Darby Dan Revisited

It doesn’t take much for me to rev up my built-in time machine and transport myself back to the late 1960s and early ‘70s and the halcyon days of Darby Dan Farm. In this case, the catalyst was the death this week of Loyd “Boo” Gentry, who trained the ill-fated phenom Graustark and 1967 Kentucky Derby winner Proud Clarion. Boo was the nephew of long-time Darby Dan farm manager Olin Gentry, the rough n’ tumble hardboot who had ridden in Mexico during the time of Pancho Villa and who had built Col. E.R. Bradley’s Idle Hour Farm into a dynasty.

Darby Dan had hit a dry spell on the racetrack in the mid-60s after winning the 1963 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes with Chateaugay and seeing their brilliant champion Primonetta win 17 of 25 starts from 1960 to ‘62.

In 1965, Boo Gentry was training the Darby Dan babies at St. Lucie training center in Florida (now Payson Park). Among the group was a magnificent-looking liver chestnut by Ribot, out of Flower Bowl named Graustark, who showed right away he was something special, tearing up the track in the mornings.

One day, their main trainer, Jimmy Conway, went down to see the 2-year-olds, but was never shown Graustark. When Darby Dan owner John W. Galbreath sent a string to Chicago with Gentry, Graustark went with him and began rattling off one spectacular victory after another.

An outraged Conway confronted Galbreath, telling him he believed Boo and Olin had conspired to hide Graustark from him, although he had no way of proving it. Galbreath claimed he was unaware of any secrets being kept from Conway and that he was never told there was anything special about Graustark. He offered to turn Graustark over to Conway, but the veteran trainer said he felt guilty forcing Galbreath to move the colt. He felt his only recourse under the circumstances was to resign.

Gentry took control of the main string of Darby Dan horses, and by the following winter, Graustark had become the shortest-priced Kentucky Derby favorite ever in the Caliente Future Book. Gentry trained him hard and often, feeling he could handle it, and Graustark, despite various physical setbacks, kept winning off by himself under wraps in fast times. His Florida campaign was cut short by a heel bruise after he demolished the speedy Impressive in the Bahamas Stakes. Impressive was so fast, he easily defeated his illustrious stablemate Buckpasser that winter going seven furlongs. Buckpasser would go on to win his next 15 starts. Graustark was forced to miss the Everglades and Flamingo and was put away and pointed for the Blue Grass Stakes.

Gentry began taking heat about the way he was training Graustark, who was now known as “The Big G.”. The day before the Blue Grass, Graustark blew out three furlongs in the slop in :33 4/5 and returned lame. Gentry blamed it on the blacksmith putting the nail in wrong and announced he would still run Graustark in the Blue Grass. He admitted it was a gamble, but said he had to take the chance if he was going to have Graustark fit enough for the Derby. Galbreath was never one to interfere with his trainer and decided to trust Gentry’s judgment and go along with his decision.

In the Blue Grass, Graustark opened a huge lead under Braulio Baeza, but started to bear out. Because the colt needed to be tested to get ready for the Derby, Baeza was told by Gentry to let the others close in on him and then ask Graustark for his run. Abe’s Hope closed the gap at the quarter pole and got a good half-length lead in the stretch before Graustark came charging back at him, only to fall a nose short. It was his first career defeat. After the race, it was discovered he had fractured the coffin bone in his left front foot and he was retired to Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Ky. The injury likely occurred when Graustark was asked to go from a pull to a drive in a matter of a few strides.

Sports Illustrated took a shot at Gentry in their May 23 issue, publishing an extensive feature on Graustark, with the title, “Boo Made a Boo Boo.”

Graustark was Gentry’s first big horse and the pressure he was under in Florida and Kentucky was intense. The next year, Gentry had a colt who was virtually unknown until a second-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes. Proud Clarion would go on to win the Kentucky Derby at odds of 30-1 in an odd twist of fate for Darby Dan and Gentry.

Graustark would become the pride of Darby Dan Farm and one of the most influential stallions of his time and a major source of speed, class, and stamina.

The Magnificent Graustark - Photo by Steve Haskin

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 grand-looking son of Ribot – Flower Bowl. The night the colt was born, everyone on the farm was beaming over the birth of this handsome bay colt. 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 Olin 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. Olin and I and my friend Fred had become pretty close and we would spend almost all our time at the farm whenever we visited. Olin was often crusty and cantankerous, but he either took a liking to us or was amused by these two wimpy city boys hanging out at the farm.

Armed with my trusty Kodak Instamatic camera, I took numerous photos of the two yearlings, 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. He was the dominant one and that was just fine with his pal. 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. Like his brother, he had lost his chance to run in the Kentucky Derby. 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. He suffered the injury falling in his stall, convincing Rondinello that someone had gotten to him. Rondinello said the colt, right before collapsing, was acting like he was drunk.

During the time His Majesty was at the farm recuperating, Good Counsel won the Longfellow Handicap at Monmouth, then was retired 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 (1:46 2/5), 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 their groom 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, at age 26, he fell off a mare in the breeding shed, and it was obvious the end was near. According to John Galbreath’s grandson, John Phillips, who runs 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. 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 more than 40 years ago.

His Majesty
Buddies His Majesty and Good Counsel as yearlings - Photo by Steve Haskin

His Majesty
His Majesty had a regal look even as a yearling - Photo by Steve Haskin

In 1972, I photographed two yearlings on the same day at Darby Dan. One was a Sea-Bird colt, later to be named Little Current. The other was a Graustark filly, to be named Cherished Moment. In 1980, Little Current, who would romp in the Preakness and Belmont and be named champion 3-year-old colt, was bred to Cherished Moment and produced a filly named Belle of Killarney, who would become the maternal granddam of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide.

Litte Current
Little Current as a yearling - Photo by Steve Haskin

Cherished Moment
Cherished Moment as a yearling - Photo by Steve Haskin


Leave a Comment:


so darby dan's trainer, who had graustark, ended up ruined him in telling the jockey those directions.

05 Jul 2012 6:07 PM
Abigail Anderson

Could it be that I'm the first to check in @ Hangin With Haskin??????

Well, whether leading the parade or not, I love this article and learning more about the distinguished Gentry clan. And the photos: LOVE THEM!!!! Especially the baby Little Current (a favourite of mine), followed closely by the magnificent shot of Graustark. My heart ached as you described your last visit to see His Majesty, only to discover that he was gone....

I first learned a little about the Gentry family when I was trying to find out more about Terlingua, who was bred by Tom Gentry.

I also have a question: Did Sea-Bird stand at Darby Dan?

I hope you continue to take us back in time, Steve, because you do this so beautifully that I always feel that I'm right there!!!!

05 Jul 2012 7:21 PM

Steve,  Absolutely incredible.  I love all your blogs but the old history ones are just the best. Can you believe you actually captured those pics of 2 yrlings & then they went on to such memorable careers.  Lucky you. Enjoyed EVERY single line of this article. My hair was standing up reading this. Keep writing about all your early experiences - your writing tells the magic.  Tx!!

05 Jul 2012 8:41 PM
Bill Two

Thanks for the story, Steve.  Those horses were cut from another cloth than what's running today. It all goes back to Federico Tesio and his magnificent horse Ribot. Nobody studied pedigree and had greater insights into breeding the thoroughbred horse than Tesio.  Darby Dan really showed America how great that horse's influence was.  When I think of Darby Dan I think of the very best in American thoroughbred breeding. Due to the vast difference in the popular model used today; e.g., speed and precocity it seems we will never see the likes of Ribot's get ever again and that is a true pity.

05 Jul 2012 8:53 PM

You killed me with this one, Steve. It brought back the best time of my life, and my fondest racing memories. While we share somewhat similar associations with Darby Dan, their horses, and Mr. Gentry, Floyd, Jane, and Donna, it's always amazed me how you've retained your enthusiasm for the game-to this day-while the comparison of then to now is just too much for me. I was an avid fan by the time of Graustark and Buckpasser, and haven't before, or since, witnessed again anything like those pair-both magnificent specimens, both ultra-royally bred, and two of the greatest, if not the two greatest racing talents ever.    

05 Jul 2012 8:58 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, Abigail, the parades left with Zenyatta. The days of huge number of comments are gone. Perhaps it's the sign-in, but comments have been down in general.

The high ones now are when people go off topic and branch off to other things, but that's OK. The comments for the readers, and whatever they find interesting and stimulating is fine, whether its about what I write or something that pops up spontaneously.

05 Jul 2012 9:47 PM
Steve Haskin

Sceptre, it's amazing that you remember Donna. Those were great days and it's nice to go back once in a while. John Phillips is doing a great job running the farm now. As for Graustark, Baeza says to this day he's the most talented horse he's ever ridden, and that's saying a lot.

Thank you very much, Pioneer  Country. I appreciate it.

Bill Two, it's sad, but what you say is true.

05 Jul 2012 9:52 PM

Great piece as always Steve and I love those photos.

Back in 1966 many thought that Graustark was better than Buckpasser, including Jockey Braulio Baeza who was the regular rider of both.  However, I think that saying that Impressive easily defeated Buckpasser in that allowance race is being kind of harsh.  Buckpasser owned Impressive whenever they raced against each other in races that mattered, like stakes races.  He humbled him in the Hopeful in 1965 and again in the Met Mile in 1967, a race in which Impressive finished third by six lengths and in which Buckpasser carried 130 lbs. to his 113.  That allowance race was Buckpasser’s first start since October (six months) and it was meant to be a typical tune-up race with Buckpasser being as much as 12 lengths back with 3F to go, the furthest he had ever been behind at that point in a race in his career.

Whether or not Graustark was better than Buckpasser is a matter of conjecture.  He was great for sure, but so was Buckpasser who holds the distinction of briefly holding the world record for a mile (1.32.3 125 lbs.) and who defeated the winners of all three triple crown races in which he too was forced to pass because of injury.

Both were sentimental favorites of mine and both were sensational race horses, the kind that created excitement and brought people out to the track.

05 Jul 2012 10:08 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks Lazmanick. I'm not knocking Buckpasser at all. He also was a very special horse to me during that era and one of greats of all time. But on that day, the fact remains that Impressive beat him by 4 1/2 lengths. It was not meant to demean Buckpasser, but to boost Impressive, who would have been considered a much better horse had he not been used as a sacrificial lamb so many times for Buckpasser, setting up his world record mile with a 1:06 4/5 three-quarters. And he did run 7f in 1:21 4/5 when he beat Buckpasser, which was a fifth of a second off the track record.

05 Jul 2012 10:30 PM

Thanks for filling in the missing pieces...I knew not of Graustark's work and subsequent injury before his ill-fated Bluegrass....As a 15-y/o, going to summer camp in Wisconsin, the only sports page I had access to was from Chicago....Before his 1st start he was getting mentions, articles, buzz....Baeza flew in from NY...Galloping winner at 1-5....Arlington couldn't fill a NW/2 against him and his 2nd start was a betless exhibition....And off these two workouts he tackled the Best of the West, the unbeaten Port Wine in a prep for the Arl/Wash Futurity, then the 1st or 2nd largest purse for 2y/o's ...Graustark by many,tho it became his last start at two...He was a huge hero in Chicago..but Buckpasser won the races with famous names in NY, and was made 2YO champion

05 Jul 2012 11:21 PM

Sorry Steve.  Soon after posting that I was ready to kick myself because I realized that it sounded like I thought you were knocking Buckpasser, and I know you weren’t.  In fact, I don’t think I have ever read where you have ever slighted any horse, which is something I can’t say for many of us including myself at times.

I was always a big fan of Impressive too and it sounds like I was demeaning him when really I wasn’t trying to, just trying to state the facts.  In fact during that magical year of 1966 I believe he was voted champion sprinter with five stakes wins including one at 7 furlongs and four at 6 furlongs.  He was a great sprinter.  I had forgotten that he was the sacrificial lamb in the Arlington Classic and it’s doubtful Buckpasser would have set the record without him.

The one thing I feel about both Buckpasser and Graustark is that both were good enough to win a Triple Crown (without the other competing of course), but I don’t know if one was good enough to sweep all three races if they both competed.  In saying that I don’t want to take anything away from Kauai King,  the Derby Preakness winner who was pretty good in his own right, and who also defeated the eventual Belmont winner Amberoid a couple of times before losing his bid for a TC to that one by a couple of lengths.

Thanks for reminiscing about those magical days Steve.  It’s appreciated by all of us.

06 Jul 2012 12:48 AM
Nip Nip

Now I know why the keep old folks like us around, Steve -- for the great stories and precious history.

06 Jul 2012 12:53 AM
Victoria Forbes

Do you have any memories of Roberto?  Visited the region last month from England and drove past Derby Dan several times.  He is still a big influence over here in England mainly through Dynaformer.

06 Jul 2012 3:33 AM
Lexington Bloodstock

Another brilliant vignette.  Keep them coming Steve.  Write a book, would ya?  Or have you already?

06 Jul 2012 8:18 AM

Steve as usual you "took me back" to what I always think of as the "haydays" (pun intended) of racing.   I was just wondering, if with all the GREAT ones you got to see in person, did you ever get to see RIBOT?   I heard that he was a bit mentally unstable, but I chalk that up to the horse having more brains than his handlers!  I would LOVE to see you do a piece on RIBOT.....blood like his is slowly slipping away from us in the breeding shed, I fear!   No one cares about STAMINA anymore, it seems...

I started my show riding career on TBs and they are still a favorite of mine to ride....nothing like sitting on a horse KNOWING you have power in "reserve" if you get to a fence in a bit of a bad way.....they are so athletic they always seem to get ya out of trouble!  Like I said......smarter than the people around them.    

06 Jul 2012 8:50 AM
Steve Haskin

I have quite a few memories of Roberto and Ribot. Roberto was a handsome dappled dark bay. His groom Floyd, who also rubbed Ribot and Graustark, told me once Roberto learned how to bite (he would bite with his gums instead of his teeth) he was going to be a terror. Next time I saw Floyd he held up his finger and said, "Remember what I told you about when learned how to bite." His finger was half gone.

Ribot was indeed out of his mind. Not mean, just nuts. The fence of his paddock was about 10-feet high and he couldnt stand the sight of other horses. He always had to go out by himself when all the other stallions were in the barn. One of my prize photos is one of me with Ribot and Bing Crosby.

06 Jul 2012 9:43 AM
Steve Haskin

Nip Nip, at least we're good for something :).

Sysonby, racing was huge in Chicago during those years -- Damascus, Buckpasser, Graustark, and of course Dr. Fager's world record. Add some people forget Secretariat raced there.

No book, Lex, but maybe one day somone will compile all these.

06 Jul 2012 9:46 AM
steve from st louis

Joe Palmer called Man 'o War as "close to a living flame as a horse can get." I felt the same way about Graustark, Dr. Fager, Secretariat, Ruffian and Seattle Slew. Some day, that barn will need to make room for Frankel. What a stable that would be.

06 Jul 2012 10:40 AM
Donna M

Mr Haskin,

You made my day, love the nostalgia of your great stories and pictures.  Loved to see the yearling photos as well.. very touching!!  Thanks, you are my all time favorite writer!!! Don't ever retire, please!!   Donna M.

06 Jul 2012 11:35 AM


The book that needs to be written is one on Olin Gentry, and you're the guy to pen it. Many who knew him well are already gone, and before too long...

Love your Graustark photo; have you any others of the great one to share?

06 Jul 2012 11:48 AM
Heidi Carpenter

I love reading about the old Darby Dan (not that they don't have some nice mares there now). Speaking of Darby Dan/Idle Hour, do you know anything about Danada Farm? Owned by Dan and Ada Rice of Wheaton, IL, they bred and owned Lucky Debonair. Their original homestead/farm still stands and is an equestrian center. This includes the old turf track and starting gates--I've ridden my own mare around that track just for fun while on trail rides.

06 Jul 2012 11:50 AM
Future days

It's been said many times but I hope that doesn't lessen the impact -- Steve Haskin, your stories are brilliant! I was asked the old question about which three people I would invite to dinnner if anything were possible and you were at the top of my list. Please keep sharing  your stories.

06 Jul 2012 12:35 PM
an ole railbird

 2nd the motion on  the book about olin gentry.

 steve your speed rating went up on my charts, just because of you having know him.

i heard a retired general speak of" mexican punitive expodition",( which olin gentry was a part of ).  he said that expedition made horseman of all of us involved. but it also made some hate horses.

 keep up the good work, "ole boy". have a nice day.   "an ole railbird".

06 Jul 2012 12:40 PM

Thanks again for the wonderful memories. Maybe it's a senior moment but horse racing did seem more exciting in the past and we had more and longer lasting standouts. Also see if I can get an invite to Ms. Carpenter,s dinner party.

06 Jul 2012 1:27 PM
Paula Higgins

As one who knew nothing about Graustark, this was fascinating. Zenyatta may be retired Steve, but your stories and writing are the highlights of BLOODHORSE. Thank GOD for your instamatic too. What a good little camera that was. Really loved these pictures, especially the one of them playing. As for Ribot, good grief. They should have given combat pay to take care of him. It makes you wonder why some horses are hell on 4 legs. Are they wired that way (genes) or is it a result of the way they were treated?

06 Jul 2012 1:52 PM
Mister Frisky

Steve,Your just as good with the camera as you are with the keyboard.Loved the His Majesty photo.

06 Jul 2012 3:35 PM

Yes, Ribot was a terror during his time at Darby Dan. The famed equine photographer, Tony Leonard, once told me that he spent the most frightening afternoon of his life while shooting Ribot in his paddock. But, I can recall Mr. Gentry telling me that Ribot became that way only after being exported to his new surroundings at Darby Dan. As many know, Ribot arrived at Darby Dan under a 5 year lease, but remained at Darby Dan for the remainder of his life because (due to his acquired temperament) no insurance company would later write a policy for his return. There was also speculation that Ribot developed a brain tumor...Graustark was an extremely atypical Ribot, both in physique and brilliance. Due to this, it was rumored (at the time) that Graustark was sired by Swaps, and not Ribot. Mr. Gentry swore to me that Graustark was indeed the son of Ribot, and this is supported by the fact that Graustark was bred to many Swaps' daughters. Graustark's full-brother, His Majesty, bore a rather close resemblance to Ribot, but the fine racehorse and exceptional stallion, Ragusa, may have resembled his sire most. For those interested in Ribot, I'd recommend John Aiscan's book "Ribot".      

06 Jul 2012 6:23 PM
Mike Relva


What respect I have for your impressive knowledge on racing, the class you show, unlike a former blog host is just as impressive.

06 Jul 2012 6:25 PM
Scott's Cause

Got the hardback book "Champions" a while back and set it on the shelf.  Got it out yesterday and started giving it a quick look.  I think I would do faily well in60-70-80 horse trivia and pedigrees.  Dr. Fager favored in every race except his first. 22--18-2-1.  Damascus favored except 2...32--21-7-3.  Buckpasser favored in all except first 31--25-4-1. and the list goes on and on.  Holy crap!  There were some real race horses back in the day....

06 Jul 2012 6:45 PM

Hey Steve,

I am so glad you wrote about Darby Dan. When I was 12 my parents brought me to the farms in Kentucky to see the racehorses from Columbus, Ohio. Our first stop was Darby Dan. To this day I feel so lucky to have seen Graustark, His Majesty, Good Council and Roberto. The old training barn in Columbus is now part of one of the metro parks. I went to see it a couple years ago, and just thought about all the great horses that had been through that barn. Loved the pictures much better then the pictures I took when I was 12 back in 1975.

06 Jul 2012 6:52 PM
Steve Haskin

Future Days, that is quite a comment. I'm flattered and I thank you. And thank you everyone for your comments. Glad you enjoyed the trip back in time.

Bob, you know your Ribot. There was also a rumor that Ribot was the sire of Damascus, not Sword Dancer, who also stood at Darby Dan. I have so many funny stories about Ribot, including one that involved the Japanese visiting the farm. No space here to tell them. I have Champions and Ribot. Both wonderful books.

Marlaine, how is our dear Louisa these days?

06 Jul 2012 6:58 PM

Thanks Steve, for sharing your life experiences and the treasured images. They bring back halcyon days when racing was more a pleasurable sport, with time to contemplate achievement, than the present era where there appears to be a desire to denigrate rather than praise.

Ribot, Roberto, and Dardy Dan Farm folklore from the glory days of racing.

06 Jul 2012 7:55 PM
kelso fan

ALways love reading your columns, Steve, especially about the horses of yesteryear.  And your photos are terrific - so glad you have been including them.  My only source of racing news at the time was the local newspaper but being across the river from Aiken, SC at least there was news printed!

06 Jul 2012 8:53 PM
Fortune Pending

Wonderful wonderful stories.  You never fail to bring those times alive again.   I used to make the rounds of the farms every summer (would squeeze them into a two day trip) in the 70s, photographing all the babies I could... Never missed Darby Dan, Claiborne, Spendthrift, Greentree, and the Keeneland library.  There was no need to go anywhere else, those were "THE" farms...  Floyd's stories of Ribot never got old.  I sure wish I had been able to see him in person.

06 Jul 2012 10:06 PM
Bill Two

Some of the great horses of all time, like Ribot, were real head cases and didn't tolerate fools.  From what I've heard, Nasrullah's get were pretty high strung. In harness racing the great Nevele Pride had to be approached with great care, particularly when he was at stud.  I recall a photo of him being led to the breeding shed by two men holding long poles on either side attached to his bridle. Man o' War's sire, Fair Play, had a fiery reputation as did his sire, Hastings, who according to a source I cannot remember stated he was "dangerous". I guess that's part of what made them the great competitors they were.

06 Jul 2012 11:30 PM

When I was a child my Dad took me to Darby Dan the same day he took me to Stallion Station. The only horses I ever saw that had taller fences than the other stallions were Carry Back, who was no bigger than a pony and very mean, and Ribot who was a very impressive horse. He was grand and moved like a dream. I wanted a Ribot son or daughter and when I purchased my mare I went looking for a grandson and went to Go For Gin because his grandsire was His Majesty. It broke my heart to read how he died.

This past winter I drove to Three Chimney's to breed my mare to Point Given and remembered when my Dad took me to see Ribot. Since my mare stayed in what was a part of Darby Dan years ago.

God, if those roads could talk! The horses that have looked over those wonderful old paddocks and barns. The decades of planning. The horse that reaches its promise and the one that breaks you heart because he comes so close.

I was too little to know how much Ribot meant to Italy and how great a horse he was. When I go out to groom my colt I tell him about all of his family. He likes to listen to the sound of my voice thank goodness. I pray he finds his life to be long and happy. Maybe one day he will be a important link to all the historic lines he is a part of.

A good book to read for those who are interested is a book called Great Horses Of Our Time. It covers several different horses. I have read it many times and like an old friend will read it again soon.

06 Jul 2012 11:53 PM

I have spent the last 7 days on my farm with no electricity here due to the severe storms. I dug back into my TB history books. I savor the stories of the trainers & horses from the late 1800's and early 1900's and later. I also read your "Tales of the Triple Crown" for the first time and loved it too.

I am completely fascinated  reading about the old great horses, their quirks, victories, losses and the sometimes oddball humans around them.

I laughed again at the story of the great breeder and trainer John E. Madden whipping up on trainer Sam Hildreth who attacked Madden with a heavy stick one night at dinner. Madden was a former boxing champion & great athlete. Hildreth was angry because William Collins Whitney replaced Hildreth with Madden as a trainer. Hildreth got drunk and made a poor decision to challenge Madden. Later they continued to do business together. These are priceless stories.

I love to see how the bloodlines carry particular characteristics on to their descendants. It is so much more enlightening to hear a story illustrating this with a particular horse than to read a generalized statement like "he passed on stamina or a fiery temperament."

I didn't know specifics about Ribot's antics. I do remember reading of a stallion who had to be put out first and with no other horses and  could not stand the site of cattle in a field, so they moved the cattle. Was that Ribot?

It reminded me of the evil tempered Hastings (this acquired from his dam named Cinderella, of all things). The stable boys had to carry clubs to protect themselves.

This passed on to his son Fair Play and how it then was described as the spirit or the fire in the Fairy Play line, he being the sire of Man o' War and certainly had great influence through them.

I read about a MOW's full sister Masda who was speedy but a "problem filly" who once had to be scratched from a race because she refused to be saddled. One time she also whirled around when the starting gate sprung open but won anyway. Unless someone writes these stories down they are lost forever. These are the most fascinating to me, the real stories of the champions, not just their race records or race times. So PLEASE keep writing everything you remember and sharing your photos.

I hope it will all be available in book form one day to further the history of the breed and the real people involved with them. There is always an unusual set of circumstances & characters behind each one.

P.S. the friendship between His Majesty & Good Counsel reminded me of your chapter on the Belmont Winners Arts  and Letters and Stage Door Johnny. They raced against one another but became life long friends at the stud farm, racing each other  just as you described here & then hanging out under the shade tree together when old. Horses are such remarkable creatures!

07 Jul 2012 12:24 AM

Thank You, Steve! You give me goosebumps, reading about all this history, the people, the horses, the memories!

07 Jul 2012 12:43 AM

I am glad sceptre confirmed the story I heard about Ribot's temperament being acquired.  I remember a story where some Italians came to see hoe Ribot was doing and they asked what Darby Dan had done to him, because he never acted like that before.  Interesting.

07 Jul 2012 1:48 AM

Been trying to jog my memory for other Darby Dan related stories. I can recall their very bad run of luck in the mid-late 70s. In 1975 Darby Dan had two quite talented 3 yr. old colts, a top talent, Prince Thou Art (Hail To Reason-Primonetta), and the very good Sylvan Place, a son of Graustark. By the fall of their 3 yr.old year both, within weeks apart, broke down and died during morning works at Belmont. Price Thou Art was a particular favorite of mine, and I have (somewhere) a roll of super 8 movie film of him scampering the field as a weanling. He was an elegant, leggy real beauty (as a racehorse), and who knows what he may have accomplished as a stallion. A few years later their Champion 3 yr. old Graustark filly, Tempest Queen, died at 4. It was quite a blow, as she was among Graustark's greatest fillies-and Graustark did become one of the best broodmare sires of the latter part of the last century.

07 Jul 2012 2:03 PM
Ted from LA


I will compile all your articles and make a book.  You will receive 8%, Ted from LA 46% and Bob from Boston 46%.  I think this will be a great deal for all three of us.

07 Jul 2012 4:05 PM

While we're on the subject of Flower Bowl's sons, let's not forget her magnificent daughter, Bowl of Flowers, champion 2-yr-old filly, 1960, champion again at 3, and a member of the Hall of Fame. She's the dam of Whiskey Road, who sired international champion Strawberry Road. Bowl of Flowers was one of the first racehorses I fell in love with, and still love her today. She had a wide forehead with long, floppy, wide-apart ears, and her stable nickname was "Mommy." She wasn't a big filly, standing only 15.3 hands, but she was an amazing racehorse. By the way, this is the female family of Your Host, sire of the great Kelso. Your Host's sister, Your Hostess, produced Gay Hostess, dam of Majestic Prince.

07 Jul 2012 4:43 PM


Nice of you to remind us of Brookmead's Bowl Of Flowers; I remember her well. Darby Dan had her full-brother, Cup Race. He was exceptionally quick, and talented (thought he might become another Ahoy), but didn't race long enough to make a name for himself...And, re-that female line; the great King Ranch Champion, Gallant Bloom, was out of a 1/2-sister to Bowl Of Flowers.  

07 Jul 2012 5:19 PM

SCEPTRE....I also heard the Swaps as sire rumor, both when i was on the backstretch in the early 70's and knew people with Darby Dan and when I often visited DD after moving to Lexington in 1974 when you could still drive in and see history....The grooms wouldn't deny it so it lived on....Another was that Ribot would try to climb a tree....Wonder if Steve H ever heard that one....I actually had a photo of Graustark biting a sign warning that HORSES MAY BITE....couldn't make it up if it weren't so....thanks for keeping the legend alive but the breeding stats mentioned may put it to rest

07 Jul 2012 10:07 PM

Steve, ever since I met you at the museum in Saratoga, and you mentioned seeing Graustark as a 2 year-old at Arlington, your columns have been so enjoyable.  And, because of my infatuation with Graustark and Buckpasser, this one really hits home.  Thank you for a great story.  Baeza does think Graustark was superior to Buckpasser, at least to confidants.  It is a true shame we never saw them go at it.  I don't think Buckpasser could have ever caught Graustark.  I have tried so hard to find video of Graustark.  Absolutely, no luck.  It's too bad Conway did not get the horse.  History probably would have been quite different.

07 Jul 2012 10:50 PM

Few will read this, because there's now a new blog piece, but I feel compelled to add this:

Baeza may have stated that it was his belief that Graustark was superior to Buckpasser, but such an opinion isn't necessarily reality. Braulio once trained a colt I later owned, and confided that this colt had as much ability as Dr. Fager, Buckpasser and Graustark. As a matter of fact, I used his quote in a stallion ad...I think it's impossible to realistically compare Buckpasser and Graustark. For me, they were the two greatest I've ever witnessed, but their running styles and acomplishments were so different as to defy comparison. Buckpasser's racing temperament was such that he generally won by small margins, but it could be argued that he should have never been defeated. He also displayed great talent from sprint to marathon distances. Graustark was a free running phenomenon, but hinted at an ability to also excell at classic distances. I have the feeling that had either been completely sound, there would now be little debate as to who were the greatest racehorses in history.

08 Jul 2012 12:16 AM
Between Friends

The racing world was so fortunate in the mid-1960s to be visited by Buckpasser and Graustark, and then Damascus and Dr. Fager a year later, four incredible horses who all gave the fans some great races and unforgettable memories. Can anyone who witnessed or read about the 1967 Suburban ever forget Buckpasser snatching a victory with his wait-until-the-last-few seconds finish? Makes you wonder what would have happened if Buckpasser and Graustark had run against each other.

I was lucky enough to visit Darby Dan Farm in 1968 and to get a photo of Graustark and see *Ribot while waiting for the other stallions to be brought in from turnout. I didn't hear any stories about *Ribot climbing trees that day but did read later about his reaction to a small peephole (he apparently stood up on his hind legs to take a close look at it) that had been placed in his stall so staff could keep an eye on him.

08 Jul 2012 9:10 AM

Sceptre, with all due respect, I'm 66 years old and have seen all the good ones starting in 1959-60. I've loved most of the top horses of each decade since. Kelso, Carry Back, Ridan, Northern Dancer, Buckpasser, Damascus, Dr. Fager, Graustark, Bowl of Flowers, Cicada, and so many others were my sports heros in my youth. Heck, I even remember Spanish Riddle. But there is NO question whatsoever who is the greatest horse ever to look through a bridle, in my lifetime at least. That is the incomparable Secretariat.

We all have our favorites. I've been lucky enough to have many through the years. My list is very long. But none come remotely close to Big Red. It's such a tragedy that Mr. Chenery didn't live to see his great colt's achievements, and that his death caused Secretariat to be hastily syndicated. The deadline to get him to stud instead of letting him race as a 4-yr-old put a sense of hurry to his 3-yr-old campaign, leading to a couple of decisions that weren't in Red's best interest. Racing him at Saratoga even though the colt was ill, for example. Yet Red overcame all of it and left a remarkable legacy.

One of the true highlights of my life is June 9, 1973, as I stood in the club house stands to witness Secretariat's Belmont. I don't think there was a horse ever born, or who ever will be born, who could have run with him that day.

09 Jul 2012 12:15 PM
Old Old Cat

Steve, you, or someone else, should eventually write a book or anthology of your writings.  I say print them off, read them and place them into piles of similar topics, then publish them, maybe with little comments, like Isaac Asimnov did with science fiction stories.  But your vignettes don't even have to be compete stories.  Your writing and photos are priceless.

09 Jul 2012 3:04 PM


I'm also 66, hae faint memories of Swaps and Nashua, rooted for Tim Tam in '58, and became passionately interested by early '61. My initial favorite was Globemaster, later became very smitten with No Robbery and Tosmah, but it was Buckpasser and Graustark who captured me most-to this day. I too was in the clubhouse for Secretariat's Belmont (also attended his Derby). Yes, we all have our favorites (and opinions re-who was the best). Do you recall Forego's performance in the race leading up to Secretariat's Belmont? I think a more mature Forego could have given Secretariat all he wanted that day, and had Secretariat stayed in training at 4, who knows the outcome of a Secretariat-Forego rivalry. But for my money, Buckpasser and Graustark were the best I've witnessed, followed probably by Dubai Millennium.

09 Jul 2012 4:36 PM
Jim of G

 Well I'm 70 and don't forget Native Dancer as the equal of any thoroughbred that ever raced or bred.

  But there can be no greater achievement in the annuals of American racing than Secretariat's Triple Crown in record times.

  Baeza once told me that His Majesty couldn't shine Graustark's shoes.(a funny idea, did he mean couldn't paint his hooves?).

  I once had a Northern Flagship gelding out of a Cormorant mare and whenever he went to the back of his stall and threw himself down I'd think Ribot.  I think Ribot means "sour" in French as years ago in a restuarant I saw lait ribot on the menu and a waiter brought me a sample and it was a fermented milk drink that i found exotically interesting.

11 Jul 2012 4:31 PM

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