Brush up on your Louisiana Derby history knowledge before the race’s 109th running on Saturday, March 26 at Fair Grounds Race Course! We’re sharing some historical highlights here, and don’t miss the link at the end to our previous story about the race’s early years during last century’s flu pandemic.
Notable Hall of Fame jockeys who won the Louisiana Derby include Jimmy Winkfield, who was victorious in the Crescent City Derby aboard Lord Quex in 1902; this race that began in 1894 was the predecessor to the Louisiana Derby, which was not named as such until 1920. Winkfield was the last Black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in the 20th century, with two back-to-back wins in 1901 (His Eminence) and 1902 (Alan-a-Dale). Jockey Eddie Arcaro, known as “The Master” and the only rider to have won the Triple Crown twice–in 1941 aboard Whirlaway and in 1948 with Citation–won the Louisiana Derby in 1939, piloting the colt Day Off.
The winner of the 1924 Louisiana Derby was Hall of Fame champion Black Gold, who was named both for his sire Black Toney and for his owner Rosa Hoots’ great luck in striking oil on her Oklahoma property. Black Gold was the first Louisiana Derby winner to be victorious in the Kentucky Derby, while also winning the Ohio State Derby and Chicago Derby that year. Although he retired to stud at age four due to injury, he returned to racing two years later and tragically broke down while running in the Salome Stakes at Fair Grounds in 1928. He was euthanized due to the injury and was buried in the track’s infield, where flowers are placed annually by the winning jockey of the Black Gold Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds.
Only two fillies have won the Louisiana Derby: Carolyn A. in 1947 over a muddy track, and Grecian Princess in 1964 (see image). In 1938, the filly Bunny Baby lost by a head to the colt Wise Fox after a thrilling stretch duel.
Risen Star triumphed in the 1988 Coors Louisiana Derby, the first year the race had a title sponsor and its first running at the 1 1/16 mile distance. Co-owned and trained by Fair Grounds track stakeholder Louie Roussel III, Risen Star finished third in the Kentucky Derby but captured both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, demolishing the Belmont field by 14 3/4 lengths–his sire Secretariat won the 1973 Belmont by a record 31 lengths. Read more about Risen Star in our February post here.
The second and only other Louisiana Derby titleholder to win the Kentucky Derby was Grindstone in 1996, with Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey aboard the Overbrook Farm homebred in both races. The following year, Crypto Star, ridden by five-time Louisiana Derby-winning jockey and Hall of Famer Pat Day, broke Grindstone’s Louisiana Derby speed record (1:42.79) with his time of 1:42.60 that still stands for the 1 1/16 mile distance.
The fastest time for the Louisiana Derby at the 1 1/8 mile distance is 1:48.80, set in 1977 by Clev Er Tell, who also won the Arkansas Derby with Louisiana jockey Ray Broussard aboard for both victories. Hot Rod Charlie holds the speed record for the race’s current distance of 1 3/16 miles (1:55.06 in 2021).
Read a detailed account of the early years of the Louisiana Derby in our previos post, “The Louisiana Derby in History: Did the Spanish Flu impact the race in 1918–1919?” here.
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