Today’s horse is very special to us at the Museum, as jockey Roscoe Goose was our very own Carla Grego’s great-uncle! 106 Days!!! 1913 Donerail is best known for winning the Kentucky Derby at the longest odds at 91-1, a record that still stands today.
A $2 win ticket returned $184.90. He was not the longest odds in the race however, that honor went to Lord Marshall who was 183-1. The filly Gowell, who finished third, was 87-1. She also finished third in the Kentucky Oaks two weeks later, and would win the Latonia Derby.
Donerail got his name from a small wayside town close to John S. Barber’s Glen Haven Farm, near Lexington, where he was raised. Owner, breeder, and trainer, T.P. Hayes, kept his mares at the farm. Donerail was by import *McGee, who also sired 1918 winner, Exterminator. He was the second straight horse to win out of a Hanover mare. Donerail's dam, Algie M., had sire lines that produced winners; Halma, Alan-A-Dale, and Ben Brush. Thomas P. Hayes was the 2nd person to breed, own, and train a Kentucky Derby winner.
His jockey, Roscoe Goose, had his best season in 1913. Growing up in poverty, he always had a love of horses. He would ride the fire horses to the blacksmith to get them shod, just to be around them. On the advice of a friend, he started riding in races, traveling the county circuit. His first race was in 1906 at the Elizabethtown, Kentucky track. He worked very hard at becoming one of the premiere jockeys of the time, winning 85 races in 1913.
Once he retired, he became a trainer, an owner, and a millionaire; though many didn’t know it until after he passed. He was a loyal and good friend, helping anyone who needed a hand, and taking in many that wanted to learn to become jockeys. He helped to develop many of them, including Charley Kurtsinger, another Louisvillian, who rode Derby winner, Twenty Grand, and piloted Triple Crown Winner, War Admiral. Roscoe was one of five brothers, two being jockeys. The other was Carl Ganz, who won the 1913 Kentucky Oaks on a filly named Cream two weeks after Roscoe won the Derby.
Donerail didn’t show much promise at the beginning of his 3YO season, although he did finish second to Foundation in the Bluegrass. His form in the Camden Handicap, however, when he finished unplaced, was enough to keep Hayes from committing to run the colt in the Kentucky Derby.
Goose, who didn’t have a mount in the race, tried to talk Hayes into entering, but Hayes told him to try to get a ride on one of the contenders. When he was unable, Goose, along with the horse’s groom, did their best to persuade him to enter. Goose told him that if he entered, he could at least get him in the money, not thinking that they had a chance to win. Hayes finally agreed. Hayes didn’t place a bet on his colt, which many thought was due to his unbelief in the colt. It was actually because at the beginning of the season, he told people that he thought the colt had a chance, and so many people on his advice bet on Donerail at odds of 100-1. When he went to place his bet, he was so mad that he couldn’t get 100-1 like his friends, he refused to bet. He was mad at himself, because it was his own fault that he had made the odds drop.
The Donerail contingent would make their way to Churchill Downs from Douglas Park, about 2 ½ miles away, on Derby day to take on a field of seven others.
The beautiful day would pack the track, as 30,000 people were on hand for the 39th running. Ten Point was the heavy favorite, with Bluegrass victor, Foundation, also taking some money. Donerail was still 91-1, even though he had finished second to Foundation in that race. The field got off to a good start; Goose keeping Donerail in 6th place for the first mile, while Ten Point and Foundation dueled it out on the lead. At the head of the stretch, Donerail was in 5th, when Goose started to cluck to his mount. It was at this point that Goose, who had thought that he’d only get a piece of the race, realized that he actually had a chance, as Donerail started “passing horses like a passenger train going past a freight train”. They flew past the others in a rush, crossing the finish as half-length victors going away. Donerail set a new record for the Kentucky Derby, winning in a time of 2:04 4/5, besting Meridian’s record by 1/5 of a second.
Roscoe was quoted after the race as saying that they, “… just went for corn bread in the race, and ended up with cake instead”. This Kentucky Derby was the richest to the winner yet, earning $6,600.
While it was the richest, it ended up being costly for Goose. Earlier he had agreed with the other jockeys that whoever won the race would have to throw a party for all of the other riders. Not believing that they were actually going to win, he thought it was a great idea. However, after earning $500 for the win, he ended up paying over $200 for the resulting festivities.
From The Thoroughbred Record: "A warm reception awaited the winner when the boy returned to the judges' stand to weigh in. Jockey R. Goose was probably happier than Owner T. P. Hayes. It devolved on Governor James B. McCreary to present Jockey Goose with the bouquet of flowers given by the New Louisville Jockey Club to the winning jockey of the day. He said: "Young man, I congratulate you. The highest compliment that any person can receive in life is that of success. You have met with great success today and are deserving of the honor now bestowed upon you. You were on a gallant horse and you rode a brilliant race." Jockey Goose, in reply, bashfully said: ''Governor, I more than appreciate your compliment. I regard it as the greatest afternoon in my whole life the reason that I was born and reared in Louisville and I have won Louisville's greatest race. I will never forget this day as long as I live. I will say for my mount that he did all I asked of him throughout the race. He held his position well in the early part and finished staunch and game when I called on him in the stretch. While I rode him to the best of my ability, I was on a good horse today."