|Breeder||D. H. Wills|
|Owner||Mr. and Mrs. Fred Turner, Jr. Colors: White, Yellow "T", White Band on Yellow Sleeves, Yellow and White Cap.|
|Trainer||Frank E. Childs|
American Classic Race wins:
Kentucky Derby (1959)
|Last updated on September 10, 2008|
Tomy Lee (1956–1971) was a Thoroughbred racehorse who won the 1959 Kentucky Derby defeating Sword Dancer, First Landing, Royal Orbit and the filly Silver Spoon. Tomy Lee became only the second non-American bred horse to ever win the Kentucky Derby and Bertie Kerr became the first non-American agent to buy a winner.
Foaled in England, Tomy Lee was purchased as a weanling by Fred Turner, Jr., a millionaire oilman and rancher from Texas. In 1956 the bloodstock agent Bertie Kerr attended the Newmarket sales, acting on behalf of Turner. Kerr was instructed to buy two horses that Turner had picked straight out of the catalogue. The Texan was chiefly interested in a colt and son of Tulyar. That horse later came to be named Tuleg. However Turner believed horses needed company and he also wanted to buy a second horse in order to provide Tuleg with a travelling companion. That second horse would eventually turn out to be Tomy Lee. Shortly after Tomy Lee won the 1959 Kentucky Derby, Kerr relayed to Michael O'Hehir the story behind the purchase. O’Hehir then retold the story in the Daily Racing Form. After viewing Turner’s first choice for Tuleg’s travelling companion, Kerr was less than impressed and he subsequently cabled him, advising him not to buy this particular foal. Instead Kerr recommended another colt he had seen at the sale. Turner gave Kerr the go ahead “to bid up to $15,000” but Kerr managed to buy Tomy Lee for just $6,762. Tuleg was purchased for $25,000 but proved to be a dud. Tuleg could not race at two because of an injury, and at three bowed a tendon. However Kerr’s recommendation turned out to be a bargain. At two, Tomy Lee stood 16 hands and weighed a bit over a thousand pounds and was sound. The press called the bay with four white stockings a greyhound, slim and perfectly proportioned. Sent to California for his first year on the track, he won his first six races. Then he was sent East to run in two more, both jousts with First Landing, his only losses that year, and in each case he was closing fast. At age three, he won four of seven races, one the Blue Grass Stakes, with two 2nd place finishes. At ages two and three, he was runner-up in the voting for Champion male.
Bill Shoemaker, who had ridden Sword Dancer to a win in the Stepping Stone Purse a week before the Kentucky Derby, had already agreed to ride Tomy Lee in the Derby itself. Early on, Tomy Lee was involved in a speed duel with a horse called Troilus, and won it, so when Sword Dancer made his move under Bill Boland, Shoemaker thought Tomy Lee was spent and Sword Dancer might take the Derby. Seeing Boland come up, he called out, "Good luck, I hope you win it." Sword Dancer took over the lead by half a length, but Tomy Lee came on again in mid stretch, behind by only a head. Both horses bumped several times. At the wire, Tomy Lee won by a nose. Boland claimed a foul, but the judges disallowed it after deliberating for 17 minutes. First Landing came in third, three and a half lengths behind these two, and Royal Orbit, who went on to win the Preakness Stakes that year, came from last to fourth. A creditable fifth was Silver Spoon, the first filly to enter the Derby since 1945, and the last until 1980.
After his win in the Kentucky Derby, Tomy Lee did not run in the remaining two U.S. Triple Crown races. His trainer, Frank Childs, said he didn't like races too close together, so Tomy Lee returned to California to rest. Later that year, he finished sixth in the Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park Racetrack, a race won by Silver Spoon. Shoemaker could not ride Tomy Lee in this race since he was committed to Sword Dancer in the Belmont Stakes (which they won), so Tomy Lee was guided by Don Pierce. Turner felt that Pierce mishandled his colt, who needed "special care" and understanding, something only Shoemaker could give him. In anger, he took his horse out of training for six months. At the end of the year, Johnny Longden rode him to a win in a 6 furlong race.
Tomy Lee ran twice at four and was unplaced both times. Between 1960 and 1963, he earned just $27,697. Tomy Lee was retired to stud at L.P. Doherty's Stallion Station in Kentucky. But Tomy Lee proved to have an odd condition as a stallion. His sperm did not live long enough to impregnate a mare. He was put back into training and won four more races before being returned to stud.
Tomy Lee died in 1971. He is buried at Pillar Stud in Lexington, Kentucky.