Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 99 days to go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 99 days to go!

99 Days!!! The 1920 winner was Paul Jones, a brown gelding that was bred by John E. Madden and foaled on his Hamburg farm. He was by Sea King, out of the Hamburg mare, May Florence.

Madden sent Paul Jones, named after the Naval Commander John Paul Jones, as well as a popular whiskey, to the Saratoga yearling sales, where he was purchased by Ral Parr for $1000. Parr would eventually add on a partner, J. S. Cosden. The colt had a vicious temper, so he was gelded, which did much to change his attitude. As a 2YO, Paul Jones started 12 times, compiling a record of 5-2-2. Of his five wins, 3 were stakes. He ran in 2 preps at 3 in preparation for the Derby, winning the Newark Handicap at 6 furlongs on April 21st, and finishing second in the Chesapeake Stakes on April 24th. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the gelding was overlooked, allowing Parr to bet on his color bearer at odds of 100-1 in the winter book. At three, however, he was overshadowed by his stablemate, Blazes, whom everyone believed to be the better of the two, except for his trainer, William Garth.

Derby day would have lots of changes in store for the masses that traveled to view the great race. $500,000 in improvements had been put in place at the Downs, including a grandstand addition, as well as more parking. The other buildings had marked improvements, with the clubhouse the recipient of repainting and redecorating. Additionally a concrete mezzanine with room for 5,000 had been built, along with a new lawn area that allowed for standing room for up to 2,500 guests.

Once it was announced that the great Man O’ War wouldn’t enter the race, a flux of entries for the Derby commenced. The reason that he didn’t run has been speculated that owner Samuel D. Riddle believed it to be too far to ship so early in the spring. He would go on to win the Preakness and Belmont; however the Derby would belong to Paul Jones. Despite going off at odds of 16-1, the little gelding proved fierce over the slow track, taking the lead and holding off the late charge of the determined Upset, the only horse to hand a defeat to Man O’ War. Jockey Ted Rice rode Paul Jones, the duo driving down the stretch, not to be denied the win, as they passed under the wire a head in front, stopping the timer in 2:09 flat. He was the 6th gelding to win, the first to win at equal weights as all horses carried 126 pounds (except for the filly Cleopatra who toted 121), along with being the first to win the race valued at $30,000. The day marked the first $1,000,000 Derby. For the first time over $1 million was bet on the day, $375,000 of it on the Derby itself. Of the 17 contenders that faced the starter, the top 6 finishers in the race were owned by 3 different owners. Parr’s pair finished first and sixth, H. P. Whitney’s finished 2nd and 4th, and G.W. Loft’s finished 3rd and 5th.

Parr gave Rice a $5000 bonus for winning, the most ever given to a winning jockey. Rice split the money evenly with Charles Kummer who rode Blazes for Parr, due to an agreement the two made prior to the race. Paul Jones raced for 5 seasons before being retired, at which time he was given to his trainer as a pony horse. After a time as the stable pony, Garth gave the gelding to his daughter and her husband, John Porter Jones. Jones schooled Paul Jones to jump, riding him in a few informal steeplechase races.When he wasn’t competing, Mrs. Jones would ride Paul Jones sidesaddle, taking part as a hunter.

When he passed, Dr. Jones buried the beloved gelding on his Virginia farm.

From The Thoroughbred Record: "At the furlong pole Paul Jones met his sternest test. He seemed to be weakening from the long, hard struggle. Upset appeared to be the stronger. But Jockey Rice again called on his game little mount and Paul Jones did as Hanover or Hindoo would have done. He would not be denied. Paul Jones met challenge with challenge and at the close displayed a heart of iron as he drove madly under the wire with Upset at his throat-latch. Throughout the stretch the twain waged a heartrending duel. As they took the final turn Upset made his bid. Inch by inch he forged past rump and flank and withers. He stretched fiery nostrils alongside the gelding's throat. Only the blazed face remained between him and victory. On they came past the furlong pole, and still the blazed face would not be dislodged. It remained there to the end. This triumph of the East was more than a victory for Kentucky. The ugly little brown boasts blood that long has been the pride of the Blue Grass. His dam is by Hamburg, which got Jersey Lightning, the dam of Regret, and Hamburg's sire was the immortal Hanover, by Hindoo, winner of the Kentucky Derby of 1881. Hindoo was from the loins of Virgil out of Florence, by Lexington, and he by Boston, the great Boston."

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum