Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 87 days to go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 87 days to go!

87 Days!!! Burgoo King was named by Colonel E.R. Bradley after James Looney who made Burgoo yearly for a one day race meeting held at Bradley’s farm for orphans. The money raised would go toward providing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to all of Kentucky’s orphanages. In 1930, after tasting the burgoo, Bradley told Looney that he was going to name a horse after him and that he may even win the Kentucky Derby.

Looney would make a good wager on his namesake, placing $50 on the colt when he was 40-1 in the future book. The 40-1 Burgoo King was a chestnut by Bradley’s second Derby winner, Bubbling Over, and out of the Lonawand mare, Minawand, that was owned by Horace N. Davis. Davis, the owner of Blue Grass Heights Farm, bred Minawand on shares to Bubbling Over, foaling Burgoo King on his farm. Eventually Bradley would buy out Davis’ shares, owning the colt in entirety.

“Derby Dick” Thompson would have training duties of the youngster.   Burgoo King didn't win a stakes race at two; however he did win four of his starts. Bradley still had so much faith in the horse that he offered a $5000 bet that his horse would beat any other horse in their first meeting.

‪In 1932 the schedule for the running of the three Triple Crown races was set, with the Kentucky Derby being first, the Preakness, and finally the Belmont. The timing of the dates wasn’t yet set however; in 1932 the Preakness was run a week after the Derby. Prior, the Derby and Preakness had been run on the same day in 1917 and 1922, eleven years the Preakness was run before the Derby, and it wasn't run in 1891, 92, or 93. In 1918 it was run in two divisions, the winners being War Cloud and Jack Hare, Jr. The Preakness wasn't always for three year olds, as well as not always being run at Pimlico.In 1890, the race was run at Morris Park Racetrack in the Bronx, as a Handicap. From 1894-1908 the race was run at Gravesend Racetrack at Coney Island.

In his first start of his sophomore campaign, Burgoo King faced his stablemate Brother Joe in the Dixiana Purse, losing to him at the Lexington track. Both horses would go into the Derby having decent works. They were made the 3rd choice in the betting, even though Burgoo King hadn’t won a stakes race. Until the day of the race, it was unclear who would be riding the two horses.

Laverne Fator, the stable’s contract rider, had his choice, supposedly choosing one if the track was fast or the other if it turned up muddy. Regardless, Fator was aboard Brother Joe, with 19 YO up and comer Eugene James having the mount on Burgoo King. James grew up in Louisville, learning to ride on his uncle’s mule. It served him well, together with the fact that he received his training from the legendary Roscoe Goose. At 17, he started race riding late in the year, getting his first mount in June. Even with the late start, he managed to win 138 races, coming in 4th in the United States for races won. In 1931 James rode Cousin Jo to victory in the Kentucky Oaks.

‪The 1932 edition of the Kentucky Derby was considered a very unlucky one, as six of the jockeys in the race had untimely deaths (including Burgoo King’s jockey who drowned two years later), five horses that would have been favorites for the race were injured prior, keeping them from making the trip, 5,000 people crashed the gates and flooded the infield with the police unable to stop them, and Burgoo King, wearing the number 13, only won the Preakness the remainder of the year. He was supposed to run in the Belmont; however he wasn’t nominated, although had he been, he wouldn’t have made the race as he bowed a tendon in the running of the Withers where he finished second.

The 58th Derby was run over a good track with 20 horses making the field. Tick On was made the favorite, despite having lost six races in a row. The favorite however, was visibly upset due to a band that had played while the horses were making their way to the track. He was very hard to calm down, as were a few others, causing a 15-16 minute delay at the start.

Once they were off, James tracked the leaders in third, following Economic and Brandon Mint until they reached the final turn. It was there that the tandem easily passed Brandon Mint, setting their sights on Economic. As they reached the top of the stretch, Burgoo King cruised past Economic, widening his lead until the finish, passing under the wire five lengths in front in a time of 2:05 1/5. Burgoo King won easily, however the contest being waged behind him was anything but easy. Economic would finish in front of a five horse battle for second by a head over  Stepenfetchit, who managed third by a half-length over Brandon Mint, who nosed out Over Time for fourth. Tick On, the favorite, was a nose behind Over Time in sixth.

A week later in the Preakness, Burgoo King was the second choice. The win wasn’t as easy as his Kentucky Derby as he fought through the stretch with Boatswain, only able to pass him in the last 70 yards. A hard charging Tick On rallied for second by a nose, still coming up a head short to Burgoo King.

Burgoo King was retired for the season after the tendon issue, attempting a comeback at five. Trained for his return with a harness sulky to keep the weight down, he placed in all five of his comeback races. As the tendon flared back up, he was retired to a semi-successful stud career. Burgoo King was Bradley’s third of four Kentucky Derby winners, making him the first owner to have three winners. Thompson was the first trainer of three winners as well; furthermore he would join with Bradley for his fourth win the next year with Broker’s Tip.

From The Thoroughbred Record: “And again that night, so the legend goes, by the light of the pale moon in the heaven, Burgoo King came out on the track. He paraded to the post and took his place along with Aristides, Halma, Regret, Old Rosebud, Omar Khayyam, Exterminator, Zev, Bubbling Over, Reigh Count, Gallant Fox, Twenty Grand and all the other Derby winners. Burgoo King and the ghosts of the fifty-seven other winners of the Derby ran their races again. What a thrilling sight it would be to see that cavalcade of turfdom’s blue bloods, run again and drift into the mist of the moonlight on the trail where glory guards and honor wreathes a perennial bouquet of everlasting memories.”  

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum