Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 54 Days to Go!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 54 Days to Go!

Lucky Debonair was bred and owned by Dan and Ada Rice at their Danada Farm near Lexington. Ada, who was fond of attending the races, often went with friends. One day, a friend’s trainer told her that she should buy a horse of her own. When she returned home, she told her husband, who then went and purchased eight for his bride. Their farm (so named from combining the couple’s names) was the second to be called Danada, as they also owned property near Wheaton, Illinois that had barns and a training track. They purchased the Lexington farm in 1946, which was part of the Bradley Idle Hour Farm.

Lucky Debonair was by stakes winning Maryland-bred sire Vertex, who stood at the farm.  Fresh as Fresh, his dam, who was by Count Fleet, the 1943 Triple Crown winner, was a Grade I producer, as she foaled both Lucky Debonair and Lady Love. The Rice’s sent the bay colt to trainer Frank Catrone for his instruction. Catrone started the colt just once at 2 at Atlantic Race Course where he finished out of the money.  The Rice’s decided to race at Santa Anita over the winter, so Catrone moved his string out west. In California, he was ridden by Bill Shoemaker, with the combination taking second in the San Felipe and winning the San Vicente and Santa Anita Derby, where Lucky Debonair would set a new track record.

Shipping to Kentucky after a brief stay in Maryland because of severe weather, Catrone would enter the colt in the Forerunner Stakes, where he would finish second over a muddy track. A week later the duo would win the Blue Grass by a half-length, going into the Kentucky Derby as the second choice.

The Derby was run on May 1, one week after the Blue Grass. The field of 11 horses would compete in the race that was known in 1965 as “The Run for the Hoses”, after a fire sparked up in the southwest corner of the third deck. The fire would delay the start of the race by thirty minutes. Once the starter finally sent the horses on their way, Lucky Debonair would break fastest, leading the field through the opening eighth of mile before Shoemaker took him back to track the new leaders. Dueling with the speedster Flag Raiser until they reached the stretch, Lucky Debonair would pull away to a three length lead. As they drew closer to the finish, the son of Vertex would hold off the desperate charge of the fast closing Dapper Dan to win by a neck, in the second fastest time of 2:01 1/5 behind the previous year’s winner, Northern Dancer’s time of 2:00. For Shoemaker it was his third Derby, a redeeming win considering he chose Hill Rise over Northern Dancer the prior year.

Dapper Dan and third place finisher Tom Rolfe, were both sons of *Ribot, a stallion at Darby Dan, with Lucky Debonair being born on a parcel of land near Darby Dan. Both Darby Dan and Danada Farm were once a part of Col. Bradley’s Idle Hour Farm that raised four Derby winners.

The following week in the Preakness, Lucky Debonair would injure his splint and come in 7th, behind winner and eventual Champion 3YO Tom Rolfe. Finished for the season, he would have a successful return to the races at 4, winning California’s biggest race, the Santa Anita Handicap, prevailing over the famous Native Diver. Retired after his 4YO campaign, Lucky Debonair would retire to Danada Farm where he stood until 1971, when Dan Rice passed away. Ada would disperse all of their horses, consequently leading to his sale to Venezuela. He remained there until he passed away at 25 of old age. He sired 15 stakes winners, including the Irish Derby winner, Malacate.

(Photo courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum archives)

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum