Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 89 days to go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 89 days to go!

89 Days!!! 1930 Gallant Fox “The Fox of Belair” became racing’s second Triple Crown winner, in the year that the event became known as such. The bay colt was the product of a mating between the imported stallion, *Sir Gallahad III, and Celt mare, Marguerite. Owned and bred by William Woodward Sr., the owner of Belair Stud, the colt was foaled at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where Woodward kept his breeding stock.Having went into partnership to purchase *Sir Gallahad III for $125,000, he sent the stallion to Claiborne farm where he was bred to the stakes producing Marguerite.

Once Gallant Fox was a weanling, he, along with the other Woodward foals were sent to Belair Stud. From there, the promising youngsters were sent to the farms trainer, “Sunny” Jim Fitzsimmons. “Mr. Fitz” would have his hands full with the bay colt, which was gangly and lazy in his workouts. Often times he would have to send two or three others with Gallant Fox to keep his attention. When he had competition, he would fly, however when he went to the front he would pull himself up. Once Gallant Fox started racing at two, he would break slowly away from the gate and be easily distracted by the crowds. Both Woodward and Fitzsimmons believed the colt had great potential as they saw glimpses of what he could do when he would stay focused. He won two of his seven races during his freshman season, those being the Flash and Junior Championship Stakes, and was only unplaced once. Thinking that the colt would do better with a distance of ground, they aimed him toward the classics for his 3YO campaign.

While Woodward and Fitzsimmons were considering his upcoming races during the winter, the question arose of who they should have as Gallant Fox’s rider. Fitzsimmons asked Woodward who he wanted; the response was whoever would be the best fit for the colt. Knowing that the answer was the retired Earl Sande, they went about trying to convince the former jock to come out of retirement to ride for them. Sande agreed, although instead of the normal contract, Sande asked for 10 % of whatever the colt earned that year. An agreement was made, and the Fox had a new rider.

The newly formed partners started off winning the Wood Memorial easily by four lengths. Their next start would be the Preakness, which was 12 days prior to the Kentucky Derby. After encountering some trouble on the turn, Sande swung his mount to the outside where he was free to run, again passing the finish line in front by three-quarters of a length. From there it was on to grand ole Kentucky and Churchill Downs.

Several big changes had happened at the Louisville oval since the previous running. A public address system was installed to keep the crowd informed of the happenings at the track. A special area was set up on a grass plot near the finish line as a “winner’s circle”. Located in the infield was an enclosed Steward’s stand where they could view the race, hoping to help as they watched in the bad weather. The largest change however was the installation and use of the mechanical starting gate, replacing the web barrier. This would be the first Derby to use the device.

The morning of the big race started bright with a fast track to greet the some 75,000 attendees, which included the 17th Earl of Derby. Nonetheless, as the day moved forward, the rain moved in. It started as a light sprinkling, though the skies opened prior to the post parade. The field of fifteen moved smoothly into the starting gates, and after only a moment of waiting, they burst forth as one. Again finding himself closely in the pack, Sande navigated Gallant Fox to the outside. The game colt found the open track to his liking and easily passed the other challengers. Finding themselves at the front, Sande started to gear down his charge, gliding across the finish line in front by 2 lengths in a time of ‪2:07 3/5, with plenty left in reserve. The Earl presented the trophy to the winning connections, pleased with the victory.

Sande became only the second jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times, while “Sunny” Jim racked up his first of three victories. In the Derby field was the great filly Alcibiades, who finished 10th, but would go on to win the Kentucky Oaks. In the Belmont, Gallant Fox wasn’t the favorite; as that honor would go to the speedy Whichone. Sande, who had been in an automobile accident on Thursday before the race, showed up with his face bandaged and taped. Not to be denied the victory, the battered Sande sent Gallant Fox to the front, where he was able to relax. Once the others came to challenge the duo, Sande simply loosed the reins, allowing his horse to effortlessly win the race by three lengths, becoming the second Triple Crown winner.

Three weeks later Gallant Fox took the mile and a half Dwyer, followed by a neck victory in the Arlington Classic. It was then that he suffered his only defeat at three; finishing second after a blistering speed duel in addition to being carried out wide, allowing the 100-1 longshot, Jim Dandy to slip through on the rail and snatch the winner’s laurels. After returning to the winners circle in the Saratoga Cup, Lawrence Realization Handicap, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Gallant Fox would be retired as the leading money earning race horse, with earnings of $328,165. He was named 3YO Champion Male and 1930’s Horse of the Year, and was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 1957.The champion had won races from 5.5 to 16 furlongs, which he passed along to his offspring.

Gallant Fox also gained fame as he became the only stallion to sire another American Triple Crown winner when his son Omaha took the 1935 edition. (Affirmed was the sire of 1993 Canadian Triple Crown winner, Peteski). He was also the sire of Flares, a full brother to Omaha, who won the Ascot Gold Cup, as well as Granville who was the 1936 Horse of the Year. He stood at Claiborne Farm and was buried there next to his sire and dam after he passed in 1954.


Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum