Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 56 Days to Go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 56 Days to Go!

Chateaugay, a chestnut son of 1955 Kentucky Derby winner, Swaps, won the 1963 Kentucky Derby for owner John Galbreath’s Darby Dan Farm. A homebred, “Chatty” as he became known, was out of the Polynesian mare Banquet Bell. Galbreath bred the mare to his stallion Swaps that he had purchased for $2 million from owner Rex Ellsworth. Galbreath, a proprietor of the Pittsburgh Pirates, had two goals; to win the World Series and the Kentucky Derby. His Pirates took the World Series in 1960, along with moving into first place on the same day that Chateaugay would win the Kentucky Derby.

As a 2YO, the colt that was named after a New York lake, suffered from breathing problems, resulting in his undergoing surgery to correct the issue. He didn’t race until October 17th of 1962, starting in a 6-furlong maiden, finishing second. He would break his maiden in a 7-furlong race on the 25th, winning by 6 lengths. His next two starts in allowance races would result in a second and a first, ahead of his finishing 4th in the Pimlico Futurity, his final start of the year. Given two months rest, the chestnut would return to the races on February 23rd in a 7-furlong allowance with a ¾ length victory. Rested again for some time, he would contest an 8.5-furlong allowance on April 10th, again winning by ¾ of a length in prep for the Blue Grass Stakes.

The Blue Grass, which was 9 days before the Kentucky Derby, would see the youngster hold onto score the victory by a head, after which his jockey, Braulio Baeza, proclaimed that the colt could run two miles. Despite his victory in the Bluegrass Stakes,  Chateaugay was still overlooked due to the undefeated entries of Candy Spots (trained by Swaps trainer, Mesh Tenny), who was the Florida Derby winner, No Robbery, another son of Swaps that won the Wood Memorial, and the 2YO Champion and Flamingo Stakes winner, Never Bend. In addition to contending with the “big three”, the chestnut was written off by reason of a 1:47 mile work that trainer Jimmy Conway had him perform. Conway knew his horse and what he needed, however most people saw the slow time and thought he was not coming into the race in top-condition. Due to the work and the attention being paid to the other contenders in the race, the public only made him 9-1 in a field of 9.

Chateaugay ran in 6th place for the majority of the race under Baeza, 10 lengths behind pacesetters No Bend and No Robbery, who covered the first quarter mile in :23. The two speedsters were followed by Candy Spots who trailed by 3 lengths under Bill Shoemaker, who had his hands full with the rank acting colt. The top three were the same throughout the backstretch run, passing the ½ mile in :46 2/5 and the ¾ pole in 1:10. Shoemaker managed to get Candy Spots stuck inside of the two leaders, where he had to check twice. As they turned for home, Shoemaker then put his horse on the rail when he did his best running on the outside. At this point, Baeza then swung his mount to the outside and started moving up the pack. As they hit the final straightaway, Chateaugay was only 3 lengths behind, swallowing up the track. He flew past a tiring No Robbery and battled Never Bend, finally wearing down that foe, pulling ahead to triumph by 1 ¼ lengths in the same time as his sire Swaps, 2:01 4/5.

Panamanian Baeza would become the first foreign-born jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, and Chateaugay became the first Derby winner for Darby Dan Farm, which was formerly Colonel Bradley’s Idle Hour Stock Farm. Galbreath decided to follow Bradley’s tradition of sounding a bell that rang across the farm whenever they had a Kentucky Derby winner. It hadn’t been chimed since 1933, the year of Bradley’s final winner, Broker’s Tip. Chateaugay also had worn a chicken’s wish bone on the left side of his bridle for good luck that was given to him from one of the Darby Dan cooks, who had also made Galbreath a necklace of the wishbones. Unfortunately his luck ran out prior to the Preakness. On the way to Pimlico, a rail that was on the loading ramp flew off, hitting the horse. Then in a morning work, Chateaugay grabbed the bit and ran away from his jockey, spending his race during the mile run. Although he was tired, he still managed to come in second in the race. The luck would return in the third leg, as he would go on to win the Belmont by 2 ½ lengths three weeks later. He would also win the Jerome Handicap and earn 3YO Champion Male.

Chateaugay raced as a 4 and 5YO, without much success, before being retired to stud at Darby Dan. He had some success as a stallion, although he was sold after the 1971 season to Japanese interests for breeding. He stood there from 1972 until his death in 1985. He was the sire of 80 winners, at least 14 stakes winners, including the Japanese 2YO Champion, Hokuto Flag. For Darby Dan Farm, Chateaugay was part of a famous double, along with 1972 Epsom Derby winner, Roberto (named after the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente) making Galbreath the first person to own and breed the winner of both races.

(Photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum archives)

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum