Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 127 days to go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 127 days to go!

127 Days!!! 1892 Azra was bred and owned by George Long who founded Bashford Manor Farm in Louisville, KY. Long won with Azra in 1892, bred 1899 winner Manuel, and won in 1906 with Sir Huon. Azra, Manuel, and Sir Huon were the only winners that were bred in Jefferson County.

George Long became very well known in the world of horse racing, eventually becoming a director at Churchill Downs. The Bashford Manor is a race still held at Churchill Downs for 2YOs. Azra had won the Champagne Stakes at 2, and picked up the riding services of 14YO Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton. He was highly regarded coming into the Derby, and would run against only two other horses, Huron and Phil Dwyer, both owned by Ed Corrigan. Azra was ridden by now 15YO jockey Clayton, and won in a time of 2:41 1/2 over a heavy track. Clayton would be one of only two jockeys to win the race at 15 years of age. He never won another Kentucky Derby, but did win the 1894 and 1895 Kentucky Oaks.

The crowd braved the morning drizzle, to be treated to a clear, but sunless, day. The wind was raw and blustery, nonetheless, the infield and grandstand were filled to around 12,000 spectators. They were disappointed that the field was three horses, believing that the race would be a repeat performance of the previous year. They instead were treated to an amazing race, and the finish was said to be the best since Spokane and Proctor Knott battled to the finish.

The local crowd was thrilled to have a Louisville horse win the special race. One of my favorite race descriptions from the "History of the Kentucky Derby 1875-1921" is as follows: "The last quarter is neared, Huron leads, but only by a little, that is steadily growing less. Azra is at his saddle, at his withers, at his head, gaining at every stride, slowly, but surely forging to the front. They are in the stretch and on even terms. Grandsons, both, of the great Leamington, the blood of the great race horse that flows in their veins has no taint of the coward, such as that of the colt that labors four lengths behind them. Azra is on the inside, and Britton has pinned him so close that Clayton cannot use his whip. The boys knees must touch as the two colts race head and head. The crowd goes wild. Men yell the name, first of one and then the other. But for a moment the cries of "Azra, Azra wins," drown the others. He is drawing away. Clayton is climbing up on his neck and working like a demon. At the eighth pole he is almost a neck in front of Huron. The race seems over, Huron, after setting the pace throughout, surely cannot come again. But he does! Britton has never ceased work on him, and at one bound lifts him back once more head to head. But that is all. The two are straining every muscle, the last link, of speed is out in each, but as the fiery nostrils of the racers see-saw past each other with the swaying of the outstretched necks only for an instant is first Azra's and Huron's nose ahead. Not a whip is raised. Hands are too precious. Britton is riding vigorously, but Clayton is outdoing him. Can not he lift his mount just an inch or two to the front? The wire is there above them. Ten thousand people are yelling and Clayton puts out his supreme effort. It succeeds! Azra has won. Right on the post he gains six inches, no more, and by that distance stands the winner of the Kentucky Derby of 1892. It is a grand race, and victor and loser alike are cheered to the echo by the excited crowd."

After the “hottest Derby finish ever run”, owner George Long was “tickled nearly to death” over the win. He made his way to the track, going to his victor, petting him on the nose and giving him a peanut, while calling him his dear little rosebud.

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum