Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 138 days to go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 138 days to go!

138 Days to go! 1881 Hindoo was the second of three Kentucky Derby winners to be sired by Virgil. Bred by Daniel Swigert, he was the first of three horses that Swigert bred to win the Derby. The other two were the 1882 winner Apollo and 1886 winner Ben Ali. Swigert was the owner of 1877 winner Baden-Baden, and also the founder of Elmendorf Farm. His great-grandson, Leslie Combs II, founded the famous Spendthrift Farm, and named it after one of Swigert’s famous stallions, Spendthrift. Spendthrift was the great-grandsire of the famous Man O’ War. Hindoo ran 9 times as a 2YO, winning 7 of those starts, finishing second once and third once.

In the fall of that year, he was purchased for $15,000, a very large sum at the time, by the Dwyer Brothers, Mike and Phil. They transferred Hindoo to James Rowe, who would become the first trainer to saddle two Derby winners when he saddled the filly Regret to win 34 years later in 1915. In addition to saddling two Kentucky Derby winners, James Rowe would also train eight Belmont winners.

Hindoo ran only once before the Kentucky Derby, winning the Blue Ribbon Stakes easily by three lengths, five days before the big race. He traveled to Louisville in a comfortable train car, with his stablemate, Charley Gorham, a good sprinter.

Over 800 horses came to Louisville to compete in the spring meet, and on the Monday before the Tuesday race, 260 horses were on the track going through their morning routines, from 4:30-8:00 am. A throng of people showed up to watch the works, hoping as always to grasp onto something that would give them a betting edge.

“Hindoo’s appearance was watched for with great interest, and when he came out on the track about 5 o’clock was the center of attraction. Charley Gorham, his stable companion, was brought out with him. Both horses were blanketed when they appeared and jogged around the track a few times when they were stripped. Jimmie McLaughlin was astride the Derby favorite. Charley Gorham moved with him in a pretty last half mile…” Monday, May 16 Courier-Journal.

It was also noted that day that red stockings were the new rage as they were being donned by many of the horses that season. By virtue of their being red, it was quite noticeable to observers. Derby morning was cool and dry, but by afternoon the sun was shining and the sky was clear. The only issue was the dust; still the crowds amassed and 10,000 viewed the seventh running.

Once again the four “Paris Mutuel” machines were at the track, however this year the visitors were more receptive to placing their $5 wager with the pari-mutuel machines. The time arrived for the Kentucky Derby, and the six entrants made their way to the starting line.

There were a few bad starts due to one bad actor, but soon enough they were in a group and the starter sent them away. Hindoo sat several horses behind, just biding his time. Finally, after the half mile, jockey Jimmie McLaughlin let him move to the front and he started to draw away from the field. At the mile point, several jockeys started to ask their mounts to catch Hindoo. The first was Lelex, and battling the brisk pace, he nearly made it to even terms before throwing in the towel. Lelex made it the closest, with the other challengers unable to mount a worthy bid. As a result, Hindoo was able to gallop on and win by four lengths going away. The time was registered at 2:40, even though it was inaccurate. At the start, the drum was to sound to start the horses and as soon as they passed the flag holder, he would drop the flag to begin the timing. This year, as soon as the drum was tapped, the holder dropped the flag. The time was closer to 2:38 ½, but it was in agreement that he could have finished at least a full 4 seconds faster if he was pushed. He was such an amazing horse at the time that the large crowd in attendance showed up just to watch him run.

The Kentucky Derby was the second win in Hindoo's 18 race win streak at three, earning him 3YO Champion honors. He was also the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Travers, and Clark Handicap. At four, he finished 2nd in the Dixiana at Churchill Downs, 2 days later he would win the Louisville Cup at 2 ¼ miles, 4 days thereafter he would prove victorious in the Merchant’s Handicap at 1 1/8 miles, 4 days after that victory he would win the Turf Stakes at 1 ¼ miles. He was never off the board in his 35 Races: 30-3-2, and was one of the first horses to be inducted into the National Museum of Horse Racing’s Hall of Fame.

As a stallion, Hindoo sired the Preakness winner, Buddhist, as well as Belmont winner and leading sire, Hanover. He passed away after a bout of colic at Colonel Zeke Clay’s Stock Farm in Paris, Kentucky in July of 1901.

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum