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Another great Derby and article in Mary and Nick’s “The Other Horse” series…
1996 – Grindstone – Editor’s Note
By Nick Costa and Mary Dixon Reynolds
The Kentucky Derby of 1996 with its 19 entries, was a curious betting race for fans as it contained just 12 betting interests. The reason for this was due to four two horse entries and four horses coupled in the mutual field. With each entry/field representing one interest, the twelve horses in these groupings totaled five interests, leaving an additional seven separate runners in the lineup to wager on.
Two sets of entries were trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who had won the Derby the previous year with Thunder Gulch. The 1995 Derby winner was owned by Michael Tabor. Tabor was back again this year with his Lukas-trained runners, Honour and Glory and Victory Speech. The latter horse was co-owned with Tabor by Susan Magnier. The other coupled horses from the powerful Lukas stable, Editor’s Note and Grindstone, were owned by Overbrook Farm. A fifth Lukas trainee was Prince of Thieves. Bob Baffert had a coupled entry, Cavonnier, the Santa Anita Derby winner and Semoran. Also, Nick Zito, two-time Derby winning trainer (Strike the Gold ‘91 and Go for Gin ‘94) was sending out a coupled pair in Diligence and Louis Quatorze.
But it was a dazzling gray colt, Unbridled’s Song, by Unbridled, who was getting most of the attention. The Jim Ryerson trainee had won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the Grade 1 Florida Derby and followed up with the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. However, the favorite suffered a quarter crack in the Wood and the horse required a bar shoe and acrylic patch. Despite the lingering questions regarding his foot, the bettors made Unbridled’s Song the favorite at odds of 7-2.
Another son of Unbridled, Grindstone, was not receiving as much attention, although he won the Grade 3 Louisiana Derby. Jockey Gary Stevens had his pick of the five Lukas-trained horses, and he chose Editor’s Note, the winner of the Holy Bull and Super Derby Stakes. He was a favorite of many of the handicappers. Jerry Bailey was in the irons for Grindstone.
Both of the Overbrook Farm horses were in the auxiliary starting gate. Grindstone was in gate 15 and Editor’s Note was in gate 17. The favorite, Unbridled’s Song was marooned on the far outside in gate 19.
After rider’s up was called and the while the horses were in the post parade, Dixie Carter sang ”My Old Kentucky Home”. The chiseled face of Jerry Bailey was solemn as he rode the bay, Grindstone, onto the track.
The horses took their positions in the gate and shortly after the field broke away at 5:34 pm, Honour and Glory took the lead. He was followed by Matty G. The favorite, Unbridled’s Song was settled in third as they ran in front of the stands.
With the leaders were blazing along rapidly, Cavonnier raced in mid-pack, with Grindstone further back. When the field hit the three-quarter mark, a flick of the wrists by Mike Smith sent his mount into the lead.
With a quarter-mile remaining, Cavonnier, who had steadily moved up, chased after the leader, while Grindstone, who had made strong headway from far back, was moving like a bullet to get into striking position.
It was now time to get serious. As the field began running down the stretch, Unbridled’s Song, opened up a two-length lead, but was beginning to tire. Cavonnier kept coming and so did Grindstone. Both horses sailed past the weary favorite with the finish line in their sights. Chris McCarron aboard Cavonnier, and Jerry Bailey flailing away atop Grindstone, were imploring their mounts for everything they had.
It was Cavonnier and Grindstone together at the wire in a thrilling end to Derby 122. It was a photo finish. Grindstone managed to get his nose ahead of Cavonnier and gave D. Wayne Lukas his third Kentucky Derby. He would later get a fourth with Charismatic in 1999. The Derby win became the second for Jerry Bailey who had won on Sea Hero three years earlier.
Five days after the Kentucky Derby, it was discovered Grindstone had bone chips in his knees and was retired. His progeny includes Birdstone, making him the grandsire of Mine That Bird and Summer Bird.
Today, Grindstone is owned by Jack Root and lives at Oakhurst Thoroughbreds in Oregon. Root is a bit starstruck by his horse. Every night before he goes to bed he walks to his stall and says, “Good Night, Kentucky Derby Winner!”
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