Countdown to the Kentucky Derby- 129 days to go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby- 129 days to go!

129 Days!!! 1890- Riley was foaled at John Clay’s Ashland Stud near Lexington, a son of Longfellow, whose son Leonatus had also won the Derby. He was very small, and was named Shortfellow, although he never raced under that name. His named was changed to Riley, said to be named after a turf writer for the Chicago edition of the Daily Racing Form, Clinton C. Riley.

His owner, Edward Corrigan, purchased Riley at a sale as a yearling for $950. Riley won 3 stakes as a 2YO for Corrigan, who also trained the colt. He would make his 3YO debut over a muddy Churchill track in the Kentucky Derby.

It had started raining the previous day and continued through the night and halfway through Derby day, leaving the track a muddy mess. It didn’t deter Riley, or the favorite, Robespierre, who had a liking for an off-track. Even though the track was muddy, the day was sunny and the crowds filled the track. The smallest field to date went to post, with six horses competing. The first horse to make an appearance was Riley, who was greeted with hardy applause from the masses.

Isaac Murphy, donning the green silks with white sash of the Corrigan stables, was said to have paraded the horse in front of the crowd like they had already won the race. The all made their way to the half mile pole for the start, instead of the chute which had been used previously, maybe because of the track condition. They were all off to a good start when the starter dropped the red flag, the congregation yelling a happy, “They’re off!” The horses stayed bunched up until they were a half mile in when Riley would take to the front, leading by a ½ length. After that, all the horses were put into a drive to catch the duo, however they all fell away as Murphy and Riley galloped easily on the front end. They were never really challenged, but at the top of the stretch, Murphy glanced and saw Letcher trying to move up.The rider would let loose the reins a bit, letting Riley draw away, passing under the finish line easily the victor by an increasing length and ¾ in a time of 2:45.

This would be the second of three Kentucky Derby wins for jockey Isaac Murphy. He would be the first jockey to win three, and the first to win two consecutively. He would also win four Clark Handicaps as well as the 1884 Kentucky Oaks. Riley would win the Derby and the Clark, as well as three other stakes races in 1880. He would have his best year as a 4YO, winning 7 Stakes races. As a stallion, he would sire the filly Hurley Burley, who set two Washington Park records, for 6 furlongs and for a mile and 20 yards.

Her best foal was Burgomaster, the 1906 Belmont winner and American Horse of the Year. Of note, in 1890, the Preakness and Belmont were run 27 days after the Kentucky Derby, at the same track (Morris Park) and on the same day, about an hour apart. It was the only time that the Preakness wasn’t limited to 3YOs, with 7 horses making up the field: four 4YOs, two 5YOs, and one 8YO.

The photos are of Isaac Murphy's original grave marker as well as a description, as seen in the Kentucky Derby Museum's Jockey Stories exhibit area. He died of pneumonia in 1896.

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum