Social Icons


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Godspeed

On the very day that ill-fated Barbaro’s little brother Nicanor makes his debut in race 8 at Gulfstream, over 850 miles away another group of three-year-olds will go postward in a much-less ballyhooed race that, for 52 years, has been run in honor of another Kentucky Derby winner who met a tragic end—the $60k Black Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds going 5.5f on turf.

The progeny of speedy Oklahoma-bred mare Useeit and blue-blooded Kentucky stallion Black Toney, the great Black Gold began and ended his racing career at Fair Grounds. That, along with everything in between, has become the stuff of legend—bred and owned by a Native American woman named Rosa Hoots after the death of her beloved husband Al who had once refused to turn over ownership of Useeit when he lost her in a claiming race; the taxing eighteen-race 2-year-old campaign (with sixteen in-the-money finishes, including 9 victories); the nine wins at 3, including the Louisiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Chicago derbies; the stud career that was a complete (and sterile) bust; and the extremely-ill conceived return to the track at age 6.

His story has been oft-told, most famously in Marguerite Henry’s classic book Black Gold (1957), a work that can make a grown woman (and I dare say, man) cry. Winston Groom also published a rather nice article last year which you can read here.

Running in the Salome Purse on January 18, 1928, the 7-year-old Black Gold broke down in the stretch, yet finished the race on three legs—and heart. His remains lay buried in the infield, near the sixteenth pole, at Fair Grounds where later today the winning jockey, accompanied by descendants of Rosa Hoots, will place a wreath of flowers on his grave marker.

Godspeed today, young Nicanor, godspeed.

4 comments:

Teresa said...

I knew almost nothing about Louisiana racing when I went to the Fair Grounds last month, and their mini-museum does a great job of telling stories like Black Gold's. One of the facts that stayed with me: as you noted, he won both the Lousiana Derby and the Kentucky Derby in 1924, a feat not repeated until Grindstone in 1996.

Unfortunately, NYC OTB won't let me watch that race later today...

Fran Jurga said...

Thanks for posting about Black Gold, a horse whose story deserves to be told again and again. I was a consultant on the Fair Grounds' Hall of Fame years ago and can tell you that New Orleans is full of stories of unlikely character expressed through racehorses, just as through its people.

I always wondered why Black Gold's story was never made into a Hollywood film...or did I miss it?

Thanks for refreshing my memory.

Fran

Fran Jurga said...

Thanks for posting about Black Gold, a horse whose story deserves to be told again and again. I was a consultant on the Fair Grounds' Hall of Fame years ago and can tell you that New Orleans is full of stories of unlikely character expressed through racehorses, just as through its people.

I always wondered why Black Gold's story was never made into a Hollywood film...or did I miss it?

Thanks for refreshing my memory.

Fran

tvnewsbadge said...

Hate to be a cynic but it's more than a little disturbing that the jockey and track officials would allow that horse to continue to run like that.

I seem remember during the Triple Crown series last year, one of the networks ran a piece about the early days of horse racing in Louisiana that unintentionally painted a pretty cruel picture of the local industry
TvNB