A FIGHT TO THE FINISH

Eighty years ago, on May 6, 1933, the Kentucky Derby culminated  like no other, before or since. The incidents that took place during the stretch run earned the 59th Derby the moniker “The Fighting Finish.”

The official chart of the race is an understatement of what actually transpired late in the race and is partly incorrect as well:

“Start good out of machine. Won driving… Broker’s Tip, much the best, began slowly, saved ground when leaving backstretch, but lost some on the stretch turn, then went to the inside and overcoming interference, was up to win in the final strides after a long and tough drive. Head Play, rated close to the pace, went to front easily, bore out when increasing his lead on the stretch turn and bumped the winner…”

The description of Broker’s Tip as “much the best” is inaccurate in that the placing judges awarded him a win by a “nose” based solely on what they thought they saw. In 1933, there was neither a film patrol nor an official picture taken at the finish line to make a definitive determination.

Coming into the stretch turn, Herb Fisher had Head Play on the lead but the colt bore out, thereby forcing some of his challengers to go wide. This left room on the inside for Don Meade and Broker’s Tip to come through. Fisher then guided Head Play toward the rail, right beside Broker’s Tip. As the horses battled down the stretch, so did the jockeys, physically accosting one another.

A photographer by the name of Wallace Lowry was lying on the ground by the inner rail near the finish line and took the famous picture (click here to see the photo) of Meade clutching Fisher’s shoulder and Fisher clasping Broker’s Tip’s saddlecloth. After the horses swept under the wire, Fisher administered a blow with his whip to Meade’s face. Fisher lodged an objection with the stewards, which was disallowed.

When Fisher and Meade returned to the jockey’s room, Fisher continued the feud by assaulting Meade with a boot jack. Meade was suspended 30 days for his conduct in the Derby and Fisher was set down for 35 days.

Fisher, to his dying day, contended that he had been cheated out of the win. He told of how the chief steward overruled the other stewards in awarding the win to Broker’s Tip. Meade was just as adamant that it was Broker’s Tip who got to the wire first.

Broker’s Tip gave Colonel E. R. Bradley his fourth win in the Kentucky Derby, and all were trained by Henry J. Thompson. Broker’s Tip was by Black Toney, also the sire of 1924 Kentucky Derby winner Black Gold.

Head Play’s trainer, Thomas P. Hayes, was deprived of his second win in the Run for the Roses, having owned and trained the 1913 winner Donerail to the largest pari-mutuel return in Derby history.

Head Play went on to win the Preakness under jockey Charles Kurtsinger and had an outstanding racing career with earnings of $100,000 (equivalent to about $1.8 million in 2013).

As for Broker’s Tip, he broke down in the Preakness. He was brought back to the racetrack as a 6-year-old but was unplaced in five starts. Broker’s Tip’s only lifetime win was in the Kentucky Derby. But that single victory, and the unusual circumstances surrounding it, gave him racing immortality.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business

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