Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 38 Days to Go!!

Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 38 Days to Go!!

Pleasant Colony, the winner of the 107th Kentucky Derby, was bred and owned by Thomas Mellon Evans of Buckland Farms. Evans bred the Sunrise Flight stakes winning mare, Sun Colony, to stallion His Majesty. His Majesty was the sire of one of the best 3YO's in 1977, Cormorant, as well as being a full brother to the great stakes producer and winner, Graustark.

At two, the plain dark bay or brown colt was trained by P. O’Donell Lee for Evans. The colt would start his campaign on September 1st, finishing 6th in a Belmont maiden. Trying to figure things out, he won his next race, a mile and 70-yard maiden, by 9½ lengths. His next two starts were losses, as he finished fifth in the Marlboro Nursery and second in the Pilgrim which was his first try over the turf. In his final start of the year, Pleasant Colony would finish second in the Remsen, although he would be placed first due to disqualification, giving him a record of two wins in his five starts.

Starting his 3YO endeavor in the Fountain of Youth, the colt was second by a nose to Akureyri, yet a head in front of the 2YO Champion, Lord Avie. Giving his connections a glimpse of what he could be, their hope turned to disappointment when he finished fifth in the Florida Derby. He returned with a high temperature, and ran with a burn on his right hind leg that he received when rolling in some chemicals that had spilled. After the loss, Evans sent the colt to his other trainer, John Campo.  Campo decided to send him to the Wood Memorial as a prep, a race that was supposed to be won by the heavy favorite, Cure The Blues. Pleasant Colony was ridden by jockey John Fell due to his regular jockey, Jorge Velasquez, being suspended. Fell let Cure The Blues and Noble Nashua duel on the front end, taking advantage of their tiring to sweep past them, winning by three lengths.

In the Kentucky Derby, Pleasant Colony would compete in what was known as the “Courtroom Derby”, as a result of a last minute decision that allowed the field to be 21 horses. With jockey Jorge Velasquez back aboard, the pair would make their way from the back of the pack in 17th to take the lead by the 3/16th pole. The duo tracked the leaders who set a record Derby pace at the time, waiting for the horses to exhaust themselves. As they did, Velasquez started to ask his mount to move forward, gaining a length and a ½ lead at the eighth pole. Pleasant Colony continued driving easily, as the longshot, Woodchopper, began to cut into his lead. The tandem would win by ¾ of a length in 2:02, holding off Woodchopper’s late charge.  In a bizarre happening, after the winner’s circle presentation, Campo’s 14-year-old son was carrying the garland of roses when he was approached by a man dressed as an officer. The “officer” took the garland, saying that he would follow Campo’s son to the barn. As he turned to talk to the man, he was gone, having taken off with the garland.

Two weeks later, the Preakness was thought to be a showdown between Pleasant Colony and Woodchopper, resulting in a record crowd of 84,113 to see them duel. The expected battle wasn’t to be, as Woodchopper would finish 11th. It wasn’t an easy victory for Pleasant Colony either, as he was patiently rated. As they began to make their move, Velasquez had to take his colt to the outside to run down the leaders. They gained on pacesetter, Bold Ego, who wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. Grinding away through the stretch, Pleasant Colony finally gained the advantage at the 1/8th pole. Velasquez, feeling the pressure, hand-rode his colt to the finish, as they passed the timer in 1:54 3/5, a length in front.

In the Belmont, the colt - who was nicknamed “Handsome” due to the press continually referring to him as ugly - wouldn’t be able to overcome the slow pace set by Summing. He tried to close into it, although he wouldn’t have enough to finish better than third. It’s possible that the gangly colt expended a lot of his energy after being uncharacteristically fractious in the paddock, in addition to his refusal to enter the starting gate. His issue with the gate could have been due to a cameraman that was standing on it, as Pleasant Colony wouldn’t enter in the six attempts prior to the cameraman getting down. Once he was off of the gate, the difficult colt walked right in.

After the Triple Crown races, Pleasant Colony would contest the Travers, unable to get past Willow Hour, he would have to settle for second. Taking on older horses for the first time in the Woodward, the brown colt unleashed a furious stretch drive to take the race over champions Temperence Hill and Relaxing.  Following a 4th place finish in the Marlboro Cup, Pleasant Colony would suffer a career-ending tendon injury. His undertaking would earn the determined colt 3YO Male Champion honors.

Retired to Evan’s Buckland Farm for stud duty, he proved to be a very successful sire, with 73 stakes winners, over a dozen of them Gr. I winners. Among his offspring were two United States Champions, Pleasant Tap and Pleasant Stage, as well as the European Champion, St. Jovite. His son Colonial Affair won the 1993 Belmont, with Pleasantly Perfect winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup. After his owner died, Pleasant Colony was moved to Lane’s End Farm until he was pensioned. Thereafter he spent a brief time at the Kentucky Horse Park, prior to being moved to Blue Ridge Farm in Virginia. There he was neighbors and buddies with 2x Champion sprinter, Housebuster. When he passed in 2002, his remains were shipped to Buckland Farm where they are buried.

Rickelle  Nelson

Rickelle Nelson

Reservations Manager for the Kentucky Derby Museum