Countdown to the Kentucky Derby - 92 days to go!
92 Days!!! 1927 Whiskery, a brown colt by Whisk Broom II, out of the Peter Pan mare, Prudery, gave owner and breeder Harry Payne Whitney his second Kentucky Derby victory behind 1915 heroine, Regret. Whiskery’s bloodlines included considerable Derby history. His great-grandsire was Ben Brush, the 1896 winner. Ben Brush sired Broomstick, the sire of Whisk Broom II, as well as the 1911 and 1915 Derby winners, Meridian and Regret. Prudery, Whiskery’s dam, was third in the 1921 running, although her sire, Peter Pan, was the grandsire of the 1924 and 1933 victors Black Gold and Brokers Tip.
At two, under the training of Fred Hopkins, Whiskery started 18 times, finishing in the money 16 times, among those were six wins including the Ardsley Handicap. At three, Whiskery, along with stablemate Bostonian, contested the Preakness which was run five days before the Kentucky Derby. Bostonian would be the best of the field, with Whiskery finishing third.
After the Preakness, the two horses were shipped to the Churchill oval. Derby day would find the track full of mud from a passing storm. The public made the Whitney pair the slight favorite of the 15 horse field. Harry Whitney became ill, which led him to return to his boxcar instead of viewing the race. He sent his son, C.V. “Sonny” Whitney in his place to make a speech in the event that they won. He sat at a table with three others, including Ring Lardner, who invited C.V. to the table. Admitting that he was a newcomer to racing and that he didn’t know what to do if he had to give a speech, Lardner told the youngster that he knew exactly what he should say. Aware of the muddy strip the horses were going to traverse, he wrote on Whitney’s cuff: “He won because his mudder was a mudder”.
Approximately 75,000 patrons made their way to the track on the overcast Derby day. Whiskery would go to post with the services of the 29 year-old New Jersey jockey, Linus “Pony” McAtee. It was the first time McAtee sat atop the horse, as his regular rider and Whitney contract rider, Clarence Kummer, was suspended. The Kentucky stewards refused to grant Kummer a license, leaving them with their back up rider, C. Workman. Unfortunately, Workman was injured earlier in the week, unable to make the trip. The combination would win the rough house Kentucky Derby over Osmand. Jock took the lead as soon as the barrier shot up, while the sprinter Osmand with jockey Earl Sande aboard tracked behind. Jock, with Chick Lang in the stirrups, opened up a large lead, which dwindled as Osmand overtook them. Sande, who was known as a rough-rider, wrapped his leg around Lang’s and started tussling with him. As McAtee began flying up with Whiskery, Sande then turned to going after the duo. In the shuffle, as Sande turned again to Lang, McAtee shook loose and Whiskery shot to the lead to win by a nose in a time of 2:06 over a slow track.
Whitney didn’t have to give his speech, as in the commotion, the presentation was given to trainer, Fred Hopkins. H.P. Whitney was thrilled, as he had wanted to win another Derby after Regret’s triumph. His closest was the 3rd place that Prudery managed behind the Bradley pair of Behave Yourself and Black Servant. Whiskery managed to turn the tables, earning a bit of revenge for his mother, as he bested the Bradley entry of Bewithus and Buddy Bauer. Whiskery would win the Chesapeake Stakes, the Huron and Twin Cities Handicaps, the Stanley Produce Stakes, as well as the Derby at three, earning him Champion 3YO Male honors.
Whitney would sell Whiskery in 1928 for $60,000 to the partnership of Charles Stone, Arthur B. Hancock, and William Woodward. They sent him to stud where he proved to be infertile. The partnership then sent the colt back to the track, where he became sullen. Whiskery was then gelded, hoping to help his unpleasant attitude. Unfortunately it did little to change his behavior at the track.
Stone eventually bought out the other’s shares and sent Whiskery to his Morven Stud in Virginia to be used as a saddle horse, and so spent his remaining years. One of my favorite stories in researching Whiskery was just a side note to the Derby winner. The night of the Whitney’s Derby victory, they returned to the farm, where the adults started playing a game of cards. Not wanting to hang around them, the young C.V. Whitney decided to roam the farm.
While wandering, he noticed a fire on top of one of the hills. As he grew closer, he heard voices that were cheerfully singing. Upon arriving to the bonfire, he noticed at least 100 of the farm’s workers gathered around a horse, singing spirituals. Finally asking who the mare was, he was told that it was Regret. They had pulled the mare out of her stall and brought her to the hill to celebrate, as they had waited 12 years for another horse from the farm to win the Kentucky Derby. Whitney felt that Regret seemed to know what was going on as she stood there like a statue, soaking in the celebration. He would go on to say that the event was what he always related horse racing to: the singing, the bonfire, and the silhouette of Regret against the flames.
(Whiskery statue courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum Archives.)