Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 93 days to go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 93 days to go!

93 Days!!! 1926 Bubbling Over was a very promising horse, but was unfortunately hampered by physical ailments throughout his career. Thankfully he was able to win the Kentucky Derby before he had to be retired to stud. He was bred and owned by Colonel E.R. Bradley, racing under his Idle Hour Stud. “The Bubbler” as he became known, was by Bradley’s imported stallion, *North Star III, and out of the talented Sweep mare, Beaming Beauty. The chestnut was a beautiful colt, as well as a favorite of Mrs. Bradley, who gave him the name when she commented that he bubbled over with Beaming Beauty’s beauty. He was said to look like molten gold when the sunlight would shine upon him. Unfortunately, Bubbling Over was also very wide-legged. So much so that Olin Gentry, the farm manager, said that “you could roll a barrel between his legs”. Due to the condition, Bradley didn’t know what type of horse he had, so he didn’t nominate the colt into many of the large 2YO stakes. As a result, he wouldn’t face the 2YO champion, Pompey. Bradley needn’t have worried, as his trainer sent Bubbling Over out for a race on the Churchill surface a week after the 1925 Kentucky Derby.

The stable was going through a losing streak, which caused Bradley to have little hope in his chestnut’s chances. Going off at 50-1 in the 5 furlong contest, Bubbling Over broke to the front and came back the victor in a time of 1:00 2/5. Surprised by the outcome, Bradley and trainer “Derby Dick” Thompson sent the colt to the track again three days later in another five furlong outing. This time he was the favorite, running like he knew it, he passed under the wire six lengths in front, stopping the timer in :59 1/5, only 1/5 off of the track record. One week later, racing at Latonia, he won another five furlong race on the front end in a time of :59 3/5. Now sure that they had a nice runner, they had to start spacing his races due to the weights that were being assigned to the speedy colt. Making his next start on July 2, carrying 118 pounds in a 5 ½ furlong sprint, he again broke first, leading the entire way to win by 2 lengths in 1:06 1/5. A month later in Saratoga, at the same distance against 10 other competitors, carrying the high-weight of 119, Bubbling Over won easily by a length in 1:06 4/5.

Finally able to get him into a stakes race, Bubbling Over made his next start in the August 19th Grab Bag Handicap at six furlongs. This time carrying 120 pounds against nine horses, he broke in third position. Immediately making up the lost ground, by the quarter pole he was leading by two and setting quick fractions. He stopped the clock at :22 4/5 at the quarter, as well as :45 4/5 at the half where he was leading by three. It was shortly after that his bad eye-sight became a factor.

A water truck had broken earlier in the day, spilling its contents, therefore creating a muddy spot on the track. Jockey Earl Sande, wanting to encourage the colt to go past the spot, tapped Bubbling Over. The colt, not seeing anything, spooked and bolted towards the outside rail. Sande, thinking that they were going to go through, finally was able to straighten his mount out and they were off again. Running wide, they started to make up ground on the four horses that passed them when he veered off. Flying down the middle of the track, the duo was able to pass two of the runners, coming up just a nose short behind the second place colt.  It would be the only time that Bubbling Over would finish third. Bradley, unaware of how bad the colt’s eyesight was, thought that Sande gave his colt a bad ride, never letting him back aboard. Bubbling Over would win two more stakes, the 6 furlong Nursery Handicap carrying 125 pounds in 1:11 2/5, in addition to the Champagne Stakes at seven furlongs. Only one horse faced him in the Champagne, Espino, who carried 10 fewer pounds. Under a tight hold for the entire race, the chestnut still managed to win in 1:26. His final two starts of the year would end up in second place finishes.

In the Pimlico Futurity, Bubbling Over didn’t see a horse coming up until it was too late, losing by a nose. In the Breeders’ Futurity in Lexington, he broke slow, finding himself behind the pacesetter for the first time. He became confused due to his poor eyesight, especially when he was swung wide to avoid a soft spot on the track, causing him to finish second by four lengths. As a result of this, jockey Albert Johnson tried to keep him towards the front in his races since the horse was going blind; if he was in the middle of the pack, the bouncing would disorient the colt.

After winning the Belmont Futurity, Pompey was retired for the season. His owner declared him to be the winner of the Kentucky Derby, which in turn prompted Bubbling Over's owner, the known gambler, Colonel E.R. Bradley, to place a large wager with him over which horse would reign supreme. He tried to get a bet of $120,000, settling instead for an $85,000 wager on who would finish in front. Bradley also bet Bubbling Over heavily in the winter books.

Both horses finished their 2YO campaigns with 7 wins out of 10 starts. The big difference was that Pompey had won four stakes races, amassing $121,630, while Bubbling Over took home just $24,737. Bubbling Over prepared for his three year old campaign by training over his owner’s track at the farm. Entered into his first race, a mile overnight allowance on April 26th, he beat his stablemate, Boot To Boot; by three lengths under a snug hold in 1:38 4/5. His final prep would be the Bluegrass Stakes in Lexington at a mile and an eighth. Carrying the Derby weight of 126 pounds, he faced only two other challengers. Breaking in front and setting blistering fractions, he passed the first quarter in :22 2/5, and the half in :45. The last 70 yards of the race, his rider eased him up as they were so far in front. Bubbling Over won by 8 lengths in track record time, lowering the previous mark from 1:51 1/5 to 1:49 3/5. Pompey, Bradley’s foe, won the Wood Stakes (later Memorial) in his final prep before shipping to Churchill Downs.

The public liked what they saw in the 2YO champ. They also weren’t thrilled with the final work Bubbling Over put in three days before the race, when he covered the mile and a quarter distance in 2:08 1/5. Still, they made the Bradley entry of Bubbling Over and Bagenbaggage slight favorites at $1.90 to 1, versus Pompey at $2.10-1. Prior to the race, Bradley told jockey Albert Johnson that if he won, he would give him 20% of the purse. He also told him that no matter where he finished, if he crossed the line in front of Pompey he would give him $5000.

The starter sent the field of 13 horses off with little delay, Bubbling Over and Pompey bursting out to the lead. By the quarter marker, Pompey sat in second, a length behind the leader. As they reached the backstretch, Bubbling Over was still leading the pack easily, as Pompey held onto second, trailing by 2. Entering the far turn, Pompey started to weaken as Bagenbaggage started to navigate his way through, making his run. He fought his way up to second in the stretch, as Bubbling Over started pulling away. Johnson never asked his mount, letting him coast under the wire, the winner by five easy lengths in a time of 2:03 4/5, just 2/5 off of Old Rosebud’s Derby record, and 3/5 off of the track record. This victory became the second for Johnson, as he also piloted Morvich to victory, becoming the fifth jockey to win two Kentucky Derbies. Johnson, who was also a rider of the great Exterminator, always refused to compare the two. This Derby was Bradley's second of four wins, having won in 1921 with Behave Yourself.  The one-two finish of Bubbling Over and Bagenbaggage became the first time an owner had finished in the top two in two Derbies. As the result of finishing ahead of the fifth place Pompey, Colonel Bradley won the $85,000 wager, which was more than what he made with the first and second place prize money.

Exiting the Derby, Bubbling Over was retired, because of his eyesight and a tendon issue. He entered stud at Bradley’s Idle Hour Farm, having success as a sire and broodmare sire. He sired Burgoo King, giving Bradley his third Derby winner, as well as becoming only the second winner to sire another Derby winner behind Halma, who sired Alan-A-Dale. He was the sire of Baby League, the dam of Striking (the 1961 Broodmare of the Year), Hildene (dam of Preakness winner Hill Prince), Biologist (a Stakes winner), and the filly Busher (1945 Horse of the Year).

“The Bubbler” passed away in his paddock in 1938 due to a sudden heart attack. The beloved stallion was buried on the part of Idle Hour Farm that is now Darby Dan Farm.

From the Thoroughbred Record: “Bubbling Over was more than a great horse; he was a symbol-a symbol of beauty and strength in perfect symmetry, combined with burning speed and the heart to carry it over a distance, that reaches the ultimate only in The Thoroughbred Horse.”

(Program cover featuring Bubbling Over courtesy of the Kentucky Derby Museum archives.)

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum