Winkfield Tells Derby Experiences: Piloted 1901-02 Winners of Race, Daily Racing Form, 1950-05-06


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Winkfield Tells Derby Experiences Piloted 1901-02 Winners of Race Oldest Winning Rider of Classic Now Campaigning Own Modest Stable in East LAUREL, Md., May 5.— Back on "the hill" above Laurel race track some days ago, father and son sat on cots in the end stair of barn 12. Top and bottom doors were closed and blanketed against an unseasonable wind that whipped around the nearly deserted green sheds that afternoon. We all three leaned toward the scant warmth from an electric stove in the corner. Above the stove, on a trunk, was a television set, and a race was about to be televised. "Wait till we see this race, then we can sit back and talk about the Kentucky Derby," Jim Winkfield said. "Then Ill tell you all I remember." All he remembered! Winkfield, the oldest winning rider of a Kentucky Derby, the jockey who had had but four mounts in the Kentucky classic, capturing the race twice in successive" years and never finishing out of the money; Winkfield, who concluded his brief but impressive American riding career on Highball in the Futurity of 1903, and then went abroad to ride and, later, train in Poland, Russia, Germany; Austria, France and England for nearly 40 years, had a lot to remember. Had Good Year in 1949 "Robert- and I had a pretty good year last season," Winkfield said cheerfully. "I only hope we do as well again. All I worry about is getting stalls. Its hard sometimes to get stall rom for a little string like this, even though racing secretaries want to be helpful." Winkfield turned off the television set. "I first saw the Derby in 98," he said. "I was just a little Lexington boy, working in Mr. Mays stable, and I hung on the rail with all the other lads, that season and the next, watching the big race, the thrill of my life even to be there, and I never thought, wouldnt have dared dream, that in 1900 Id have a mount in the Derby myself." There was a merry twinkle in Wink-fields eye, a twinkle that brought back the apprentice lad who had watched Willie Simms, Nash Turner, Frank Garner, Winnie OConnor, Fred Taral with such hero worship, when he said, "You see, my beginning was not auspicious. Mr. May took his JAMES WINKFIELD horses to Chicago that first year I worked for him, 98. Id been riding in the morning. I was very light. To get the bug allowance, he put me up one afternoon on a horse named Jockey Joe. I finished second, but I racked up the field. Four horses went down behind me, and I didnt do any more riding that year, except a little in the fall at the Kentucky fairs. "He gave me another chance. He understood. Then, in a while, after Id learned a little more, he sold my contract to Patrick Dunne, the father of Francis Dunne, who is steward now at the New York tracks. I remember him when he was this high and it is always a surprise when I see him grown to be such a big man. Rode Thrive in 1900 "My first Derby mount was Thrive in 1900. He was owned by J. C. Cahn. Lieut. Gibson was much the best that year, won just breezing, but we finished third. The Continued on Page Seventeen Winkfield Relates Of Two Derby Wins Oldest Winning Rider of Classic Now Campaigning Own Modest Stable in East Continued from Page Fifteen next year, I won as easily with Mr. Van Meters His Eminence, and he was a pretty good colt because -I also took the Clark Handicap with him." "After His Eminence, you won with Major McDowells Alan-A-Dale, and then, lor your last try, you ran second to Judge Himes with Early. Who was the best of the lot?" we inquired. "Alan-A-Dale was the best, by far." Winkfield answered. "The others were good colts, but Alan-A-Dale was one of the best I ever rode. He was not a sound colt, and the Derby was his only start as a three-year-old. Up to and including that race, I was the only one ever to be on Alan-A-Dales back. Major McDowell was a trotting horse man, and all the colts slow work, right from the beginning, was given him hitched to a cart, to keep the weight off his back. He was a grand big chestnut, and I was so confident of the Derby that I believed we would win by 10 lengths. McChesney Best He Rode "Major McDowell was not nearly as high on Alan-A-Dale as I was. Perhaps he knew more than I did about those bad legs. In any case, he started The Rival as an entry, and liked The Rival best, bringing Nash Turner down to ride him. The beginning of that race was just what I had expected. I went right to the front, opened up a long lead, and I thought I was home. Then, just inside the eighth pole, I felt him give way. The leg had gone, and it was his life to get home by a nose in front of Inventor. He did it on his courage, and when I pulled him up, he stood there, wobbling like an old chair with the rockers off. And. Ill always remember — I brought him to the winners circle and they hung the big wreath of roses round his neck, and Alan-A-Dale turned his head and started eating those flowers. Imagine that, after the race hed just been through! All he wanted to do was eat flowers." When we asked Winkfield to name the best thoroughbred he ever rode, he hesitated then answered. "Id have to say McChesney. "I used to ride McChesney as a two-year- old, before Sam Hildreth bought him," Winkfield continued. "I was never beaten on him until I had my first bad accident with him, riding in Mr. Hildreths colors. From the first sight of McChesney, Hildreth was eager to have him, and our owner was not a rich jnan. He wanted. to sell, but he wanted a good price for those days, 0,000. -I remember, he said to me, kWe sell McChesney to Hildreth, and if I get my price, and there is a thousand dollars in it for you. Win today with him by as far as you can. Make it look easy. It was a seven-furlong race, and there was not too much in it. I thought we would distance the other colts. "Well, sir, for the first and only time when I was on his back, McChesney broke in a tangle that day, and we were all but left. I was a dozen lengths off the leaders going down the backs tretch, but I set sail; and at the far turn, I was almost level with them. Rounding the turn, I went on to the front, and I kept drawing away. Not to a big lead, mind you, because he had to be a little tired after all that, but I won by four lengths." "Tell about what your foot was doing," said young Robert, who evidently had heard this story before. "Oh, yes, my foot," said Winkfield, laughing. "Well, you remember the owner insisted it look, easy. On the side near the grandstand, I sat still as a statue .through the stretch. But on the other side, where the crowd could not see, I was diggin, diggin at McChesney s flank with my heel all the time. I am afraid that race was not quite as easy as it looked. But it must have looked easy to Hildreth because he was waiting at the draw gate with a shank and a halter. He didnt even let the colt go back to our stable. Took him right off the track as if hed claimed him. And I got my thousand dollars."

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