And this is the story of the very first winner of the Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Derby was fortunate to have Aristides as its first winner, for his name is exceptionally appropriate to adorn a classic race. Literally meaning "the best kind" in classical Greek, his name not only summed up his character, but it would also foreshadow the nature of the Kentucky Derby itself. While Aristides eventually ranked as the best colt of the 1875 season, the Derby has come to represent all that is finest in horse racing. The anticipatory excitement, the glamour of both equine and human participants, the festivities, the crescendo as the best three-year-olds in the land turn for home and bid for glory: this is the "best kind" of racing experience, and it was inaugurated more than a century ago when the game Aristides, "the little red horse," saved the day for his stable.
Moreover, Aristides happens to share his name with one of the most laudable figures of classical history, the Athenian statesman Aristides, who flourished in the fifth century B.C. Parallels may be drawn between Aristides the Derby winner and Aristides the statesman, foremost among them their unimpeachable integrity. The Athenian earned the nickname "Aristides the Just" because he invariably told the truth and acted in accordance with his highest ideals, even when such incorruptible honesty was to the detriment of his own self-interest.
The Derby-winning Aristides was to demonstrate similar virtues of an equine order. The Spirit of the Times would describe him as "a fellow of wonderful nervous energy and vigor, and of unyielding pluck. He will never sulk and quit in the supreme moment, but is of that peculiar mental temperament that will do or die."
Aristides was bred and campaigned by Henry Price (H.P.) McGrath. A Kentucky native, McGrath literally rose from rags to riches in a rather colorful fashion that would not have met with the approval of Aristides the Just. Originally a tailor, McGrath found gambling a much more lucrative endeavor. He had the "soul of a racketeer," in Henry Chefetz's well-turned phrase in Play the Devil. He worked his way up from shady dice games, headed west for the California Gold Rush, and lured the prospectors into gaming activities. McGrath later moved to New Orleans, where he ran a high-end gambling parlor on Carondelet St. After the Civil War, he fell into trouble with the authorities in the Crescent City and was thrown into federal prison for one year.
Upon his release, McGrath ventured to St. Louis and ultimately to New York, partnering with John Morrissey, the boxing champ-turned-politician, to operate another opulent gambling house. When Morrissey became the driving force behind the development of Saratoga Race Course, his friend McGrath assisted by serving as a timing judge at the Spa, and also by assigning weights for the handicap races.
Having amassed extraordinary wealth from his gambling proceeds, McGrath decided to return to Kentucky and establish himself as a member of the landed gentry. He purchased a 416-acre spread just north of Lexington and named it McGrathiana. On its grounds McGrath constructed a stately home styled after the United States Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York. Twice a year, before the spring and fall race meetings at Lexington, he hosted lavish burgoo and bourbon parties for "an assemblage...that would have graced any court of Europe," in the words of the Kentucky Live Stock Record. McGrath snapped up blue-blooded Thoroughbreds from the renowned Woodburn Farm, which had achieved great success under Robert A. Alexander, and began his breeding enterprise.
In 1871, McGrath sent his mare Sarong, a daughter of the magnificent racer and 16-time leading sire Lexington, to visit the imported stallion *Leamington. A useful stayer in England, Leamington had landed the Goodwood S. and two runnings of the Chester Cup. By the time Sarong arrived at his court in Westchester, New York, he was already off to a fast start with his first crop of American runners. Leamington was eventually to rank as the nation's leading sire four times.
Back home at McGrathiana the following spring, Sarong produced a blood-red chestnut colt with a star on his forehead and a pair of white socks on his hind legs. That same year, McGrath's friend, Aristides Welch, purchased Leamington and transferred him to his Erdenheim Farm in Pennsylvania. McGrath accordingly named Sarong's little Leamington colt "Aristides" after Welch, not after the Athenian.
When the time came for his education as a racehorse, Aristides was turned over to veteran trainer Ansel Williamson, who had previously worked for Alexander at Woodburn. Ansel, as he was known, was an African-American born into slavery in Virginia around 1806. In the mid-1850s, he garnered national attention for conditioning the top-class Brown Dick for their owner T. Goldsby of Alabama. Brown Dick turned in smashing efforts in three-mile heats in New Orleans in 1855. This did not escape the notice of A. Keene Richards of Blue Grass Park in Kentucky, and the following year, Richards bought Ansel and installed him as his trainer.
Richards' wealth was largely derived from plantations in Louisiana and Alabama, and with the outbreak of the Civil War, he found himself in straitened circumstances. His friend, Alexander of Woodburn Farm, stepped in to help, by among other things, purchasing Ansel. Set free from the inhuman institution of slavery, Ansel was paid well to train Alexander's finest horses.
Ansel was a master of his craft, hailed by the Spirit of the Times as a "relic of the early turf of America, and one who has played an important part in it."
He succeeded in all forms of his discipline, whether preparing marathoners for the old-style of heat racing that was rapidly falling out of favor, or conditioning horses for the new "dash" races that were run only once. Among his best performers for Alexander were the undefeated champion Asteroid, a perfect 12-for-12, and the once-beaten Norfolk. Ansel's first top horse for McGrath was the excitable Tom Bowling, whom he soothed and managed to a sterling 14-for-17 record.
"As a judge of horseflesh he had few superiors," the Spirit of the Times observed. "His conclusions were drawn from long experience, and were delivered with a quaintness of expression and a brevity of style which pleased while it instructed."
Ansel had dedication, as well as an eye for detail, characteristics of the very best horsemen of every time and place. As the Kentucky Live Stock Record noted, "he was a remarkable industrious and attentive man to his business, which was the great secret of his success as a trainer."
Aristides was one of a trio of promising McGrath juveniles who took to the track in 1874. Interestingly, his stablemates Chesapeake and Calvin boasted more fancy entries, made well in advance of the season, than he did, according to the American Turf Register and Racing Calendar. Perhaps this was attributable to the fact that the pair were half-brothers to noted McGrath colorbearers of the past. Calvin was a half-brother to Tom Bowling, out of McGrath's blue hen mare Lucy Fowler, and Chesapeake was a half-brother to Tipperary.
In any event, Aristides came to hand early enough to make his debut on May 12, 1874, at the old Kentucky Association track in Lexington, finishing second in a half-mile sweepstakes. The small chestnut was unplaced in his next two attempts, both at a half-mile, in the Juvenile S. at Jerome Park in New York and the Hopeful S. at Long Branch, New Jersey. Aristides put forth a better effort when second in the six-furlong Thespian S. at Long Branch, but he again failed to crack the top three in the Saratoga S. going that same distance at the Spa.
Steering clear of stakes races for the rest of his juvenile campaign, Aristides won three of his last four starts in minor events. He relished stretching out to one mile in a handicap purse at Saratoga on August 18, driving to his first career victory. The improving colt cut back to five furlongs at Jerome Park and won again. At that venue one week later, Aristides finished second in a tough six-furlong affair, giving eight pounds (103 to 95) to the winner, James A. It was a sneakily good effort that stamped Aristides as a horse of some potential, for James A. had been runner-up in the Champagne S. Moreover, finishing third behind Aristides was the Champagne winner, Hyder Ali, with the top weight of 107 pounds. On that evidence, the McGrath colt had progressed quite a bit. As if to prove the point beyond any doubt, Aristides concluded his year by rolling to a convincing score in a one-mile purse at Baltimore.
Despite his upwardly mobile profile, however, he was overshadowed by the accomplishments of Chesapeake, who was regarded as the champion two-year-old of 1874. In this respect, the equine Aristides mirrored the Athenian Aristides, who was similarly in the shade of his larger-than-life political opponent, Themistocles.
Chesapeake contested high-caliber races throughout the season, capturing the August S. in his debut at Long Branch and later adding the Kentucky S. at Saratoga to his resume. Aristides and Chesapeake squared off only once, in the aforementioned Saratoga S., but it was hardly informative, as the unruly Chesapeake was left at the post.
As the 1875 season commenced, the champion Chesapeake was therefore billed as McGrath's primary three-year-old hope, with Aristides and Calvin also in the mix for the spring classics. They were under consideration not only for the big prizes in New York, like the Belmont S., but also for a brand new race in Louisville, named the Kentucky Derby. B.G. Bruce's Kentucky Live Stock Record paid a visit to McGrathiana in April and reported on the team's prospects.
Chesapeake, the first of the sophomores appearing in the article, "stands high in the betting for his Northern engagements, and is in prime preparatory condition."
The correspondent next described Aristides as a "lengthy, wiry, even-balanced horse, deep through the heart, and with long, muscular thighs," adding that "Ansel has got him pretty near a racing form already."
Indeed, the little red horse returned to action at the Lexington spring meeting, hard on the heels of one of McGrath's sumptuous burgoo and bourbon galas. In light of his late-season form at two, and his rumored fitness, Aristides was dispatched as the favorite in the prestigious Phoenix Hotel S. on May 10. Unfortunately, the track had turned into a quagmire after soaking rains, and he was spinning his wheels throughout the muddy 1 1/8-mile test. While Aristides was toiling in the rear, the up-and-coming Ten Broeck, who had raced only once as a juvenile, coasted home an impressive three-length winner. Contemporary accounts agreed that this was not the real Aristides.
"Aristides, evidently unable to act in the heavy ground, which was fetlock-deep in mud, was laboring a dozen or 15 lengths behind them," the Spirit of the Times reported.
"The colt seemed incapable of making an effort in the deep ground, and we cannot think that he exhibited anything like his true form," the Kentucky Live Stock Record opined. "Although unsuited by his formation for deep, heavy ground, we think he would have been defeated on a good track," for he did not look as physically razor-sharp as he might have been.
In contrast, the much-hyped Chesapeake was victorious in his sophomore bow in the two-mile Citizens S. at Lexington, with Ten Broeck winding up last in the five-horse field.
The Kentucky Live Stock Record was underwhelmed. Chesapeake won "after a driving and punishing finish," but "he is a sluggish rascal, and takes the whip freely." In sum, "taking all together, we do not consider it anything like an extra good race."
With that verdict, the time-honored custom of critiquing Kentucky Derby preps was born. In this vein, a whole series of questions may be imagined in retrospect. Is the juvenile champion Chesapeake all that he's cracked up to be, or is the late-developing Ten Broeck the one to follow? Was Ten Broeck merely flattered by his ability to handle the mud in the Phoenix Hotel, and consequently exposed when beaten by Chesapeake on a fast track? Should Aristides be forgiven for his flop, or is he simply a cut below as the stable's second-stringer? Arguments about the merits of performances, and the role played by track conditions, are as old as the Derby itself.
And so the stage was set for that first Kentucky Derby, on Monday, May 17, 1875, the grand opening of the Louisville Jockey Club and Driving Park Association, later called Churchill Downs. Spearheading the development of both track and Derby was Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. A grandson of the famed William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the great-nephew of Louisville founder George Rogers Clark, he deliberately sought to follow the precedent set by the English classics. Like the illustrious Epsom Derby, the Kentucky Derby was originally contested at 1 1/2 miles, and was only shortened to its present 1 1/4-mile distance in 1896.
The new race, and its host track, generated a great deal of enthusiasm. The Louisville Courier-Journal foresaw its long-term consequences:
"Today will be historic to Kentucky annals, as the first 'Derby Day,' of what promises to be a long series of annual turf festivities which we confidently expect our grandchildren 100 years hence, to celebrate in glorious continuous rejoicings, because the president (Clark) hopes to make this a duplicate for the great English turf event."
The Kentucky Live Stock Record could not quite decide whether it exceeded the level of excitement surrounding the match between Wagner and Grey Eagle in 1839:
"Never before in the history of the Kentucky turf, save the meeting in which the champions Wagner and Grey Eagle met in 1839...has there been so much interest displayed in racing. The Spring Inaugural meeting at Louisville will be far more interesting than even the great races of Wagner and Grey Eagle" because there will be more races carded, "on each of which hinge the fame and renown of a number of high mettled and high bred candidates for equine honors."
The journal envisioned the Derby as a contest that would "make this the racing center of America," while serving as "the grand trysting ground over which these great breeding States (Kentucky and Tennessee) will decide the supremacy of their youngsters."
The Kentucky Live Stock Record also thought strategically in terms of the economic impact upon Louisville:
"Louisville is the metropolis of the State, and a vast crowd of strangers will be in attendance at the race, who will leave large sums of money amongst her hotels and merchants."
Moreover, these hordes of visitors "will find a track in all its appurtenances and surroundings the equal, if not the superior, of any in America....From the report of those who have trained on the course, one and all agree that it is one of the safest, fastest, best drained and most admirable tracks in America."
Nor was this interest a strictly regional phenomenon, for the Spirit of the Times, viewing the scene from its perch in New York, was likewise captivated by the novel idea of the Kentucky Derby, "which has created deep interest throughout the country."
In addition to its national cache, the first Derby also embraced other elements that would become part of its core identity. While 19th-century celebrities, in the form of high society ladies and dapper gentlemen, graced the exclusive portions of the track, ordinary people from every station of life thronged to see the big race, many of them taking advantage of the free admission to the infield. One of those inhabiting the infield was the 13-year-old Matt Winn, the future impresario of Churchill Downs who would mold the Derby into the all-encompassing experience that it is today. Young Matt viewed the race from aboard his father's grocery wagon, and decades later in his memoir Down the Stretch, he recalled that Chesapeake was all the rage:
"They said he was a great one; one of the greatest that ever was. Little chance for any other horse. Yes, this Chesapeake would stay back until the leading pacemakers reached the turn for home, and then he would charge up at them and just run away from them. So, before the race started, I had come to believe that Chesapeake was the greatest race horse in all the world; that nothing alive could run as fast."
To set the stage for Chesapeake's closing kick, McGrath knew that a fast early pace would be essential. Accordingly, he entered Aristides to serve as his designated pacemaker, a "rabbit," who would do his job before retiring from the scene. Once again, his experience calls to mind the Athenian Aristides. Just as the little red horse was to be sacrificed for the good of Chesapeake, so was Aristides the Just sacrificed politically, to the benefit of his rival Themistocles. Aristides the Just was banished from Athens, according to the voting procedure known as ostracism, not because he did anything wrong, but because of the intrigues of Themistocles' partisans.
The statesman's banishment was cut short when Athens faced a military crisis, and Aristides returned to play a vital role in the next round of the Persian Wars. In a similar manner, the equine Aristides would also be called upon unexpectedly to rescue his owner's Derby hopes.
With all of the buzz surrounding Chesapeake, the McGrath entry was heavily favored in the wagering. McGrath turned to Ansel, a devout Christian, and asked him to enlist divine aid, according to an account published in Lynn Renau's Racing Around Kentucky.
"You must pray to the Lord to let us win with these poor horses," McGrath said.
"I don't know much about winning, Mr. McGrath," Ansel responded, "but it wouldn't do you any harm to have the Lord with you anywhere."
Fifteen three-year-olds went to the post, long before the advent of the starting gate, by lining up across the track at the half-mile pole. True to form, Chesapeake was causing trouble at first, but the starter, Col. W.H. Johnson of the Nashville Blood Horse Association, sent the field on its way in good order.
The Kentucky Live Stock Record provided color commentary:
"When they were marshaled into line, he tapped the drum to one of the most capital starts I have ever seen, the 15 going away like a platoon of cavalry, except the (unnamed) Baywood colt, who hung at the post."
Volcano flashed speed, but McCreery soon sprinted to the fore. The pace was swift by the standards of the time, a quarter-mile in :25 1/2 and a half-mile in :50. According to the McGrath game plan, Aristides was near the front, hounding McCreery every step of the way. Swinging into the backstretch, Aristides took command from the retreating McCreery and kept up the relentless march. The field began to spread out. Many were struggling to keep up, but in the case of Volcano, he was just biding his time before launching his bid.
"The others seemed to be outpaced," the Courier-Journal recapped, "for Aristides was cutting out the running at an awful speed, getting back to the finish of the mile in the neighborhood of 1:43."
With such a superb execution of tactics on the part of his rabbit, surely Chesapeake would begin to uncork his patented late run — or would he? As Aristides rounded the far turn, his African-American rider, Oliver Lewis, was beginning to throttle down on him, as he had been instructed to do. Lewis was hesitant, however, for he could not find Chesapeake, who was supposed to be flying into contention right about now. Ten thousand intent spectators were wondering the same thing.
"Where, oh where, was Chesapeake?" lamented the Courier-Journal. "Away back in the ruck and not able to do anything for his stable."
Winn knew exactly where Chesapeake was. He had his eyes trained on the colt from the start, "not paying much attention to others in the race" because he "didn't want to miss seeing Chesapeake when he moved into action….Chesapeake, instead of charging, fell back — and back. The crowd was roaring, but not for Chesapeake."
McGrath was standing at the top of the stretch, and he realized immediately that Chesapeake was a forlorn hope. Lewis, of course, could not be certain of that from his position aboard Aristides up front. Moreover, with McGrath being a celebrated gambler, Lewis had to make sure that if he kept riding, he wouldn't ruin a carefully laid betting coup. Lewis glanced at McGrath for a signal, and the owner enthusiastically waved him on, hat in hand, telling him to "go on with the good little red horse and win if he could all alone."
And so, responding to the crisis in the middle of the race, Aristides was suddenly recalled from his banishment as a rabbit. Upon him, and him alone, would the fortunes of the McGrath entry rest. But Lewis would not have driven Aristides so hard early, if he had any pretensions of winning. Now, in the most exacting of circumstances, the colt soldiered on as he braced for the inevitable challengers.
"The crowd was still roaring," Winn reminisced. "I saw a horse out in front — a horse carrying a jockey whose colors were green, with an orange band. Chesapeake's colors!"
For a split second, young Matt Winn thought that maybe Chesapeake was winning after all. But then, just as quickly, he noticed that the colt in the lead was a "bright chestnut," not a deeply colored bay like Chesapeake.
"Who was the little fellow up in front, shaking off one challenge after another, racing gamely and true to the finish line? Who was this little chestnut whirlwind?" Winn wondered, only to learn from his father that it was Chesapeake's stablemate, Aristides.
"Right gallantly did the game and speedy son of Leamington and Sarong answer the call on his forces," the Courier-Journal reported, "for he held his own all down the stretch, in spite of a most determined rush on the part of Volcano and Verdigris, and dashed under the wire the winner of one of the fastest and hardest races ever seen on a track. Aristides forced the pace all the way for his stable companion Chesapeake, and so had no respite at all, which makes his performance a very remarkable one."
As if the manner of his victory were not commendable enough, the little red colt also set a new record for the distance. His final time of 2:37 3/4 ranked as the fastest 1 1/2 miles ever run by a three-year-old up to that day.
The Kentucky Live Stock Record believed that he had scored rather comfortably:
"The race from this point home was never in doubt, Aristides winning by two lengths with something in hand."
In the process, he scored the first leg of an historic double for his sire. In 1881, Leamington's son Iroquois captured the Epsom Derby. Leamington thus became the charter member of an exclusive club of stallions who have sired winners of both the Kentucky and Epsom Derbies. In the 20th century, he would be joined by such eminences as *Blenheim II, Hyperion, Hail to Reason and Nijinsky II.
Aristides also established one of the recurring motifs of Kentucky Derby history. It would not be the last time that the supposed lesser half of the entry, the inferior representative of the stable, stole the limelight.
Ten Broeck trudged home fifth, the archetype of the massively talented horse who was just not mature enough on Derby Day. He would only reach the peak of his powers as an older campaigner. Chesapeake wound up eighth, the first in a series of two-year-old champions who failed in the Derby.
The Spirit of the Times rhapsodized about Aristides:
"His machinery is most perfectly balanced….His action is smooth, graceful, and springy; his shoulders good, heart and lungs unusually well developed; limbs most perfectly formed, clean, and hard as ivory; feet excellent; hips, thighs and gascons prominent and strong, loin perfect, and in short, the whole tout ensemble denotes a lithe, wiry, stout, never-tiring, never-to-be-worn-out racehorse."
Aristides turned in another blistering performance next time out in the one-mile Withers S. at Jerome Park. The Spirit of the Times marveled at his "terrific pace at the finish...like the recoil of a powerful spring."
Nevertheless, despite the colt's triumphs, McGrath was to render another crushing disservice to the honest Aristides, in the furtherance of a gambling scheme typical of the rough-and-tumble practices of the 19th century. Earlier in the year, he had placed a hefty wager on Calvin in the Belmont S. at Jerome Park, and if he won, McGrath stood to reap a $30,000 windfall. Therefore, Calvin must win the Belmont. Aristides was also entered, and Lewis was given his tactical instructions. Unlike Chesapeake in the Derby, Calvin came sweeping on cue in the Belmont, and Lewis had to put Aristides under a fierce hold to let the preferred stablemate win.
The Athenian Aristides had also subordinated himself to another, but he did so willingly, and for an infinitely better reason. Although it was his turn to command, in the order of rotation, he willingly yielded to the masterful general Miltiades. Aristides the Just gave up the honors for himself, in order to serve the cause of Greece. McGrath, in contrast, had compelled his Aristides to make way for a decidedly inferior animal, in a bit of skullduggery that would have shocked the conscience of the Athenian.
The legendary turf authority Walter S. Vosburgh was unequivocal about the matter in his Racing in America, 1866-1921:
"He could, and should, have won the Belmont also, but Lewis nearly pulled his head off to allow (jockey) Bob Swim to win with Calvin, and the crowd shouted: 'Let go that horse's head!'"
Aristides was defeated in his next two outings, placing second in the Ocean Hotel S. at Long Branch and third in the Travers S. at Saratoga, but he rebounded with a victory over Calvin in the two-mile Jerome S. The little red colt was then unplaced as part of the heavily favored entry with Chesapeake in the Dixie S. at Baltimore.
Might this have been another McGrath subterfuge? For the winner of the Dixie was to carry five pounds extra in the Breckinridge S. three days later. Throw the Dixie, to get a favorable weight and higher odds in the Breckinridge? Whether that was part of the strategy or not, it certainly turned out that way: Aristides went off at a generous price in the Breckinridge, the fifth choice in a five-horse field. With first-call rider Swim aboard, Aristides surged to a two-length victory, and cemented his place in the record book as the top three-year-old of 1875.
He would surely have ranked as a premier older horse as well, but he raced only three more times. At four, Aristides won both of his races in tremendous style, leading Vosburgh to declare that "at the time he seemed to be the best horse in training."
On May 10, 1876, at Lexington, he met Ten Broeck in a 2 1/8-mile sweepstakes. No one else dared to oppose them, and the affair became a match race. McGrath, at long last, was bullish about his colt, and he backed him as if defeat were out of the question. He took bets from countless Woodford County racing aficionados who believed in Ten Broeck, but he did not keep any records of their bets. McGrath's friends noted that, if Ten Broeck won, legions of people would come to him claiming that they had placed a wager with him — how was he to know?
"The little red hoss'll keep the books today," McGrath confidently asserted.
The Athenian Aristides was likewise entrusted with delicate financial responsibilities. Because of his thorough-going honesty, he was deputized to watch over the booty captured from the enemy at the battle of Marathon. Later, Aristides the Just was appointed to assess the contributions from Athens' allies in the Delian League, judging how much each could afford to pay. Only he could be perfectly impartial, and incorruptible.
The equine Aristides did, in fact, keep the books as well. He crushed Ten Broeck by five lengths in a new American record time of 3:45 1/2.
"The victor was cheered to the echo," Turf, Field, and Farm reported. "McGrath won thousands of dollars, and the speculative crowd from Woodford went home 'dead broke.'"
That was a particularly eye-popping performance from Aristides, for Ten Broeck never lost again that season, going on a tear and thrashing all comers.
Ten Broeck literally ran out of competition over the course of his career and ultimately took to racing against the clock. He set records at a wide range of distances from one to four miles, earning himself a place in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. But he was no Aristides, in the eagle-eyed view of Vosburgh: Ten Broeck "was the beau-ideal of a race-horse in appearance, but probably was overrated, for when fit and well Aristides always beat him."
Just three days after his triumph over Ten Broeck, Aristides established yet another American record by capturing a 2 1/2-mile purse in 4:27 1/2. He spotted the loose-on-the-lead Bazar either 14 or 18 pounds, depending on the source, and was all heart to collar him in the stretch.
Aristides was sidelined by injury for two years thereafter. He was not seen again under silks until May 13, 1878, at Lexington, when he came full circle in his final start. Just as in the Phoenix Hotel S. in 1875, he caught a heavy track, failed to find any traction, and was unplaced to his old foe Ten Broeck.
It was an anticlimactic end to Aristides' distinguished career. The six-year-old retired with a record of 21-9-5-1 and $18,325 in earnings. After McGrath's death in 1881, he was sold several times, and had considerable appeal as a stallion prospect. But Aristides was a disappointment at stud, and he wound up living out his days near St. Louis, where he died on June 21, 1893. This, too, comports with the evidence regarding Aristides the Just: after he had served Athens, he returned to the quiet, unassuming life of a private citizen, and he died as a man of modest means, if not outright poverty.
But history has been kind to both of them. The Athenian became a byword for moral rectitude down through the ages, and the little red horse is forever remembered as the first Kentucky Derby winner. Even though he has yet to join Ten Broeck in the Hall of Fame, Aristides has received other honors in recent years. A glorious bronze statue of the colt was cast by Carl William Regutti, capturing Aristides in full flight, and enshrined in the Churchill Downs paddock in 1987. Since 1989, a sprint stakes has been run in his honor at Churchill, a tribute to the high speed that he displayed on that very same track.
Sadly, history took much longer to give Ansel his due. In view of the pervasive racism of the day, Ansel's accomplishments, and even his complete name, were forgotten in the years after his death in 1881. When lists of Kentucky Derby winners were compiled, Aristides' trainer was mistakenly identified as "A. (or Andy) Anderson." His rightful identity belatedly restored, Ansel Williamson was duly recognized as the conditioner of the first Kentucky Derby winner, and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
Although Ansel had trained other luminaries, he will be inextricably linked to Aristides — the "best kind" of horse, who won the Kentucky Derby, the "best kind" of race.
(Mike Smith and Chocolate Candy)
(Joe Talamo and I Want Revenge)