Kentucky Derby Winners of The 1950s
In the 1950s, a teenage jockey wins the race, a future Hall of Fame jockey makes the biggest mistake of his career, and a Florida-bred comes from way back to win!
1959 – Bred in England, Tomy Lee was just the second horse born outside of the United States to win a Kentucky Derby. The balanced colt with four white feet battled the great Sword Dancer through the Churchill Downs stretch and prevailed by a nose. Tomy Lee did not participate in either the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes.
Jockey – Bill Shoemaker Trainer – Frank E. Childs Owner – Fred and Juliette Turner
1958 – Sporting a regal pedigree, Tim Tam lived up to his precocious genes, winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with relative ease. The colt looked well on his way to becoming a Triple Crown winner, but suffered a broken bone during the running of the Belmont after making the lead in the stretch. The injury was non-life threatening, but did end his career.
Jockey – Ismael Valenzuela Trainer – Jimmy Jones Owner – Calumet Farm
1957 – A critical miscue by future Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker cost Gallant Man the Kentucky Derby when the rider misjudged the finish line, allowing Iron Liege to win by a nose. Iron Liege would finish second to the great Bold Ruler in the Preakness and did not contest the Belmont Stakes.
Jockey – Bill Hartack Trainer – Jimmy Jones Owner – Calumet Farm
1956 – Needles, named for his sickly beginnings and constant need of veterinary care as a younger horse, overcame his maladies to become the first Florida-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby. The colt, later considered one of the all-time greats, made up over 24 lengths to win the race and finished second in the Preakness before winning the Belmont.
Jockey – David Erb Trainer – Hugh Fontaine Owner – D & H Stable
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1955 – Widely considered one of the greatest racehorses of all-time, Swaps defeated another all-time great in Nashua who went on to win the Preakness and Belmont as Swaps sat out both races with an inflamed hoof wall.
Jockey – Bill Shoemaker Trainer – Mesh Tenney Owner – Rex C. Ellsworth
1954 – Determine became the first gray horse to win the Kentucky Derby, as the California-based horse flew into Louisville and won the roses just four days after finishing second in the Derby Trial Stakes. Determine did not compete in the Preakness or Belmont.
Jockey – Raymond York Trainer – William Molter Owner – Andrew J. Crevolin
1953 – Native Dancer entered the Kentucky Derby undefeated in 11 career starts and the clear-cut 3/5 favorite, but when the big horse was compromised by a rough trip, Dark Star was the beneficiary. The colt pulled away in the stretch at 25/1 and held off a late move from Native Dancer to earn the win. Native Dancer would win the Preakness with Dark Star finishing fifth and subsequently retired from racing.
Jockey – Hank Moreno Trainer – Eddie Hayward Owner – Cain Hoy Stable
1952 – Broadcast on live national television for the first time, the 1952 Derby audience witnessed Hill Gail’s pre-race antics in the paddock, but the colt still had plenty of energy left to win the race going away. The colt sustained a minor leg injury in the race and missed the Preakness and Belmont.
Jockey – Eddie Arcaro Trainer – Ben Jones Owner – Calumet Farm
1951 - With 20 horses entered, Count Turf was packaged with four other longshots as part of a betting entry and dismissed at odds of 15/1. The colt apparently didn’t get the memo, however, and never looked like a loser while being confidently handled for four-length win over 53/1 longshot Royal Mustang. County Turf did not race in the Preakness and ran seventh in the Belmont.
Jockey – Conn McCreary Trainer – Sol Rutchick Owner – Jack Amiel
1950 – A winner of the Hopeful Stakes as a two year-old, Middleground proved his worthiness as a three year-old winning the Kentucky Derby, running second in the Preakness, and capturing the Belmont Stakes under 16 year-old apprentice jockey Bill Boland.
Jockey – Bill Boland Trainer – Max Hirsch Owner – King Ranch