Behave Yourself vs. Black Servant

April 4, 2019

By Nick Costa and Mary Dixon Reynolds

In 1906, a tract of land outside of Lexington, Kentucky, was purchased by gambler/horse owner, Colonel Edward Riley Bradley, who would develop on the land one of the most famous and successful thoroughbred breeding operations of the earliest twentieth century, known as Idle Hour Farm.

By 1921, two colts, Behave Yourself and Black Servant, bred and reared at Bradley’s farm finished first and second respectively in the Kentucky Derby. It was the first of four Derby victories for Bradley and his trainer, Herbert Thompson, but Behave Yourself was not the horse the Colonel wanted to see win.

As 2-year-olds, Behave Yourself was not fashionably bred, had crooked legs and considered inferior to his stablemate. Conformation, good looks and talent belonged to Black Servant.

In prepping for the Kentucky Derby, Black Servant had substantiated this judgment by winning his first two races as a 3-yr old and defeated Behave Yourself in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Prior to the running of the 47th Kentucky Derby, Idle Hour Farm’s contract jockey, Lawrence Lyke, was given his choice, and he readily picked Black Servant. Charlie Thompson took the mount on Behave Yourself.

In addition to the Bradley horses, two additional entries were in the race lineup. The six horses made up half of the twelve-horse field. Of the trio of coupled entries, the Behave Yourself/Black Servant tandem were the third highest in odds at 8-1, and the fourth choice in the betting.

A crowd of over 70,000 were on hand for the race, and as reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal, “My Old Kentucky Home” was first played.

After the horses broke away from the start, Lyke sent Black Servant right to the lead from post 7. He rode his mount foolhardy, expending the horse’s valuable energy.

In the meantime, Behave Yourself, after exiting post 1, was racing along in eighth-place. When the field hit the three-quarter mark, Black Servant was still in front, having turned away a few challengers.

Going into the far turn, Behave Yourself began moving up, sailing past tiring horses and was on even terms with Black Servant at the eighth-pole.

The two horses locked horns in an all-out drive through the Churchill Downs stretch and at the wire Behave Yourself edged his stablemate by a head.

Bradley had mixed emotions over the outcome. Publicly, the Colonel was thrilled to have won his first Kentucky Derby, but privately, he was displeased that Behave Yourself won because he lost money by betting heavily on Black Servant instead. In addition, Bradley owned the sire of the well-bred Black Servant, Black Toney, one of Idle Hour Farm’s house stallions. The Colonel did not own the sire of the Derby winner and may have lost stud fees from the colt’s win.

The Kentucky Derby victory was the last win for Behave Yourself, and his only win in 11 starts during his three-year old season before being retired. Behave Yourself had an undistinguished stud career before being donated to the Army Remount Service.

Black Servant went to stud at Idle Hour where he sired Blue Larkspur, a champion racehorse.

E.R. Bradley started 28 horses in the Derby and every name began with the letter ‘B’. His last starter came in 1945 with Burning Dream.

With four wins in the classic, trainer Herbert Thompson is tied with D. Wayne Lukas for the third-most. Bob Baffert holds second-place with five, while Ben Jones occupies the top spot with six.

“I’m Umberto Rispoli and I read Past the Wire” Umberto Rispoli, Champion Jockey

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