Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 98 days to go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 98 days to go!

98 Days!!! 1921 Behave Yourself, the first of four winners owned by Colonel E.R. Bradley, was also bred by Bradley at his Idle Hour Farm. By Marathon, out of the Handbell mare, Miss Ringlets, the bay colt carried Bradley’s green and white to a surprising victory in the 47th running of the great classic. Bradley was known for naming all of his horses with the letter B, additionally, he contested the Kentucky Derby with 28 runners. “Derby” Dick Thompson, Bradley’s trainer, was also the conditioner of all four of the owner’s victors.

At two, Behave Yourself started seven times, winning three and coming in third once. His main victory was in the Queen City Handicap, while his third was earned in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He was considered a decent 2YO, even running the fastest mile for a 2YO in Kentucky in 1:38 4/5. At three, he started the season off the board in the Ben Ali, then finished 2nd in the Bluegrass Stakes to his heralded stablemate, Black Servant. Black Servant was the main hope of the Idle Hour Farm, as Bradley owned his sire, and knew that a victory in the Kentucky Derby would mean added revenue in stud fees. Many reports were also circulated that Bradley had heavily backed Black Servant in the winter books, although a person at the farm said that Bradley never bet a cent on the colt in the future books. Everyone at the farm, as well as Bradley’s friends, had bet the colt, so when he lost it was just assumed that Bradley had lost money as well. Bradley was just pulling for Black Servant to win because of Black Toney, his sire, and not the sire of Behave Yourself.

Derby morning would see both of Bradley’s jockeys injured while galloping horses. Lawrence Lyke, the rider of Black Servant, slipped off of a horse and fractured a finger; while Charlie Thompson, Behave Yourself’s pilot, injured a leg when the horse he was riding collided with a fence. The injuries didn’t slow either rider down, as they both rode that afternoon. Charlie Thompson was a virtually unknown rider on the scene, as the Derby was his third ride in Kentucky. He had been discovered while riding in Tia Juana by a starter that recommended the jockey to Bradley, who in turn hired him. Bradley told both jockeys that he would give $5000 to the winning rider and $1000 to the other; although his instructions were for Behave Yourself to set the pace, which would allow Black Servant to win.

Derby Day was perfect, and the crowd enormous. An estimated 4,000 cars were parked at the Downs, with a congregation of 60,000 eager fans. They packed the grandstand, with nearly 10,000 piling into the infield. Hotels were filled to bursting, with the more well-known hotels getting $50 a night. A field of 12 assembled for the great race, with the Whitney pair of Tryster and the filly Prudent taking all the money; although the favoritism could have been in part due to Whitney betting $20,000 on his entry. The scenario did not pan out the way that Bradley desired; in that as soon as the barrier shot up, Black Servant shot to the lead, carving out incredible fractions over the fast track for the first ¾ of a mile. Thompson and Behave Yourself were able to slip through on the rail, also being able to take advantage of a momentary hesitation by Black Servant when a fan that was leaning over the rail lost his hat and it blew into the colt’s path. Black Servant had looked to be the winner, when Behave Yourself seemed to have “dropped from the clouds”, passing his stablemate to take the race by a nose, in a time of 2:04 1/5,. The time was only 2/5 off the track record set by Old Rosebud, the last horse to have won the Derby for Kentucky.

The crowd was overjoyed that a bluegrass horse had won the great race, and when the garland was wrapped around Behave Yourself, the band played for the first time “My Old Kentucky Home”. The Derby purse was raised to $50,000 that year, giving Bradley a good payday when he became the first owner and breeder of the first two horses across the line. Bradley’s pair finished well ahead of Whitney’s pair, with the filly placing third and Tryster fourth.

Behave Yourself didn’t win again after taking the Kentucky Derby. He faced his stablemate a total of 5 times in his career, only besting him in the one great race. When the two colts were retired, they were both sent to Idle Hour Farm. Behave Yourself didn’t prove much in the breeding area, although he wasn’t given the chance. Of the few mares that he did breed during his short time at the farm, he had 19 winners and one stakes winner out of 56 reported foals. Bradley didn’t want to breed him too much as a result of the colt’s crooked legs, eventually giving Behave Yourself to his brother in Colorado to sire polo ponies. From there he went to the Army Remount Service as a sire of Army mounts. Along the way, he became a beloved member of the Mark Cox family that had a ranch near the Remount facility. He lived out his days with the family, getting his vet care from the Army, as well as enjoying a spacious 20x20’ stall on the farm. When he passed, they buried him whole on the ranch, giving him a granite marker.

From the Thoroughbred Record: “Behave Yourself leaped for opening and pressing close in on Black Servant came down the stretch neck-and-neck with him. For a short space Black Servant kept up, then dropped back as Behave Yourself crossed the wire. ““Weep no more, my lady! O, weep no more today,” played the band, and the heart-stirring refrain of the “Old Kentucky Home,” a myriad throng of devotees paid homage to a great state, a great Derby, and a great pair of colts which had redeemed for the bluegrass it’s time-honored supremacy on the turf.”

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum