Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 61 Days to Go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 61 Days to Go!

Tim Tam was the product of the mating of Horse of the Year Tom Fool with the Bull Lea mare, Two Lea, who was a winner of 15 races, including the Hollywood Gold Cup. The dark bay colt was named after a dog that Mrs. Markey, the owner of Calumet, had owned named Tim. Tim Tam was a favorite of the farm, as he was very personable. Owned and bred by Calumet, the large colt didn’t make his first start at two until October, due to a paddock incident, finishing fourth, the only “out-of-the money” finish of his career.

Starting his 3 year old quest in January, Tim Tam would win his first two starts, a 6 furlong maiden and a 7 furlong allowance. On January 28th, he would finish 3rd in a 6 furlong allowance, with trainer Jimmy Jones wanting to try rating the colt. Tim Tam responded to the experiment, coming from 12 lengths back to finish a close third behind his stablemate Kentucky Pride. In the Bahamas, Tim Tam would again finish third, before turning it around and going into the Kentucky Derby with a 6 race win streak. His first win of the streak came in the Everglades when he turned the tables on his stablemate, Kentucky Pride. In the Flamingo, his next start, he would cross under the wire second by a nose, yet due to heavy interference by Jewel’s Reward in the stretch, the stewards gave the win to Tim Tam via disqualification.  

After victories in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, the Calumet runners were shipped to Kentucky to prepare for the Derby.  On April 18th, racing in an allowance at Keeneland race track, Tim Tam would break the 7 furlong record set by Iron Liege and Your Host, setting the new record at 1:22 1/5. Having been ridden by jockey Bill Hartack in his 5 victories, a jockey change would take place prior to the Derby Trial. The Saturday before the Derby, Hartack would break his leg in a gate accident, resulting in jockey Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela taking over. In the Derby Trial, Tim Tam would be blocked in at the top of the turn of the muddy track, having to go wide to get through the field, winning by a neck.  

Milo would have his first Kentucky Derby mount on the Calumet color-bearer. The Mexican-raised Texan had been the leading jockey at Jamaica race track before getting the call to pilot Tim Tam, who ended up as co-second choice in the wagering with the California sensation, Silky Sullivan, whose come from behind running style had made him a celebrity. The favorites in the field were the Main Chance Farm entry of Jewel’s Reward and Ebony Pearl, owned by make-up guru Elizabeth Arden.  

Tim Tam and Milo would break toward the middle of the field of 14 horses, running in 8th, although he was within easy striking distance. The pace was set by the longshot Lincoln Road, the 75-1 runner-up to Tim Tam in the Florida Derby.  Tim Tam ran on the rail, saving ground, for the first mile. As he started to make his move, the colt was held up for a few strides at the 3/8 pole when Jewel’s Reward came out in his path. Once Tim Tam was able to rebreak, the colt took off, swallowing ground, gaining on Lincoln Road. As the finish line grew closer, Tim Tam was finally able to catch Lincoln Road in the final yards to win by ½ length in a time of 2:05 over the muddy track, giving the famed Calumet its 7th Kentucky Derby.   Shipping to Pimlico for the Preakness, Tim Tam would again prove victorious; although this time he made the race a little less heart-pounding. Lincoln Road, in a near replay of the Kentucky Derby, would set the pace, with Tim Tam running in second after a mile. At the top of the stretch though, Valenzuela and Tim Tam would take over, clearing Lincoln Road to win by an easy 1 ½ lengths.   Shipping to Belmont with a shot at being the first Triple Crown winner since Citation, Tim Tam would have a good chance to win; his main competition being the newcomer, *Cavan. The race came down to a stretch duel between the two, yet just as Tim Tam drew even with about a quarter of a mile to go in the stretch, the colt suddenly swerved in and faltered. *Cavan drew away to win the race by 6 lengths, as Tim Tam crossed the wire in second. As they started to slow, Valenzuela pulled the colt up. Somehow the colt had managed to finish the race lame, unable to hardly step on his front right leg. Once he was returned to the barn, x-rays were taken, showing that Tim Tam had fractured his sesamoid. The courageous colt had run nearly 5/16 of a mile with the injury, not showing it until the race was over.  

Tim Tam underwent surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, having 14 pieces of bones removed. He recovered and was retired. Even though the brave colt had his career shortened, he was still voted the Champion 3YO Male for his winning season.   As a stallion at Calumet, he sired 14 stakes winners, including the champion mare Tosmah and Kentucky Oaks winner, Nancy Jr. His legacy was more in being a broodmare sire, as he sired the dams of 36 stakes winners and 4 champions, with one of those being the well-known Davona Dale. The beloved stallion passed away due to complications of a heart attack, being buried with all the other champions in the Calumet Farm cemetery. 

(Shoes from Derby Trial courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum archives)

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum