sharing.

13 Nov 2008 3:00 AM

My family took a trip through Kentucky in 1971 and we stopped at Darby Dan and Spendthrift.  I must have seen Graustark but I don't really remember.  I do remember seeing Swaps and Majestic Prince at Spendthrift.  

I was a huge fan of Little Current because he was born at Darby Dan in 1971.  Little Current should have won the Triple Crown!

I believe it was Richard Stone Reeves who wrote that Graustark was the most beautiful color of chestnut that he'd ever seen.

Reading about His Majesty's high expectations and the injuries he suffered makes me wonder how quickly he would have been retired if he was racing today.  No doubt the very first injury would have ended his career.

Thanks for the great story!

13 Nov 2008 8:20 AM

Those were the days.  Sol Rosen was the BEST.  Never afraid to take a chance on anyone, and surely, the "can you type?" was only a test of your real enthusiasm for the game.  Fifty-two Lou, another great name from the past, and the subject of many a heated discussion on his methods of madness.  Graustark?  Your one, your only.  Great to remember the good old days in Hightstown.  More!

13 Nov 2008 8:25 AM

Steve, thanks for the great story. I would love to hear the story of Jim French and the story of Mr. Gentry hiding Graustark from Conway.  Like many older fans,only rarely can I actually get to the racetrack.  However, I spend many hours reading online.  Of course, you are one of my favorites.  Your stories bring these horses to life and that is what I believe creates a fan base.  My love of horse racing goes way back to when I was about 6 years old.  My parents liked to go the the Maywood harness racetrack near Chicago. We would always go after the 6th race so we did not have to pay admission. The free parking lot was across the street and incredibly the first row of stalls faced the walkway where the horses hung their heads out and could be petted by anyone walking by.  This was a dream for a city kid.  We would bring cut apples from our lunch and feed them to the horses on our way in.  Once inside, my sister and I would look for discarded programs because each day's program had a picture and a new story about about a famous horse. As a teenager, I became more involved with Throughbred racing.     A friend and I snuck into Arlington Park at daylight, just so we could touch Secretariat.  Over 50 years later, I still am a fan of racing,but is is the love of the   horse and the stories of courage and heart that keep me involved. Your stories encourage people to go the racetrack and see today's horses who will become tomorrow's remembrances.  

13 Nov 2008 9:27 AM

Steve, I remember True Knight vividly from the one time I saw him race live at Bowie when he ran down the local favorite [Delay] in John Campbell Handicap.  Angel Cordero was up on True Knight that day and he was so far back I never thought he would catch Delay in the stretch.  I have never seen such stretch charge in all of my life.  Cordero had to weave in and out and around horses while all the time accelerating in heavy traffic.  One of the most exciting races ever.

13 Nov 2008 12:14 PM

Dear Steve:

Enjoyed your article very much.  I still remember "the class" of Darby Dan at Santa Anita that year.  When the horses walked over from the receiving barn into the saddling area; all of the help were dressed in tan outfits with the horses blanketed beautifully.  I really appreciated the wonderful presentation of pride of Darby Dan.  

Again, thanks for rekindling some fond memories of yesteryear.

Keep up the great work.

13 Nov 2008 12:37 PM
Steve Haskin

Hey Mark, Yep Sol(I spelled it Saul even though everyone knew him as Sol because that was his real name and I didnt want to confuse him with Sol Seiden) was a phenomenal editor and father-like figure who commanded so much respect. Good ol' Lou. I actually called him recently after God knows how many years to wish him a happy 80th birthday (80? Yikes). From Graustark to Smarty. That encompasses an awful lot. Thanks for writing.

13 Nov 2008 1:07 PM
Steve Haskin

I guess I will follow this up with the Jim French story, with apologies to those who know it already from a previous article I wrote a few years ago. But it's certainly worth re-telling.

13 Nov 2008 1:55 PM

Dear Steve,

I will confess that I wasn't going to read this last article since I wasn't really a fan of His Majesty or Good Counsel. But something in my heart told me it would be worth it and sure enough I would have been a fool not to. I loved this one as much as all the others I have read. Did I read you are not going to write another book? Please say that was just musing of a writer who is just having a bad day. If you retired we would all be the worse for it.

13 Nov 2008 4:48 PM

 Steve, please do the Jim French story as I've never heard it.

 Susan your story of going to Maywood reminds me of the days I used to go to Balmoral after the sixth race and get in free. The harness horses are what got me interested in thoughrobreds also. Funny how things work.

13 Nov 2008 5:09 PM
Saratoga AJ

Great story Steve.

I remember clearly back in the Spring of 1966 when the the big question for the upcoming triple Crown was who was better...Graustark or Buckpasser. Everyone couldn't wait for them to face each other.

Unfortunately, both got hurt that Spring. Graustark never raced again, and Buckpasser missed the whole Triple Crown before going on to become one of the all time greats.

But for what might have been!

13 Nov 2008 6:26 PM
russell maiers


Thanks for a wonderful ride through their lives.

I am speechless.

13 Nov 2008 8:45 PM

What a beautiful winding trail, Steve!!! I've emailed the link to all my best friends. Actually, it sounds like your little fingers saved you from a life of typing; a God-given gift I guess.

Are your dinner-time conversations like this? An eclipse award for your wife!!!

Might we see Volume 1 of Hangin' With Haskin in print some day?

I hope you will have the opportunity to write about Ribot someday. What a hoss!!!! He could have been rated #1 in the Century as easily as #3.

Somewhere I read or saw that Ribot became quite an angry little fellow after being uprooted and sent to the States. There are even a song about him on youtube to that effect. He's definintely one of those horses whose life was lived in the shadow for those of us in the States. It would be nice to know more.

14 Nov 2008 1:02 PM
The Deacon

As always Steve another great story. This trip down memory lane really stirred my psyche. A great time in history for horse racing. I think the 60's and 70's produced the greatest horses who ever ran. We had Graustark, Buckpasser, Damascus, Dr. Fager, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, Majestic Prince, Arts & Letters, Ack Ack, Forego, and way too many more to mention. But with beautiful memories comes a harsh reality that we will never see times like those ever again. Today's horse racing horizon is a very sad affair. It's like the great line that Roy Hobbs said in the movie "The Natural", I didn't see it coming, and I should have seen it"................  

14 Nov 2008 1:26 PM
Steve Haskin

Jim, I dont submit stories for awards, but I will submit her for an Eclipse Award.

Deacon, that's quite a list. Yep, the game certainly has changed.

Saratoga AJ, Baeza maintains to this day that Graustark was the best horse he ever rode, and that includes Buckpasser and Dr. Fager.

14 Nov 2008 6:43 PM
Pedigree Ann

Jim French was my first Derby horse, the first one I took to my heart and followed from race to race to race, starting after the Champagne. When I knew he was running, I tried to wear his yellow and green racing colors; obviously I wore them a lot of times during that school year. If only that plane from Venezuela had been delayed longer, Little Jim would have been a Derby winner! He was a pure throwback, a dirt horse to the core, and totally wasted at stud in France.

14 Nov 2008 9:18 PM
Vicki J.

Well, Steve, I think it's settled then.  Get your fingers typing about Jim French & we all expect Vol 1 of Hanging with Haskin to be published soon!!  (then you can get started on Vol II).  Tx for the great writing.

14 Nov 2008 11:10 PM

better than BUCKPASSER & THE DOCTOR...thats a mouthfull!!!

15 Nov 2008 12:44 AM
The Deacon

Hi Steve:  With respect to Baeza, Graustark would have had to be on his A+ game to handle the great Dr. Fager. I loved Graustark, it was a shame that he and Buckpasser never hooked up. Baeza so many great horses it is hard to imagine how he can remember what jappened 40 years ago. But I do agree, I have heard Baeza say that Graustark was his favorite. but in truth, I heard him also say that about Buckpasser and the great Doctor. In my mind Dr. Fager was the greatest horse who ever stepped foot on a track up to a 1 1/8 miles, and Spectacular Bid was the best ever ay 1 1/4 miles, and obviously Secretariat was the best ever at 1 1/2 miles. Just one man's opinion............

Thanks as always Steve for your blog and given folks like me the opportunity to express an opinion.

15 Nov 2008 12:50 AM
Steve Haskin

OK, Jim French it is. Ann, you mention Canonero. That actually may be the best story ever. It would have made a great movie had his connections spoken English. I will have to tell that story one day, although I wrote it in two Eclipse Publications books -- Greatest Derbys and Greatest Derby upsets. But it's certainly worth repeating on here.

15 Nov 2008 1:01 AM

Hi Steve,  I kind of remember the jailed part of the Jim French story, but please tell do tell his story again.  You can tell whatever story you want, and it'll be fun to read!

15 Nov 2008 10:44 AM
Steve Haskin

The Jim French blog will be posted Monday morning.

15 Nov 2008 1:27 PM
Matthew W

Steve Canonero WAS a Derby upset--but only on the odds board...I saw this beautiful animal and I'm quite sure he was the best horse out of that strong crop...Yes, so many great ones from The 60's/70's...Canonero II was one of them--

16 Nov 2008 12:23 PM

God, Steve, reading things like this...you just makes me feel like I was there and lived it.  It's the best I can do since I wasn't lucky enough to be around back then.

16 Nov 2008 1:31 PM

Your nostalgia columns would make a GREAT BOOK collection.  The first race I ever attended: Belmont Stakes 1981.  Some open seating those days. Two elderly women I met (saved) on the packed escalator saved me a seat; it fell to me to tell them Pleasant Colony had failed in his triple crown bid. In September I saw a swift, victorious PC thrash older runners in the Woodward; I stupidly did not bet him, noting he was backing up to 1 1/8 miles, after a gutsy 1 1/4 mile second place Travers.  In 96 I saw PC and his son Tap bathed at Buckland Farm, KY.  Pleasant Colony was antsy that morning. I was told he did not like a bath.

16 Nov 2008 7:29 PM

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