Biggest Events in Sports The Kentucky Derby Part 4 History

About the Kentucky Derby horse race, history of major highlights in the sporting event held at Churchill Downs.




1957 The 83rd running of the Kentucky Derby featured one of the most outstanding fields of three-year-olds ever assembled for the prestigious race. A total of seven lengths separated the first four finishers, among whom were Gallant Man, Round Table, and Bold Ruler, the last a sire of future derby winners. It was also a race lost because of a jockey's error--ironically committed by the man most rate as the greatest of all time.

Once again, the winner was owned by Calumet Farm, but this time Ben Jones's son, Jimmy, was the trainer. The gate flew open at 4:32 P.M. on May 4, 1957. Nine horses tore out of their assigned post positions, and the so-called "Bad Dream Derby" was under way.

A few days before, the owner of Gallant Man, Ralph G. Lowe, had had a dream that his horse lost the race because the jockey misjudged the finish line. As silly as it sounded, he repeated the dream to his trainer, John Nerud, who in turn told the jockey, Willie Shoemaker. By post time, of course, the three men had shrugged it off for what it was, a bad dream.

At the start, Federal Hill sprinted for the early lead as Iron Liege fell in behind him in second place. Bold Ruler, the heavy favorite, settled into third place while Shoemaker had Gallant Man hugging the rail and biding his time in seventh place. After a mile, Federal Hill was still in front, but now Iron Liege was right at his flank, barely a head behind him. Federal Hill could not with-stand the challenge and gave way to Iron Liege. But now, too, Shoemaker had Gallant Man in high gear, and they charged alongside a driving Iron Liege to make a challenge of their own. The two drove relentlessly toward the wire, Round Table and Bold Ruler running third and fourth but not threatening the leaders.

Stride for stride, the two leaders fought it out. Then Gallant Man gained the lead and seemed about to drive by Iron Liege, still being driven relentlessly by Bill Hartack. It seemed as if they were destined for second place when, for just an instant, Shoemaker thought they had reached the finish line and eased up on Gallant Man. It was all the edge Hartack and Iron Liege needed. Gallant Man got back into stride almost immediately, but it was already too late. Calumet Farm had its sixth Kentucky Derby winner, and Bill Hartack had his first of five derby wins. The winning margin was a nose.

During a career of unprecedented success, Willie Shoemaker has been aboard more than 7,000 winners--and one loser that racing fans, Lowe, and Nerud held him blameless for, but one none of them is ever likely to forget.

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