Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 28 Days to Go!!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 28 Days to Go!!

Strike The Gold overcame a rough start in life to become the 117th Kentucky Derby winner. He was bred and foaled at Calumet Farm, by their stallion Alydar who also sired Alysheba. His dam was Majestic Gold by Hatchet Man. Due to foaling complications, Strike The Gold nearly died after birth. After issues with his dam’s placenta, the chestnut survivor was placed on oxygen for three days, having to be fed from a tube. Once he was clear from the danger, his dam passed away from a twisted intestine when he was 4 months. As a yearling he developed minor splint problems that needed to be treated. J.T. Lundy of Calumet Farm sent the juvenile to trainer Nick Zito at Belmont racetrack during the early summer of his 2YO season. In late summer, Lundy contacted Zito to let him know that he was going to be selling the colt, along with some of their other horses, due to the farm’s financial issues. Zito put together an ownership group of B. Giles Brophy, William Condren, and Joseph Cornacchia to buy the colt since he wanted to keep him in his barn.

Competing in his first race in October, Strike The Gold showed very little, losing by 21 ¼ lengths. His second start wasn’t much better, finishing 11 ¼ lengths behind the winner. The striking chestnut finally got it together on November 15 when he won at Aqueduct by 8 ½ lengths. The day was also when his sire passed away at Calumet. Sent to Florida for the winter, the colt would again be on the losing end of things for his next three races. Taking on the Florida Derby, Strike The Gold came with a rush from 13 lengths back to finish second to the 2YO Champion Fly So Free. Having the colt pegged to win the Derby since early in the year, Zito sent the colt to Keeneland to contest the Blue Grass Stakes. In the race, Strike The Gold was able to turn the tables, galloping past Fly So Free to win by three lengths under jockey Chris Antley.

The Kentucky Derby of 1991 took place in front of the 5th largest crowd, 135,554. Those in attendance made the Jim Beam Stakes winner Hansel the favorite, followed by Fly So Free. The field of 16 bunched up after the start, as Antley let Strike The Gold settle near the back of the pack. Entering the backstretch, the duo started to pick up speed, passing a few competitors. It wasn’t until they reached the far turn that Antley was able to swing his mount to the outside of the wall of horses. Once free of the pack, the golden chestnut burst away, passing five in the upper stretch. Even though he started to drift once he took the lead, Strike The Gold still passed under the wire a length and ¾ ahead of Best Pal in a time of 2:03. The victory gave the trainer, jockey, and owners their first Derby triumph, while Calumet recorded their 9th Kentucky Derby title as a breeder.

Hansel would be much the best in the Preakness, winning by 7 lengths over his competition. He also was victorious in the Belmont, although Strike The Gold nearly ran him down, earning second place. During his 4YO campaign, Strike The Gold was sent to auction to settle an ownership dispute amongst the partners. Selling for $2.9 million to two of the former owners, Condren and Cornacchia, the Derby winner picked up his second Grade I when he triumphed in the Pimlico Special four days later. Starting his career at stud at Vinery Farm, the stallion was sold in 1998 to Karacabey Stud Farm in Turkey, where he became a leading stallion. His best son was Sabirli, a 7-time sprinter and miler in the country. At the age of 23, Strike The Gold had to be put to rest due to a paddock accident that injured his leg. He was the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner before he passed.

(Photo courtesy of KDM archives)

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum