Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 44 Days to Go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 44 Days to Go!

Foolish Pleasure, the undefeated 2YO Champion Male, would take the 1975 Kentucky Derby, becoming the first of two Derby winners for trainer LeRoy Jolley and jockey Jacinto Vasquez, the trainer and pilot of filly and 1980 winner, Genuine Risk. The bay colt was produced from the breeding of What A Pleasure to the Tom Fool mare, Fool-Me-Not. The Florida-bred yearling would be sent to the 1973 Saratoga Yearling Sales where he was purchased by John Greer for $20,000.

As a 2YO, Foolish Pleasure, under the tutelage of Jolley, would win all 7 of his starts. After winning his maiden on the 4th of April, the bay would only contest stakes races for the remainder of his freshman campaign. Victorious in all, including the Dover, Tremont, and Cowding, the streak would also contain three Grade I’s, the Sapling, Champagne and Hopeful Stakes.

At 3, his season would start with victories in an allowance race and the Flamingo which he won by a length and ¾. Entered into the Florida Derby, the undefeated colt would suffer his first defeat finishing 3rd. He would come out of the race with some abrasions, as well as cuts on the frog of his hoof. The injuries would quickly heal, leading to his return in the April 19th Wood Memorial, winning in the final stride over the son of Nashua, Bombay Duck. The gutsy performance would result in tying the stakes record of 1:48 4/5 set by his grandsire Bold Ruler.

People would start to doubt that the son of What A Pleasure could get the added distance of the Kentucky Derby, yet he would prove them wrong. The 101st Kentucky Derby saw those in charge try to prevent the infield trouble that occurred the previous year by putting in taller chain-link fences, moving the “streaker” flagpole, in addition to having a larger security presence. The price to go into the infield doubled from $5 to $10, with the number of those allowed in halved. The attendance would drop some 50,000 from 1974, checking in at 113,324. Even with the new protocol in place, it didn’t deter the crowd from climbing and tearing down the fence to get access to the rail on the backside.

In the running of the race, Vasquez would keep Foolish Pleasure clear of trouble by staying near the back of the pack. Moving from 8th after a half-mile to 4th with a quarter left to go, the tandem would take command near the 1/8th mile pole. Delivering a stirring stretch run to win by 1 ¾ lengths over Avatar, with Diablo 2 ½ lengths behind in third, Foolish Pleasure would sweep under the wire in 2:02.

The race wasn’t without incident however. A group of fans that had come through the fence made their way to the rail next to the track, with many trying to interfere by attempting to grab the jockeys or the horse’s reins. At one point on the track when the horses were flying by, a fan hurled a can of beer which hit the leader, Bombay Duck, in the hip. The stunned colt would bobble and quit running, finishing the race last in the field of 15. Bombay Duck would return to the barn with a knot the size of tennis ball on the hip that was hit.

Foolish Pleasure would go on to finish second in the Preakness and Belmont. On July 06, the Derby victor would run in a race that he is most known for, the Great Match Race versus the 2YO Filly Champion Ruffian. The two actually were to race on a few other occasions that never materialized, due to injuries or other factors. Jockey Jacinto Vasquez was the regular rider of both Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure; however he chose to ride her as he believed the dark bay filly the better of the two. During the running of the race, Ruffian would break both sesamoids when switching leads due to being startled from a bird that flew up from the infield. Though her jockey desperately tried to stop her, she continued to run. After having surgery that lasted three hours on the leg, the stout-hearted filly woke and began thrashing about her stall, breaking out of her cast and smashing her elbow. Unable to save her, the decision was made to euthanize the great filly. Buried in the infield of Belmont Park, she was placed so that her nose faced the finish line.

Foolish Pleasure would remain in training as a 4YO, winning the Donn Handicap under 129 pounds, the Arlington Golden Invitational Handicap, and the Suburban Handicap over three-time Horse of the Year, Forego. The third Florida-bred to win the Derby, he would retire with 16 wins from 26 starts, earning $1,216,705. First sent to Mint Lane Farm, the bay stallion would then stand at Spendthrift Farm through the 1991 breeding season. From there, he would spend one season at Kerr Stock Farm in California, and then relocated to Horseshoe Ranch in Cheyenne, Wyoming where he would spend his remaining days. As a stallion, he would deal with fertility issues, although he still managed to produce some winners. Marfa won the Santa Anita Derby, Filago was a turf stakes winner, and Baiser Vole was a champion in France.

(Halter courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum archives)

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum