1942 – Shut Out – Devil Diver
By Nick Costa and Mary Dixon Reynolds
For the 1942 Kentucky Derby, jockey Eddie Arcaro had the choice of riding Devil Diver or Shut Out, two outstanding runners owned by Greentree Stable and trained by John Gaver. Arcaro selected Devil Diver who had finished ahead of Shut Out in four of five previous meetings.
Devil Diver had won multiple major stakes as a juvenile, and upon his 3-yr old debut, defeated Whirlaway who only the year before with Arcaro riding, won the Triple Crown. Devil Diver had not finished out of the money in 13 starts and was projected to continue his winning ways at three.
Shut Out, who would get the riding services of Warren Wright, was a talented horse also, but when his merits were compared to that of his stablemate’s, many considered him the lesser half of the Greentree entry.
The main competition to the Gaver trainees came from the 1941 two-year Champion colt, Alsab, who was quickly gaining a legion of fans, and Arkansas Derby winner, With Regards, who would be ridden in the Kentucky Derby by Johnny Longden. Just one year later, Longden would win the Triple Crown aboard Count Fleet.
The wagering crowd at Churchill Downs were not fooled and predicted the race would boil down to the four horses. Devil Diver/Shut Out entry were made the 3-2 favorite, and both Alsab and With Regards were at 5-1 odds on the toteboard.
An estimated 70,000 fans were on hand under the Twin Spires, putting aside, even if it was only for two-minutes, the talk of World War II.
At the outset of the 68th Kentucky Derby, both Shut Out and Devil Diver jumped into the lead. But it wasn’t long before With Regards came over from post 15 to assume command as the horses passed by the stands. For the first three-quarters of the race, With Regards held the lead, closely pursued by Valdina Orphan and Shut Out, second and third respectively. Alsab, who wasn’t getting the best of trips, managed to get untracked and had worked his way up to fourth, while Arcaro continued to bide his time on Devil Diver in fifth.
With a quintet of runners separated by four-lengths as they turned for home, America’s top racing prize was up for grabs. Shut Out, who had saved ground for most of the journey, was maneuvered off the inside for a clear run.
Inside the final eighth, Wright gave Shut Out his cue and the horse responded, forging past the other colts and hitting the wire two-lengths in front of Alsab with Valdina Orphan a head behind in third. Devil Diver and Arcaro checked in sixth.
In the Preakness, Arcaro stuck with Devil Diver, but once again Shut Out finished in front of him, although both runners were off-the-board behind the winner, Alsab.
Shut Out went on to win the Belmont Stakes, this time with Arcaro in the saddle.
Eddie Arcaro co-holds the record for most wins in the Kentucky Derby with five, but if it was not for his rare mistake in judgment selecting his mount in 1942, he probably would stand alone with six.