Great Losers – Gallant Man
Last year Big Brown was robbed of his Triple by an inept jockey*, which just goes to show how important it is to make sure the right guy is holdin' the reins. At the moment our country looks pretty much like that Belmont Stakes with the Mutt yankin' us in all sorts of directions 'til we end up waaay on the outside of the track. But I digress…sort of…
We all know even the best leaders—er—jockeys—can screw up at crunch time. (It would be better, though, if they didn't do it right out of the startin' gate like Someone we all know who is Screwin' Up Daily.) In one case, Hall-of-Fame rider Willie Shoemaker managed to pull off the biggest Derby screw-up in history.
Most people are surprised when they learn many of the great racehorses of all time never won, or even raced in, the Kentucky Derby. Gallant Man, f'instance, who's probably more famous for losing.
He was a little horse, barely 15 hands, with lots of talent in a plain brown wrapper. During his brief career, he beat both the great Bold Ruler and Round Table, but was never awarded any championship title. He might have if only he had won the 1957 Kentucky Derby.
But…the man holdin' the reins, Willie Shoemaker, misjudged the finish line and stood up in the irons too early. That slowed Gallant Man's stretch run, and Iron Liege, with Bill Hartack up, inched past to win by a nose. Round Table finished 3rd and Bold Ruler was 4th.
After the Derby, Gallant Man proved himself by demolishin' the field in the Belmont Stakes, includin' favorite Bold Ruler. He won by 8 lengths, settin' the track and race records that stood until Secretariat's 1973 Belmont. He kept winnin' the followin' year until an injured left foreleg forced him into retirement. He went on to sire a number of stakes winners.
Ironically Gallant Man's Derby loss was ultimately avenged by his granddaughter Genuine Risk.
*Two weeks after the Belmont, a picture supposedly showed a dislodged shoe on Big Brown's right hind leg, although nothing was found immediately after the race.
posted by Harrison at 11:02 PM