"The Colonel made the Derby class. He wouldn't allow anybody to put a company name on their box. I don't care if you were General Mills or Dun & Bradstreet. When he hired me, he said, 'Brownie, you are now working for the biggest sports event in the country, and maybe the world—and you are to go first-class. People are not going to see the man from the Kentucky Derby being cheap. You have an unlimited expense account when it comes to the Derby. But, Brownie, there's nobody faster at throwing money away than me—I've spent a lifetime doing it—so I'll know if you're just throwing it away.'
"One of my main jobs was to stop everybody from just sitting around in his office. Everybody knew him, so they would come by and he would give them a drink, which would warm them up, and then they would overstay. The Colonel would have a bourbon along with them, but he had instructed this old colored fellow to give him just a quarter of an ounce, just enough to color it. After a while I would come in and tell the Colonel that so-and-so was on the phone, very important.
"He worked hard to get the Derby on the sports pages, but he never bowed and scraped to the press the way some of them did afterward. He was not easily impressed. About the first day I came to work, he gave me two letters to answer. One was from Barney Gimbel asking if he couldn't get another box for the Derby. The other was from some little old lady from Indiana who was up in her 70s. She said she expected she didn't have much longer, and that if she should go to heaven and St. Peter asked her if she had ever seen the Kentucky Derby, she would be very embarrassed to have to say she had not.
" Winn said, 'Brownie, you write Barney Gimbel I haven't got another box I can give him, and then you send this old lady from Indiana two tickets with my compliments.'
"He believed that the Derby belonged to the people. The way it used to be around here, the oldtimers would take chairs out and set 'em up on the street the morning of Derby Day and watch the cars stream through to Loolville. It was a big time. The Colonel often said that New York or Los Angeles, a place like that, couldn't have the Derby. It would get swallowed up there. Here the Derby was everything. We'd put up $120,000, and down here that was like we were giving away Long Island.
"But you see, the Colonel had great care. He was a showman and he sold the Derby, but he cared for it, too. His major concern for the Derby was making it bigger year by year and having nice people come to it. He would change the flower beds every year. I can see him now, standing out there, studying the beds by the hour. He told me that if people were going to keep on coming to the Derby, losing their money, he didn't want them seeing the same thing every year. But now, except for minor innovations, the beds haven't been changed for years.
"I think the Derby is a cinch to blow up if they keep getting further away from the Colonel and keep running it just to make money."
Plain Ben Jones and his son Jimmy brought 14 colts to the Derby in 12 different years, from 1938, when Lawrin won, until 1958, when Tim Tarn did. Eleven of the 14 finished first or second. In all, the Joneses had eight wins, three seconds, a third and two fifths. In 1948 they finished one-two with Citation and Coaltown.
There has never been anyone else who could bring a horse to a peak for the Derby the way the Joneses did. Officially, Plain Ben was credited with the first six winners, Jimmy with the last two. Actually it was always a joint venture, even after Plain Ben retired. It was like a treasure map, half of which each had swallowed.
Plain Ben died in 1961, but Jimmy, who has not trained for a decade, is still active in racing. He wears tassel shoes and everybody at the track calls him Mister Jones now, which means he is an owner. He is watching the races from a box seat as he talks: