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.