Countdown to the Kentucky Derby-108 days to go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby-108 days to go!

108 Days!!! 1911 Meridian, a bay colt that was foaled on Darnaby Farm near Lexington, became the second winner to come from that farm. The first was 1895 winner, Halma. Meridian was bred by Charles L. Harrison, while Halma was bred by Eastin and Larrabie. 

Out of the good race mare, Sue Smith, Meridan was sired by Broomstick, who also sired 1915 filly winner, Regret. His grandsire was the 1896 Kentucky Derby winner, Ben Brush. Meridian started his career racing for Harrison. After running in the Saratoga Special, he was purchased by the millionaire New Yorker, Richard F. Carmen, for $5100. Sent to Albert Ewing for training, he finished his 2YO season with a record of 3-3-1 out of 12 starts.The beginning of his 3YO campaign saw him start in two races at the Lexington track ahead of the Derby. He would finish second in both, one of those being a half-length loss to Governor Gray in the inaugural running of the Bluegrass Stakes.

There was a great deal of changes that took place at the Louisville oval for the 1911 season. The biggest and most obvious was that the old paddock was removed and a new one was built north of the grandstand. It was west of the stable row that extended along the stretch and near the final turn. The paddock was surrounded now by trees and a large beautiful lawn. The roadway that lead from the main entrance to the grandstand was widened, the jockey’s quarters updated and modern, in addition to the offices that  were enlarged and had better accessibility. The club purchased 21 new pari-mutuel machines for the meet to help with the demand of bettors, and the $2 wager was introduced. The growth was incredible, with over 1100 horses expected to participate at the meet.

Prior to the Kentucky Derby, the talk was all about Governor Gray and the outstanding filly, Round The World. The owner of Governor Gray, James T. Williams, had wanted to have a match race between the two, however W.G. Yanke, owner of Round The World, declined.  They continued their course to the race, with Governor Gray doing well, as Round The World had been raced heavily and seemed to be a tired horse coming into the race. As the horses arrived to the paddock for the race, it appeared to be a race between the even-money favorite Governor Gray, the maiden Colston, and 3-1 Meridian.

Meridian was a proud looking horse, carrying his head high in the air, with a noticeable presence. The field made their way to the starter, and after one false start, they were sent away to the thunderous shouts of “They’re off!” Meridian went quickly to the front, setting a quick pace that no one believed him to be able to last. But on he went, with jockey George Archibald keeping him under a mild restraint, and the pace still heated. As they turned for home, the remainder of the field were being put under a hard drive to catch the leader. The only contender that made a dent in the lead was Governor Gray, who started to gain ground. Yet, Archibald had held his charge together, and when everyone had thought that the horse was spent, Archibald asked and Meridian gave more. The jockey hand rode the colt, asking with each stride, holding off a used up Governor Gray. They powered home under the line, three-quarters of a length in front, stopping the clock in a time of 2:05 flat, which bested Lieut. Gibson’s mark by a full second and a ¼, and equaling the track record for the classic distance.

A happy Archibald brought his winning mount to the judge’s stand for the winner’s floral wreath that was placed around Meridian’s neck. The Kentucky Derby winner would go on to become the Champion 3YO as well as 1911’s coveted Horse of the Year.

From The Thoroughbred Record: “Meridian, Kentucky-bred, but Eastern-owned, triumphantly carried the colors of R. F. Carman to the front in the thirty- seventh Kentucky Derby in record time and before a record crowd at Churchill Downs to-day. The Derby was run from “eend to eend" as Frank Harper of Ten Broeck and Longfellow fame, used to say, for the winner set a heart-breaking pace and had the stamina to last the route and get home a scant length in front of Governor Gray. “

““You had an easy job,” said the writer to the rider, but the boy answered, “Not much, Meridian was all in.” Back on the winner went Archibald, which was led past the stand by his proud owner, R.F. Carmen, who said, “I am satisfied now that I have a good colt.” And so he has. He showed class; any colt that can set a pace like he did and last a route of a mile and a quarter is a top-notcher, and Meridian is all that and more.”

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum