118 Days!!! 1901 was the first of two years that the Kentucky Derby was not run in May; it was on April 29th. The other year would be in 1945, when it was run in June. The Derby was won by a horse named His Eminence that was bred in Kentucky and ridden by Jimmy Winkfield, who became only the second jockey to win the race in back-to-back years.
The true breeder of His Eminence was A.J. Alexander, and His Eminence was the 5th Kentucky Derby winner that he planned the mating. The sire was Falsetto, who stood at Alexander’s Woodburn Farm in Woodford County, and the mare was the Pat Malloy mare, Patroness. While Patroness was in foal, she was sold to another breeder, Overton H. Chenault, for $75. At the time, the breeder of record was considered whoever owned the mare at the time of her foaling, so many reports have O.H. Chenault listed as the breeder of His Eminence. When the colt was a yearling, he was sold to J.B. Lewmann, who in turn sold him to Frank Van Meter.
As a 2YO, His Eminence mainly raced on the Chicago circuit, winning 6 of his 17 races. Winkfield was aboard for the colt’s maiden victory. The Kentucky Derby was his first start as a 3YO, and it was the first race that he contested that was over a mile. He was the second choice in the field of five, behind the highly regarded Tennessee colt, Alard Scheck, who would end up running last.
A crowd of around 20,000 were on hand to see His Eminence lead the race from start to finish, winning easily by 2 lengths in a time of 2:07 ¾ over a fast track. Winkfield said after the race that he could have won in a much quicker time if he had pushed him, and as they put the garland of evergreens and red and white roses on His Eminence, he was seen to tear up. His Eminence would be the last 3YO to win the race known as the Clark Stakes, for the reason that after the 1901 season the race was turned into a Handicap, and has since been run as the Clark Handicap. The Clark would be the final stakes victory won by His Eminence.
Late in his 3YO season, Van Meter was ready to retire him to stud, but instead he was sold to Clarence H. Mackay. Mackay raced him on the flat through his 6YO year, and then he was turned into a hurdle horse. At 12 he passed from an injury that occurred while he was training for a hurdle race.
Jimmy Winkfield won three Derbies in 1901, the Tennessee Derby aboard Royal Victor, the Latonia Derby on Hernando, and the Kentucky Derby. He would win the 1902 Kentucky Derby and come up a half-length short of winning his third in a row in 1903 when he rode Early.
He moved to Russia where he won three Russian Derbies, five Russian Oaks, and was leading rider three times. He eventually moved to France where he rode until he was 50, and then retired to become a trainer.
From the 04/30/1901 Courier-Journal “Newsy Notes and Gossip of The Track” “During the long delay at the post in the first race, the audience in the grand stand was furnished with much amusement by a rabbit. Some one jumped a rabbit in the center field, and it made a line for the track. When it reached the center, a crowd of small boys gave it a chase to the great satisfaction of the crowd, but bunny was too fleet of foot and succeeded in escaping through the stables. The rabbit chase calls to mind an incident of several years ago. In the days when Barnum was in his prime and was carded to start at the local track, Jockey Thayer, who was to ride him, kicked up a rabbit’s nest in the center field. He was a bit superstitious, and believing a rabbit to be a talisman, he picked up one of the young ones and placed it in his inside pocket. He mounted Barnum and won the race, and to this day he believes the rabbit was his mascot.”