Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 27 Days to Go!!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 27 Days to Go!!

Lil E Tee was the first Pennsylvania-bred to win the Kentucky Derby, as he was foaled at Pin Oak Lane Farm in Shrewsbury Township. It was there that the little bay colt overcame many difficulties, including having emergency surgery after a bout of colic that resulted in his having some of his intestine removed. Owned by Larry Littman, the colt was named Lil E Tee; the “Lil” due to Littman putting his initials in all of his horse’s names, and the “E Tee” was added in that the awkward and gangly colt reminded them of the alien from the movie. Thinking the youngster had little racing ability, he was taken to a yearling sale, yet the only offer that was received was $2000 from his blacksmith. The blacksmith in turn sold the colt before his first race at 2 for $25,000.

Ending up in Florida, the bay placed second in his first race ahead of winning a 7-furlong contest by 11 ½ lengths. It was after his second outing that he was purchased by Cal Partee, who had been looking into the colt after his first start. Wanting to purchase the colt that won the race that Lil E Tee finished second in, Partee noticed that Lil E Tee was by a stallion that he owned. Once the purchase for the other colt didn’t pan out, Partee focused his attention on buying Lil E Tee. His sire, At The Threshold, was campaigned and raced by the same connections as the Lil E Tee, while finishing 3rd in the 1984 running.

Able to purchase Lil E Tee after his blow out win for $200,000, Partee sent the young colt to his trainer Lynn Whiting at Churchill. Noting that Lil E Tee was dealing with problematic shins, Whiting rested the colt, icing his legs and letting him grow. Having another second place finish, in addition to winning a mile allowance at Churchill Downs, the colt wrapped up his 2YO season with a record of two firsts and two seconds out of four starts.  

The bay spent his winter in Arkansas, based at Oaklawn Park, readying for his sophomore campaign. His first start was a sprint allowance, which he won, prior to coming in third in the Southwest Stakes. Sent to Turfway Park in Kentucky, Lil E Tee won the Gr. II Jim Beam Stakes for his connections. Returning to Oaklawn for the Arkansas Derby, the gutsy colt finished second behind Pine Bluff by a neck; however the effort was enough to convince them to give their colt a shot in the Derby.  

The 118th Derby was known as the year of “Arazi-mania”, the ultra-impressive Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner that the press had coined as the next coming of Secretariat. The race figured to easily be the French-colt’s, resulting in a swarm of media every time he ventured to the track. The American choice, A.P. Indy, was scratched from the race due to a stone bruise. With these two competitors, little attention was paid to other entrants. Still, 17 other horses showed up to take on the European star, who drew a record 132,543 to the Louisville strip to watch his tour-de-force. After a clean start, the horses were bunched together going into the first turn. Pat Day who was guiding Lil E Tee, managed to keep his mount on his feet after he ran up on the Irish colt, Thyer. Once the field was moving up the backside getting ready to make the final turn for home, Arazi unleashed an explosive move, passing by the horses, including Lil E Tee. Moving into third, Day had his colt follow Arazi, tracking in 5th. Entering the home stretch, Arazi began to tire as Lil E Tee began making his move. At the eighth pole, he passed the challenger Dance Floor, who quickly took back the lead. Powering past Dance Floor again, Lil E Tee set his sights on the front-runner Casual Lies. Digging in, the colt who was 17-1, drew away to win the coveted Run For The Roses by one length in a time of 2:03. Giving the connections their first victory in the race, Lil E Tee would be the great Pat Day’s only Derby winning mount.  

The plucky colt contested the Preakness, although he would finish 5th, his only off-the-board appearance. Finding that the colt was dealing with bone chips, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to have them removed, ending his 3YO campaign. Returning to the races at 4, Lil E Tee won the Gr. II Razorback Handicap, with a second in the Oaklawn Handicap.   Retired to Old Frankfort Farm for stud duty, Lil E Tee remained at the farm until he passed at the age of 20 due to an illness. He sired 20 stakes winner’s, including multiple graded stakes winner, Mula Gula.  

(Photo courtesy of KDM archives)  

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum