Grindstone, the D. Wayne Lukas trained son of the 1990 Kentucky Derby winner, Unbridled, won a heart-pounding 122nd Kentucky Derby by the scantest of noses over the Bob Baffert trained Cavonnier. The dark bay, bred and owned by Kentucky’s own William T. Young’s Overbrook Farm, was the first Derby winner for popular owner. Young, who loved to help anyone, bid $30,000 for the breeding season to Unbridled at a Kentucky Derby Museum fundraiser, resulting in mating of his Drone mare, Buzz My Bell, to the stallion. The resulting foal was Grindstone, with Derby memories of his own on the way.
At 2, the colt started his campaign on June 11, in an allowance race that he won by 5 lengths. Moved to stakes company after the victory, he finished fourth in the Grade III Bashford Manor Stakes, after which it was discovered that Grindstone had a bone chip in his right leg. Undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove the chip, his 2YO season was over while he recovered from it.
His 3YO campaign started with a second place in an allowance on February 17 at Santa Anita. In the wake of the promising first start off of the layoff, Grindstone was entered into the March 17 Louisiana Derby, defeating the competition by 3 ½ lengths. Shipped to Arkansas for his final Derby prep, the Overbrook color-bearer was beaten only by a neck in the Arkansas Derby. One of 5 Derby horses entered for Lukas, Grindstone and his stablemates - who Lukas referred to as his “Derby Relay Team” - were poised to hand the trainer his 6th consecutive win in a Triple Crown race. The Sands Hotel was even offering people the chance to bet on whether or not Lukas would win, with odds of 5-1 for the victory and 4-1 that he would lose.
The main competition in the lead-up to the race was another son of Unbridled that was receiving the majority of the press, the striking grey Unbridled’s Song. However, the race brought about a battle between the Louisiana Derby winning son, Grindstone and the Santa Anita Derby winner, the gelding Cavonnier. Breaking from post 15 in the 19 horse field under jockey Jerry Bailey, Grindstone stayed in the clear near the back of the pack behind his stablemate Prince of Thieves, relaxing as the field made their way through the first turn into the backstretch. As they were starting to move forward at the half mile point, the duo was stuck behind a wall of horses. Not sure of where to go, an opening suddenly appeared on the rail, allowing Bailey to pilot the colt through, finding a perfect path. With 3/8 remaining in the race, Grindstone began clearing the tiring horses until only Unbridled’s Song and Cavonnier were left in front him. Unbridled’s Song began to tire, while Bailey moved his mount to the middle of the track to begin his battle to the wire. Chris McCarron aboard Cavonnier knew someone was coming, however he didn’t see Grindstone and Bailey until it was too late, and Cavonnier, without feeling the pressure of a horse coming in close, was caught off guard. The two warriors finished so closely that neither of their riders knew who had won, along with their trainers. When Grindstone’s number flashed up on the board, Lukas had his third Derby win in addition to his 6th consecutive Triple Crown race, and Jerry Bailey had his second win following his victory aboard Sea Hero in 1993.
Grindstone, in winning, became the first horse to win the Kentucky and Louisiana Derby’s since 1924 when the popular Black Gold passed the finish line in front. He was also the first to win from the No. 15 post, and in the sixth fastest time of 2:01. It was the closest finish since 1959, when Tomy Lee just nosed out Sword Dancer.
Grindstone would unfortunately also be the first Derby winner since 1985 to not make the Preakness. While Spend A Buck’s connections decided to go after a bonus, Grindstone wasn’t as lucky. Just 5 days after his remarkable Derby win, the colt was retired due to a reoccurrence of another bone chip located in the same leg in which he had one removed. Sent to Overbrook for stud duty, his best offspring included the quick filly Bird Town, who won the fastest running of the Kentucky Oaks in 1993 and his son Birdstone, the winner of the 2007 Travers and Belmont Stakes. In 2010, Grindstone was relocated to Oregon’s Oakhurst Farm, where he resides along with 2005 Kentucky Derby winner, Giacomo.
Grindstone passed away in March of 2022 at the age of 29 years old. Kentucky Derby Museum sends its condolences to all of his connections.
(Photo of KDM archives)