Did you know all this happened at Red Mile?

by Bob Heyden

As racing heats up on Lexington’s storied mile oval, here are two dozen standout moments from the past.

1. Two Breeders Crowns were held there. In 1984, the first ever Crown for Older Pacing Mares was won by Workaholic ($12.80) with Hall of Famer Berndt Lindstedt. Three years later the BC pacing mares returned with Follow My Star ($9.60) winning with John Campbell.

2. At just 22, Peter Haughton, driving Quick Pay, nosed out dad, Billy Haughton, thus preventing two things: a Triple Crown on the Trot for Billy with Steve Lobell, and a driving win in the Kentucky Futurity, the only Triple Crown race that eluded Billy as a driver.

3. The 1927 and 1929 Hambletonians were both held there due to washouts at Syracuse and were won by Iosola’s Worthy and Walter Dear, respectively. In 1929, Walter Cox did something never duplicated he finished 1-2-3-4.

4. That homebred Confederate set the 1:46.1 World Record this summer, 28 summers after another famous homebred did the same at the Red Mile. Jenna’s Beach Boy went 1:48.4.

5. It was Lexington where two of the last three Triple Crown winners — Windsong’s Legacy (2004) and Marion Marauder (2016) — won the coveted honor despite starting from the second tier.

6. Niatross (#59) time trialed in Lexington in 1:49.1 on Oct. 1, 1980. Joe O’Brien was listed on 12 of the first 99 scheduled time trials, at age 63, more than any other driver. Others listed to go those couple of days were: #85 Margie’s Melody, dam of Nihilator, who won in 1:55.4, #23 Tyler B who didn’t go, #22 Good To See You who didn’t go, #112 Overkill who didn’t go, #194 Justin Passing who didn’t go and #223 Fundamentalist who didn’t go.

7. The first race was actually called a “Sweepstake” and on Sept. 28, 1875, five trotters went at it. Odd Fellow won it.

8. A couple of orphaned colts had maybe their best career moments on Kentucky Futurity Day: Deweycheatumnhowe (2008) and Windsong’s Legacy (2004).

9. Donato Hanover in 2007 set his two personal bests on the same day (1:51.1 and 1:50.1). That same day, Giant Diablo posted a mare record of 1:50.1.

10. In 2021 and 2022, Allywag Hanover was the fastest performer at Red Mile. Is a threepeat possible in 2023?

11. Uhlan time trialed in 1:56 3/4 in 1922 which stood until 1938 when Greyhound had three 1:56.1 miles in an 11-day span, highlighted by a 1:55.1 gold standard which lasted 31 years.

12. Billy Direct and Greyhound, on back-to-back days in the fall of 1938 at the Red Mile, went 1:55.1 and 1:55, respectively. No one could have predicted that both marks would outlive both horses. Billy Direct lived another decade and Greyhound passed in 1965. The trotting mark stood until 1969 when Nevele Pride broke it going 1:54.4, and the pacing mark held for 22 years until Adios Butler broke it with a 1:54.3 mile in 1960.

13. The official time in 1938 was made by three timers, since there was no electronic timing yet. For the entirety of the 1938 Red Mile season there were 13 sub-2:00 miles, which even further accentuates the dominance of both Billy Direct and Greyhound.

14. Tactical Approach was the first Hambletonian winner to make his next four starts in Lexington.

15. Brett Pelling and Stanley Dancer could have something in common thanks to Red Mile. Confederate could make Pelling the first trainer since Dancer to have a pair of sophomore pacing colts be HOY. Pelling had Rocknroll Hanover in 2005 and could have Confederate this year.

16. There was no Philips starting gate or any gate at the Red Mile from 1937-42. They used the McNamara Barrier which essentially was a string over the horses hanging from a cable overhead. But if the string touched the horses there’d be a recall and the driver was set down. It was very unpopular.

17. Maud S in 1890 was the first to beat 2:10, doing so as a 10-year-old in 2:09.1. Nancy Hanks was the first to better 2:05 in 1895.

18. It’s the 10th anniversary of Shebestingin winning in 1:47 flat at the Red Mile for Dave Miller, Joe Holloway and Val D’Or. She’s the dam of two-time Breeders Crown winner Perfect Sting.

19. Homicide Hunter’s 1:48.4 mark was set five years ago in Kentucky. Could that mark be challenged this year?

20. Thursday (Sept. 28) was not only the start of the Grand Circuit at Red Mile, it was the 148th anniversary year of the track’s very first race and the 39th anniversary of the passing of Joe O’Brien who was synonymous with Red Mile. O’Brien won the very first Triple Crown in 1955 with Scott Frost.

21. During a live interview, four-time Driver of the Year, Dexter Dunn called Red Mile “my favorite track ever, anywhere to race.”

22. In 1880, the Round Barn was structured and in 1971 it was officially designated “The Standardbred Stable of Memories.”

23. From 1942-45 — the war years — there were no Futurities held and the focus was on 2YO trotters.

24. In 2023, day 1 (Sept. 28), race 1, Grant Circuit meet, Jack Darling is in a Bluegrass Stake, a year after Bulldog Hanover electrified the world and 26 years after his Northern Luck posted a nighttime 1:49.1 record in the Tattersalls.