One of the casualties of the tornadoes that scourged the South and Midwest earlier this month was the irreplaceable—and now irretrievable—Kentucky Derby library assembled over a lifetime of research by Brownie Leach (see page 80). When Leach and his wife Frances emerged from their cellar in Louisville after the winds, the den where he had kept a reference file of 500 stallions bred over the last 40 to 50 years and full details of the first 99 years of the Derby was in ruins and his books and papers scattered, for all Leach knows, to the ends of the earth. The 70-year-old thoroughbred historian accepted his loss philosophically. "Racing has been a thing of joy, pleasure and interest all my life," he said. "But I could never again get as involved in it as I was."
SPLIT THE 100TH?
By no means as devastated but nevertheless a mess is the Derby picture this year. With the starting gates able to accommodate only 26 horses and nearly 35 clamoring to join the field, there is speculation that twin derbies might be necessary—the Derby divided into two races, as the Wood Memorial was last week in New York (page 78).
When the owners of 290 horses paid $100 each in nomination fees before Feb. 15 for this year's Derby, they had, in effect, binding contracts with Churchill Downs if they decided to run. The track had already anticipated greater interest in the 100th and raised its entry fee from $2,500 to $4,000 (entries will be taken May 2), and if an owner really wants to go on May 4, Derby Day, he must pay a starting fee that has gone up from $1,500 to $3,500.
In the last days before the race some owners may reconsider this final $7,500 expenditure. In addition, the influence of Track President Lynn Stone, his racing secretary, Tommy Trotter, Chairman of the Kentucky State Racing Commission William H. May and Senior State Steward Keene Daingerfield all will be concentrated on reducing the field to a manageable bunch of fewer than 24. They hope too that the three remaining prep races will eliminate some runners. Failing that, Churchill Downs can be expected to press for stricter prerace veterinary inspections to take out unsound eligibles.
The best bet, however, is that Downs officials will siphon off some Derby aspirants by making another race on the card attractive financially. At a mile and a sixteenth, the Twin Spires was run for a purse of $20,000 in 1973. "If it were increased to $50,000, or even $75,000," says Daingerfield, "it would look mighty good to a man who isn't sure his horse will go a mile and a quarter." The price is also right. The Twin Spires has neither entry nor starting fees.
A persistent argument for one Derby, aside from tradition, is an almost unanimous aversion in Kentucky to giving Pimlico General Manager Chick Lang what he has always wanted in order to enhance his Preakness—an inconclusive, divisional Derby. "If we split the Derby," said one Kentucky horseman sourly, "all we would do is make the Preakness the greatest race in the world."
One wonders whether there was anything in Leach's lost papers that might have helped the Kentuckians out of their quandary.
ORGAN STOPS AND DESIST
Being the organist for the Philadelphia Phillies, Paul Richardson has few calls upon his talent for the "Dah dah dah dot de daah, fight" cadenzas that are the stock in trade of fellow practitioners in Baltimore or Cincinnati or Oakland. His contribution to the game—sorry about this—is the outrageous pun. Before the two players were traded away, Richardson performed such haunting renditions when they went to bat as "I'm Joe Lis of the Stars That Shine Above," and "You Got Mike Ryan for You, You Got Me Sighin' for You." He spent last winter working on what he considers one of his alltime greats, "Wayne Twitchell the Sun Shines, Nellie," and now is plumping for the Phils to make a deal with Atlanta for Chuck Goggin. The song: "My Kind of Town, Chuck Goggin Is," natch.