The world of sports is replete with hypotheticals, or “what ifs,” and such an intriguing hypothetical arose last week when the undefeated 3-year-old colt Nadal suffered a lateral condylar fracture during a work at Santa Anita.  While it is impossible to answer hypotheticals with surety, the owners of Nadal cannot help thinking about what might have been if:

(a) There had been no coronavirus pandemic that caused the Triple Crown races to be rescheduled and (b) the colt would have been stabled at a more horse-friendly racetrack than Santa Anita.

Had the Kentucky Derby been run on May 2 and the Preakness on May 16, as planned, Nadal on May 28 (the day of his career-ending injury), conceivably would have been prepping for an attempt to complete the Triple Crown on June 6.  Further, on the morning of May 28, he might have been working at Belmont Park rather than on the perilous surface at Santa Anita that has produced so many racehorse injuries and fatalities.  In this scenario, the injury to Nadal might not have occurred at all.

At the very least, had the Triple Crown races not been rescheduled owing to the pandemic, Nadal would have had a chance to run in the Kentucky Derby and likely the Preakness as well.  The injury he suffered could have come under the stress of one of these races, but there is no way of knowing.

Although hypotheticals cannot be definitively answered, one aspect of the Nadal injury is certain based on plenty of conclusive data: that is, Nadal was being worked on a racetrack proven to be unsafe, as evidenced by a plethora of well-publicized injuries and fatalities that forced a temporary closure .  How many incidents must there be at Santa Anita before owners and trainers recognize the track’s dirt and grass surfaces are hazardous? Why was a Kentucky Derby favorite subjected to the Santa Anita risk?

The connections of Nadal had no control over a pandemic forcing the rescheduling of the Triple Crown races. But they had absolute control over where the colt trained.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business


Making a living in horse racing is not for the faint of heart.  It involves long hours and the emotional makeup to cope with adversity and fickle fate.  Yet children raised close to the sport often choose to pursue some aspect of racing as an occupation.

Well-known names come to mind when one thinks of men who are training racehorses, as did their fathers before them—Bob Baffert, Norm Casse, Todd Pletcher, and Dale Romans, to name a few.  But what struck me while watching a lot of racing on TV during the ongoing pandemic is the number of current female trainers and television commentators in horse racing who hail from racing families.

While I am sure I’ll leave someone out, following is a sampling of women active in horse racing with generational ties to the sport:

Christina Blacker, daughter of retired jockey Frank Olivares.

Caton Bredar, daughter of trainer Raymond Metzler and granddaughter of HOF jockey Ted Atkinson.

Donna Brothers, daughter of Patti Barton, the first female jockey to win 1,000 races.

Cherie DeVaux, daughter of trotter/pacer trainer Adrian DeVaux and sister of harness driver Jimmy DeVaux.

Britney Eurton, daughter of trainer Peter Eurton.

Gabby and Lacey Gaudet, daughters of trainers Linda and Eddie Gaudet.

Linda Rice, daughter of Clyde Rice.  (Clyde was a boyhood friend of HOF trainer D. Wayne Lukas.)

Maggie Wolfendale, daughter of trainer Howard Wolfendale.

Christina Blacker, Donna Brothers, Gabby Gaudet, and Maggie Wolfendale are married to trainers and Cherie DeVaux is married to a bloodstock agent.

Without exception, putting these women in front of fans as race analysts and commentators, or as trainers, is a huge benefit to improving the public’s image and understanding of horse racing.  Their family backgrounds make them very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the sport and they are poised and articulate when on-air as commentators or doing interviews as trainers.

The trailblazer for women in American horse racing was Mary Hirsch McLennan, daughter of HOF trainer Max Hirsch and sister of HOF trainer William “Buddy” Hirsch.  Mary Hirsch was the first woman in the United States to obtain a trainers’ license from the Jockey Club, the first woman to be the trainer of record for a horse entered at Saratoga, the first woman trainer in the Kentucky Derby, and the only woman to train a winner of the Travers. 

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business


Even though the 2020 Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September, May remains the month when Derby history most comes to mind.

People old enough to remember Jack Benny’s television series, which ran from October 1950 to September 1964, or his radio program before that, will recall the character Rochester, played by Edmund Lincoln Anderson (1905-1977).  Mr. Anderson is historically significant in American horse racing as the first African American to own a Kentucky Derby starter. The year was 1943, four years before Jackie Robinson became a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers and integrated Major League Baseball.

Following is an excerpt from the Notable Kentucky African American Database at the University of Kentucky, which describes what transpired when Mr. Anderson’s horse, named Burnt Cork, took on the eventual Triple Crown winner Count Fleet (the term “burnt cork” refers to makeup used by white blackface performers in old-time minstrel shows):

“Several newspapers around the country accused Anderson of entering Burnt Cork in the 1943 Kentucky Derby as a publicity stunt, and prior to the race, Anderson was advised not to enter his horse; its odds were 25-1.  Anderson would not be swayed, however; he attempted to hire jockey Carroll Bierman, who had won the 1940 Kentucky Derby with longshot Gallahadion. 

Anderson, his wife, and his valet stayed at the home of Kentucky House Member Mae Street Kidd in Louisville; the hotels in Louisville were segregated.  Mae Street Kidd did not care much for Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, but got along well with his wife.  Kidd was invited to join the Andersons in their box during the derby.  Burnt Cork came in last place. He had come out of the gate fast, but quickly ran out of steam and came in 10th, 38 lengths behind the winner, Count Fleet, owned by Mrs. John D. Hertz.

Burnt Cork was ridden by jockey Manual Gonzalez and was trained by A. E. Silver.  Edmund Anderson was disappointed in his horse’s performance, but the loss became part of the comedy routine with Jack Benny ribbing ‘Rochester’ on air during The Jack Benny Program.  The newspapers and other comedians also poked fun at Anderson.  During 1943, there were more than 200 newspaper stories in the United States and Canada about Burnt Cork’s loss in the Kentucky Derby. Anderson continued to race Burnt Cork until the horse died in July of 1944 [of a natural cause].”

Some of the criticism, perhaps most, that Mr. Anderson received for running Burnt Cork in the Kentucky Derby was almost certainly racially motivated in that other owners had previously entered manifestly unqualified horses without such media carping.  In fact, the practice of owners running hopeless longshots in the Derby continued to be commonplace until 2012, when Churchill Downs instituted a qualifying point system for the 20-horse field.

Two other African Americans of show business fame would someday own horses in the Kentucky Derby.  In 1992, rapper M. C. Hammer’s Dance Floor finished third and in 1994 Motown founder Berry Gordy’s Powis Castle came in eighth.  But the pioneer in breaking the color barrier was Eddie “Rochester” Anderson…and pioneers usually get arrows shot their way.

The inscription on the Anderson monument in Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles says simply “Loving Husband and Father Eddie (Rochester).” A very humble epitaph for a resolute man who did so much to pave the way for African Americans in both network radio/TV and sports.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business