Horse Racing History

Marshall Lilly: Race Horse Man

For the entire ten year existence of this site, I have frequently used a photograph of the racehorse Colin ridden by an African American man in a derby hat… Read full post…

Revisiting the “Lost” Preakness

In the third week of March in 1948, a strange thing happened in racing history. That year’s pending Preakness Stakes at Pimlico went from being billed as the 58th running of the race to the 73rd. The Preakness record books were literally re-written. What happened? … Read full post>>


Raleigh Colston, Jr.: The Last African American Trainer of an Era, 1911

Raleigh Colston Jr., rode as as a jockey for his father. He was listed as such in the 1880 edition of Kirk’s Guide to the Turf. Colston Jr. rode Searcher in the inaugural run of the Kentucky Derby in 1875. At some point in the early 1880s, he took over as trainer for Colonel Jack Chinn, one of his father’s primary clients … Read full post>>


Who is that jockey holding a gun?

The jockey holding the gun is Charley Thorpe. The photograph comes from the Spell of the Turf, the outstanding 1925 autobiography of Hall of Fame trainer and owner Samuel Hildreth … Read full post>>


The end of the bookmaker in American racing, 1951

A few years back while paging through old editions of the Turf & Sport Digest I came across a cartoon that I found intriguing even though I didn’t totally understand it … Read full post>>


World’s richest horse race, 1919

On Saturday Gulfstream Park will host the “world’s richest horse race” with the unfortunately named Pegasus World Cup. This got me thinking about other times in U.S. history when races were promoted as the “world’s richest.” … Read full post>>


“Incapable of being dull”: Joe Palmer’s obituary, 1952

Readers of this site know my affection for the legendary racing writer Joe Palmer. I recently received a generous gift of a 1952 edition of the American Race Horse, the first published without Joe Palmer since 1944 who died on October 31st 1952 … Read full post>>


Dickie Jenkins memoir about the mighty Kelso now online

It’s been awhile since I posted to Colin’s Ghost but I have a good excuse! I have been working on a manuscript authored by Kelso’s long time exercise rider Dickie Jenkins. I am thrilled to finally make it available … Read full post>>


Book Review: Sports Betting and Bookmaking: An American History

Sometimes a book comes along that quickly earns a permanent place on your reference shelf … Read full post>>

Editor’s Picks

The incredible story behind Clem McCarthy’s first Kentucky Derby broadcast

Clem McCarthy became the most popular voice of horse racing broadcasts in the first half of the 20th century. His gravelly, machine gun delivery endures to this day as a stereotype for racing announcers … Read full post>>


Watch the 1930 Florida Derby from Hialeah Park

Back in 2011, I wrote an article about the original Florida Derby(s) that pre-dated the one currently run in the great Sunshine State. The history of the current edition of the race at Gulfstream Park began in 1952 and has been run there every year since … Read full post>>


Theodore Walton: The original racetrack “Plunger”

Race fans reading about the exploits of big-time gamblers in daily papers at the turn of the 19th century were likely familiar with a gambler named Theodore Walton … Read full post>>


“American Pharoah is finally the one!”

I have a feeling I wasn’t the only racing fan who had these thoughts in quick succession when American Pharoah pulled away from Frosted in the stretch at Belmont Park on June 6th: “He’s gonna do it….I can’t believe it.” I still can’t believe it … Read full post>>


Eddie Arcaro’s Formula for Belmont Stakes Success

In 1968, Daily Racing Form writer Joe Hirsch interviewed jockey Eddie Arcaro. In the interview — available in full online at the University of Kentucky — Hirsch asked Arcaro: “Was there any Belmont [Stakes] that you should have won that you didn’t?” Arcaro answered very cooly: “No. Not, Belmonts.” That certainly sounds like a man with no regrets during his twenty-one career attempts in the big Triple Crown race in New York… Read full post>>


The Kentucky Derby Crowd, 1930 to 1946

I thought it might be interesting to look at crowd estimates through the pages of the Daily Racing Form (and other sources) starting in 1930 until the Kentucky Derby (un)officially reached the six figure mark of 100,000 in 1946….Read full post>>


Salvator: Folk Song of the Turf, 1890s

I spent a lot of time over the last month reading the work of racing historian John “Salvator” Hervey as it appeared in the Daily Racing Form in the 1920s. I have been down this road before but have come nowhere near exhausting the great writer as a source…Read full post>>


The First Kentucky Derby Winner to Race in Pennsylvania, 1876

California Chrome is not the first Derby winner to run in the great state of Pennsylvania. That distinction goes all the way back to 1876 when Vagrant won the Grand Exposition Stakes at the long forgotten Point Breeze Race Track in Philadelphia… Read full post>>


Man o’ War to skip the Kentucky Derby, 1920

Many historians have identified the late 1910s as the moment when the Kentucky Derby began its upward trajectory towards it current standing as the most famous race in North America and, arguably, the world… Read full post >>


Thoroughbred Racing Masterpiece Now an E-book

While doing some research last night, I stumbled across something that I wanted to share. I found that Jimmy Breslin’s Sunny Jim: The Life of America’s most Beloved Horseman James Fitzsimmons is now available as an e-book … Read full post >>


Pittsburgh Phil’s Thoughts on the Pari-mutuel Machines

In 1948, Horace Wade wrote an article titled “Uncle Phil’s Boy” for the Turf and Sport Digest about James McGill. McGill, a lifetime “racetracker”, was close to eighty years old working in California and Chicago as a racing official at the time of the articles publication … Read full post >>


A Bookmaker’s Operation 1937

Among the pages of the Turf and Sport Digest from December 1937 is a valuable description of a bookmaking operation at the end of an era. It was written just prior to the widespread adoption of the pari-mutuel system in New York, the last significant place where bookmaking was tolerated at America’s racetracks … Read full post >>