81 Days!!! Lawrin, the only Kentucky Derby winner bred in Kansas, was sometimes called “The Kansas Seabiscuit”.
He was born on Woolford Farms, which was owned by Herbert Woolf, who had inherited a chain of family department stores. Woolf also was a cousin to Leonard Woolf, who married Virginia Stephen, later to be known as the famous writer, Virginia Woolf. Woolf purchased Lawrin’s sire, Insco, at an auction for $500. The recently saved horse had broken a coffin bone while on the track. While it was believed that he would have to be put down, a vet and the insurance company thought it was possible to save him, so the effort was made. Though he survived the injury, he would never race again, and as a result he was entered into the fall Fasig-Tipton sale. Woolf liked the horse’s breeding, as Insco was a son of Sir Gallahad III, the sire of Triple Crown winner, Gallant Fox, and eventual Kentucky Derby winners Gallahadion and Hoop Jr. Woolf’s agent went to the sale, purchasing three broodmares and Insco.While the stallion would sire several stakes winners, his most famous was the bay colt, Lawrin.
Starting his freshman season on April 1st in Texas, Lawrin would race 15 times as a two year-old, winning three of his starts and finishing second in six. His last race of the year would be on December 20th at Tropical Park in Miami. The newly turned 3YO would then start the season off on January 15th, in a six furlong allowance race in which he was beaten by a nose. A week later in the Hialeah Stakes, another six furlong contest, he won easily by five lengths.
On February 5th, carrying 126 pounds in the Bahamas Handicap, he was badly struck by another horse during the running, finishing 8th of nine. Bouncing quickly back, he ran two weeks later in a six furlong race where he finished third. He would then take on older horses, winning a mile prep for the Flamingo Stakes.Just three days later, on February 26, he proved victorious in the Flamingo, winning by one and a half lengths, and earning a well-deserved rest after facing the starter 22 times.
Lawrin would then be shipped to Churchill to get an early start on preparing for the Kentucky Derby. While there, he quickly developed a separation in his hoof which needed to be removed. A piece of dirt had managed to work itself between the outer wall and the inner hoof, creating a wedge. Due to his winter training and conditioning, the time he missed due to the injury was barely noticed.
He would race again on April 30th, finishing third over a muddy track. Three days later, he contested the Derby Trial, running in a three-quarter shoe with a bar plate, and finished a fast closing second. Four days following the Derby Trial was the 64th running of the Kentucky Derby. Lawrin was trained by the infamous Ben Jones, who saw his first Derby in 1917 while sitting on top of his father’s stable roof. The young Jones was taken with the spectacle and the race that was won by Omar Khayyam. Jones’ trainee was in need of a jockey for the Derby. Eddie Arcaro, who wasn’t able to get the mount of his choosing, stepped in to take the reins.
Jones and Arcaro walked the track the morning of the race, to notice the areas where the track was heavy or in poor condition. Noting that it was mainly on the rail, Arcaro was given directions to keep Lawrin off of the rail, as were all the other jockeys. Unfortunately, Lawrin had drawn the one hole. 55,000 people arrived in Louisville to see the great spectacle that is the Kentucky Derby.
The year’s edition was also filmed for the backdrop of the 1938 movie, “Kentucky”, about a long shot named Blue Grass that wins the Derby. The crowd anxiously waited for the moment when the 10 horses made their way onto the track and headed for the starting gate. Arcaro made the most of his first time on Lawrin.
The duo broke out of the gates, running in 5th, eight lengths behind the leader through the first half mile. Running under a tight hold as a result of the close quarters, they were able to save ground even though they were held on the rail, the one place that no one wanted to be. After three-quarters of a mile the order was the same, yet Lawrin and Arcaro were able to start gaining ground due to the others moving off of the rail. While he was unable to move his mount to the outside, Arcaro had the open rail. Deciding to make the most of it, he asked upon Lawrin, who responded with an astonishing move, passing all but the leader, Menow, by the mile marker. He caught up with Menow so rapidly that the challenger appeared to be going backwards. Flying to the front, he led by three lengths as they entered the stretch. Dauber tried to make a late charge, and with Lawrin geared down, he came within a length at the finish.
The winner crossed the finish line in 2:04 4/5, and was led into the new infield winner’s circle for the ceremony. Being the only non-Kentucky bred in the race, the band was uncomfortably silent, as they were accustomed to playing “Born in Old Kentucky” for the winner. They had nothing prepared for the Kansas bred.
Lawrin was the first of five Kentucky Derby wins for jockey Eddie Arcaro, and the first of six wins for trainer Ben Jones. He was the only horse that Jones won the Kentucky Derby with that wasn’t bred and owned by Calumet Farm. His win provided nearly $150,000 to Woolf in future bets that were placed on him in the winter book, as well as bets placed that day on track. The Derby winner was also the first to have his major prep work in Florida. Lawrin didn’t race in the two other classic races, as a result of not being nominated. Instead he went to California to race at Hollywood Park’s inaugural meeting, where he won the Hollywood Trial Stakes and the American Invitational. Dauber, who had gone on to win the Preakness, came to California for a rematch. However, while training for the race, Lawrin bowed a tendon and was retired.
He died in 1955 of a heart ailment at Woolford Farm and is buried next to his sire, Insco. There are still grave markers standing at their burial site in Kansas.