1877 drawing by C. Lloyd
|Breeder||Hal Price McGrath|
|Owner||Hal Price McGrath|
|Kentucky Derby (1875)
Jerome Handicap (1875)
Withers Stakes (1875)
|U.S. Champion 3-Yr-Old Colt (1875) (historic)|
|Life-sized statue at Churchill Downs
Aristides Breeders' Cup Stakes at Churchill Downs
|Last updated on December 21, 2006|
In 1875 the Derby was raced at a mile and a half, the distance it would remain until 1896 when it was changed to its present mile and a quarter. There were no roses for Aristides; roses weren't introduced until Hall of Famer Ben Brush won in 1896.
A chestnut thoroughbred with a white star and two hind stockings, Aristides was bred by Hal Price McGrath and foaled in 1872. He was sired by the great English stud Leamington, which made him a half brother to another great sire, Hall of Famer Longfellow, who, during his racing career, was called "King of the Turf." And yet, Hal McGrath did not consider Aristides first rate, even though his dam (Sarong) was out of one of the United States' greatest sires Lexington, whose bloodline went back to Glencoe and Hall of Famer Boston.
Aristides (named for his breeder's good friend and fellow horse breeder, the Pennsylvanian Aristides Welch who owned Erdenheim Stud and who had imported Leamington into the United States) was foaled late in the season, and was small, never standing taller than about 15 hands. It was his stablemate and half-brother, the bay Chesapeake, was expected to do well at the races.
Price McGrath was born to poverty in Woodford County, Kentucky, and had gone west for the great California Gold Rush. He did well enough to open a gambling house in New York. In a single night he won $105,000, which allowed him to return to Kentucky and establish a stud farm.
Fifteen horses were entered into the first Kentucky Derby, two of them fillies. The track was fast, the weather was fine, and ten thousand people were in attendance. Aristides was one of two horses entered by Hal McGrath. The other, of course, was Chesapeake. Both horses wore the green and orange silks of H.P. McGrath. Trained by future Hall of Famer, Ansel Williamson, an African American, Aristides was ridden by Oliver Lewis, also African American. McGrath expected the smaller speedball Aristides to be the "rabbit." He was to go out front fast and force the pace so that Chesapeake, ridden by Bobby Swim (a celebrated jockey, and white), could stalk the front runners, and when they and Aristides tired, would come from behind to vanquish the exhausted field.
Just as McGrath had planned, little Aristides broke in front and took the lead, but a horse called McCreery quickly overtook him near the end of the first quarter. Aristides fought back to lead again, followed by McCreery, Ten Broeck, Volcano, and Verdigris. Chesapeake, meanwhile, was almost the last to break and wasn't doing much at the back of the pack. As the "rabbit," the willing Aristides kept gradually increasing his lead until there was really no chance that Chesapeake could ever catch up. Chesapeake was that kind of horse...and this McGrath did not plan. Aristides's jockey, Oliver Lewis, knowing he wasn't supposed to win, looked to owner McGrath...but McGrath wisely waved him on. Both Volcano and Verdigris challenged Aristides in the stretch but Aristides won by a length and took the $2850 pool. Ten Broeck finished fifth and Chesapeake eighth.
The Louisville Courier-Journal wrote: "It is the gallant Aristides, heir to a mighty name, that strides with sweeping gallop toward victory...and the air trembles and vibrates again with the ringing cheers that followed."
Aristides, again ridden by Oliver Lewis, came in second in the Belmont Stakes, the race that today is the third race in the triple crown of American thoroughbred horse racing. He also took the Jerome Handicap, the Withers Stakes, the Breckinridge (beating Tom Ochiltree), and won a match race over, Ten Broeck. He came in second in the Thespian Stakes and the Ocean Hotel Stakes and was third in the Travers Stakes.
Aristides raced twenty one times with nine Wins, five Places, and one Show.
Aristides died on June 21, 1893. In 1988, the Aristides Stakes was inaugurated at Churchill Downs to honor him. A life-sized bronze statue of Aristides by Carl Regutti stands in the Clubhouse Gardens as a memorial.
|Maid Of Honor|
- Robertson, William H. P. (1964), The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America, New York: Bonanza Books.