Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 83 days to go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 83 days to go!

83 Days!!! Bold Venture was sired by *St. Germans, the sire of 1931 winner, Twenty Grand, and out of the Ultimus mare, Possible. The chestnut colt was bred and owned by the New Yorker from Kentucky, Morton L. Schwartz. Schwartz nearly sold Bold Venture’s dam while in foal at a sale in the fall of 1932, however the market was in a depression and he didn’t want to lose her for a pittance. Keeping the mare, she would foal Bold Venture a few months later at Schwartz’s Elsmeade Stud.

Schwartz had always had dreams of winning the Kentucky Derby, although he became discouraged when his stable wasn’t winning races and decided to disperse his stock, only keeping a few horses. Bold Venture was consigned to his sale. Schwartz believing the colt to be worth at least $20,000, was upset when the bidding stalled at $7000. Having a friend bid for him, he bought back the yearling for $7100, not realizing that he had just bought back his Derby dream. In the fall Bold Venture was sent to trainer Max Hirsch for his conditioning. In his first start, racing very greenly, he made up ground to be second. He then made his next effort a winning one when he won an allowance by a head. After that, Bold Venture seemed to be followed by some bad luck. In the post parade for his next start which was a prep for the Arlington Futurity, the colt tripped and fell, then managed to only come in forth. Prior to the start in the Arlington Futurity, the rookie dumped his rider, and then raced himself for three quarters of a mile before being apprehended and returned to the gate. He finished last. From there the unlucky chestnut was shipping to Saratoga by train, when the boxcar he was in caught on fire. Two of the horses on the train perished in the fire, but quick thinking on the part of Bold Venture’s groom, Rufus “Do Right” Scott, saved his life. Rufus ran over, opened the door, and held the horse’s head out to keep him from suffocating. He pulled the bell cord, causing the train to stop, thereby allowing the conductor and staff to put out the fire. In the Hopeful, his luck wasn’t any better as he was blocked in behind horses, which didn’t allow him any running room, resulting in an unfortunate 9th place.

Bold Venture’s 2YO season ended with eight starts, three wins and two seconds. Schwartz sent his colt to winter in South Carolina, still planning out his path to winning the Kentucky Derby. Initial plans called for Bold Venture to prep for the Wood in an overnight race at the Jamaica race track, The South Shore Purse. When he won the mile and 70 yards race so impressively, by four lengths in a time of 1:44 4/5, Hirsch decided to skip the Wood and send the colt straight to Louisville. He was so pleased with the way that Bold Venture came out of the race and his subsequent works that he felt it best to just work up to the big race. While in Louisville, Hirsch left his stable in his daughter, Mary Hirsch’s, capable hands. She was the first woman granted with a trainer’s license, then, while her father was watching over Bold Venture’s training, she saddled the winners of both divisions of the Tester Purse. Mary also had the contract of the apprentice Ira Hanford, allowing her father to let him ride Bold Venture in the Kentucky Derby.

A crowd of 60,000 people was on hand to witness the sixty-second Derby, which was incident filled. Bold Venture was a 20-1 longshot behind the favorite, Brevity. The field of 14 had a rough start, Brevity was knocked to his knees while future Horse of the Year Granville stumbled and lost his rider. Bold Venture was heavily knocked around after breaking next to last. The jostling continued as he was blocked in mid-pack until the quarter pole. It was there that his jockey, Ira “Babe” Hanford, was able to steer his charge out to the middle of the track for some clear running. By the half mile pole, the tandem was in front by three quarters of a length. Holding off a late charge by Brevity, who seemed like he was going to pass Bold Venture in the last eighth of a mile, the hard luck colt won by a head in 2:03 3/5 over a fast track, one of the fastest Derby times. One of the stranger stories from the race was that Charley Kurtsinger, who was aboard He Did, actually had his whip yanked from his hand by an infield spectator as they were coming around the final turn.

Bold Venture’s victory was the first Derby for trainer Max Hirsch, who would end up being a three time winner. Unfortunately Ira and several other jockeys were suspended 15 days from the roughness of the Derby. Being the first apprentice to win the Derby, he was replaced for the Preakness, although he would stay with the colt to ride him in the mornings and for his work outs. During the pair’s work on the Wednesday before the Preakness, Hanford’s stirrup leather broke while he was pulling up Bold Venture, causing the rider to fall to the ground. Free, the Derby winner took off, thankfully only running straight to his barn. In the Preakness, Bold Venture was piloted by jockey George Woolf, who would become famous for riding Seabiscuit.

In the field of eleven horses, the pair had a tough start, running next to last through the first half mile, many lengths behind the leaders. Finally able to move his mount to the outside, the combo moved up to 6th after they passed the mile marker. It was at that point that Woolf called on Bold Venture for his move, and in an eye-catching burst of speed, Bold Venture shot forward, passing 4 horses like they were standing still. With only Granville in front of them, they quickly gained ground, drawing even for the resulting stretch battle. The two warriors battled eye-to-eye, with neither giving the other the edge. Finally, Bold Venture with tenacity put his nose in front, passing under the wire the victor. This Preakness would be the first to be decided by the use of the photo finish camera, leaving no doubt who the winner was. Bold Venture was able to silence his critics that felt like his Derby win was just luck, showing them that he had the heart and will to win when faced with a challenge. Unfortunately, it was to be his last race. The Monday morning following the race while galloping, Bold Venture bowed a tendon, leading to his retirement.

After several seasons in Kentucky, his unpopularity with breeders led to his sale to Robert Kleberg of King Ranch for $40,000. While he stood at the famous ranch, he sired 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault and 1951 Kentucky Derby winner, Middleground. He was also the sire of Depth Charge, a half-brother to Count Fleet, who became very influential as a sire of racing Quarter Horses. (Colored photograph courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum archives)  

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum